Summit Daily letters: What the saga of Isak Hearstone the troll says about our community
Isak Heartstone the troll has done exactly what trolls do: he has raised fear and anxiety, caused conflict between neighbors, incited peaceful warriors to a fury of rage, instigated name-calling and blame, emboldened harsh words and recrimination, and worse.
Throughout their mythology, trolls are not kindly toward humans. They threaten us injury and insult, maybe even eat us. Communities of lore with a troll in their midst banish them, like Billy Goat Gruff triumphing over the troll under the bridge by head-butting him into the swift flowing river.
Trolls also bring out the best in us, inspiring compassion and empathy. So many people love Isak Heartstone and are bereft at his loss. With a troll not unlike the lovable, bumbling, farting ogre Shrek, people want to give him a hug and reassurance: “You poor thing, I know you’re big and ugly and everybody hates you, but I love you.”
The artist, Thomas Dambo, may refer to Isak as a pile of recycled materials, but Isak Heartstone is so much more than that. He has taken on the epic proportions of the trolls of mythology, causing delight to many, woe to some, and conflict to all.
In many ways, Isak Heartstone is a microcosm of the current ills in our nation. He has become a scapegoat for our fear and loathing of outsiders, engendering anxiety, fury and calls for deportation.
In order to manage the huge numbers of people coming to visit Isak, the town of Breckenridge responded by building a wall around the Wellington neighborhood. Though much more porous than the wall envisioned at the southern border by our president, the imposing buck and rail fence sent a very clear message: you who visit the troll are an outsider, stay only in your lane.
What had once been considered a friendly and welcoming community, Breckenridge was forced into the opposite position.
In order to funnel the masses of visitors, the town of Breckenridge closed a trail. Not just a trail closure for resource damage, which was extensive on the western end of the path to Isak, but the town closed a trail because too many people were using it. A trail that everyone in the Wellington and Lincoln Park neighborhoods had a right to use was boarded up and closed off because the troll-seekers were using it as a shortcut to the bus stop. Now no one could use it.
Closing a trail because too many people are on it sets a terrible precedent for the future of our community’s trail system. As a longtime trails advocate who remembers the days when developers were allowed to close trails, this raised my ire. I’d fought for trails and access for years, and I was ready to go to battle again.
Isak the troll, as trolls do, caused us to betray our community values.
So the solution is banishment. Banishment is an age-old human reaction to an intractable problem. Cultures throughout humankind adopted the custom of the scapegoat or burning man. Heap your ill thoughts on it, pin your gloom to its sleeve, pour your burdens onto its head. And banish it. Or in the case of the Wickerman tradition, a modern day Zozobra or Burning Man, torch it.
Fortunately, the final solution of burning Isak is not being considered, as he would not be able to be rebuilt. Isak arrived as a face, hands and feet, created in the artist’s studio. Volunteers helped make the armature and sheathing for the body. A stone heart was installed.
Isak can be taken apart and rebuilt. Whether he is rebuilt in Breckenridge remains to be seen. Ultimately it is the artist’s purview. Dambo created Isak as a temporary art installation, he still owns the sculpture, and it is up to him whether he feels forgiving toward Breckenridge and welcome to reinstall his work.
It is my hope that our community values of welcoming and openness, caring for our neighbors and treasuring our open spaces, trails and access, will triumph and Isak Heartstone will again bless our community. Just in a place that can accommodate the many people who, I hope, will come visit him again.
Dear Wellington community
Here is what you have shown the rest of us in Breckenridge. Instead of being welcoming and inviting, you get upset that people knock on your door to ask for directions. Instead of being happy that other people are excited to be in your community, you get upset about people parking. Instead of loving your fellow human, and sharing space, you get upset over people walking on your lawn. Instead of being happy the town put a $40,000 piece of art in your backyard, you get uneasy that a smiling wooden troll “looks” in your window.
Instead of putting up cones, why not put up a lemonade/hot chocolate stand and use the opportunity to teach your kids about business? Instead of getting upset over trash why not help a community and use the opportunity to teach your kids about volunteer work? Instead of getting upset over people knocking on your door, why not come together as a family and create signs?
Sure there may have been a better spot for the troll; however, your community had no patience and instead of working on positive solutions, you simply got him taken away.
You should be proud of yourselves. In fact, embrace your selfishness — get the town to put up a gated fence around your community.
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