Musings + Essays

The Osprey + The Heron.

By: Jen Shoop

I’m back from Colorado and sitting with the pleasant post-vacation feelings of quiet and fullness. When I wrote two years ago about the magic and mayhem of traveling with young children, I could not have known what a difference a few years makes. Yes, there were meltdowns and moments of fray, but the children are now old enough to embark upon activities that overlap with our interests and desires: rafting, hiking, horseback riding, walking through town, swimming without needing us in the pool, hanging with cousins for long periods of time doing God knows what. I was able to read my books, walk into town with my mother, catch up with my siblings, slow down. Which is to say, if you are a parent to children under five, wondering how and why people vacation with children and whether they are in fact enjoying themselves or it’s just you white-knuckling it through a trip: this, too, shall pass. It does get easier. And it seems to happen around the time your youngest turns five.

I have so many thoughts and observations from our time in Aspen. Most of them circle around the absurd joy of returning to the place where I spent most of the summers of my youth, discovering that not much has changed, and watching my own children experience its sensatory distinctiveness: the quaint brown street signs, the thin alpine air, the hot mountain sun, the lay of the light, the cottonwood collecting against the curb, the quaking of the Aspen leaves, the trickle-trackle of the Roaring Fork, the abrupt shock of the Rocky peaks that hug the town. A beautiful concentricity of experience across generations, with a big shared middle in Pitkin County.

One morning, one of my sisters, two of my sisters-in-law, and I went birding on Hallam Lake with a guide from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies — the exact site of a nature summer camp I attended a couple of childhood summers. I kept thinking about the little Jen from decades ago, looking at the rescued bald eagles through saucer eyes, and the way those early encounters with the natural world — specifically the one found in Colorado — negotiated my later-life interest in the outdoors and its ongoing demonstration of how to accept change with grace. I didn’t yet have the words to explain it, but I was internalizing the phenomenon Elizabeth Bishop phrased so perfectly as she observed the natural world: “The world is a mist. And then the world is minute and vast and clear.” A young introduction to the pleasant vertigo of spending time in nature, in which we are at once tiny and enormous, irrelevant and focal.

If you look closely, you’ll notice a bird perched on the “Wildlife Only” sign. I was using my iPhone so could not get a better focus, but my sister brought a fancy camera — will ask her for some of those photos to share at some point.
The white dot perched on the beaver dam on the far shore is a juvenile blue heron.

Through the mist, we observed osprey, blue heron, swallows, belted kingfishers, lots of magpies. At one point, our guide commented on some of the physical differences between blue herons and raptors. She noted that the blue heron regurgitates its food to feed its offspring, while raptors (like the osprey) use their sharp talons to tear prey into pieces suitable for its young. She then added: “It’s interesting to consider what they’re naturally equipped for, and how they manage the world with what they have.”

How they manage the world with what they have.

I peered through the binoculars that foggy morning, taking in the tiny osprey head bobbing up against its mother in its craggy nest, and I thought about the way all of us are getting by the best we can, with whatever inheritances and predispositions and aspirations and gifts we have, too.

The way some of us do things differently, and yet so many of the outcomes are the same: we fall in love, we soothe our children, we hurt, we look at the stars, we fare la scarpetta with friends, we make promises and mistakes, we feel sad or excited or confused, we watch the sun rise again.

The way we lean on what’s inside — a surprisingly rugged inner strength — to find a way forward.


+The sandpiper.

+More on birding.

+A Magpie desiderata.

Shopping Break.

The following content may contain affiliate linksIf you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+I did end up ordering this hat that so many chic peas have been wearing this summer – LOTS of these lifeguard style hats in Aspen, too. Look for less here; another chic option here.

+If you’re a cardholder at Nordstrom, you get early access to their anniversary sale. In recent years, this has been a bit of a dud, but they’ve righted the ship this year and have excellent offerings, especially in the beauty category. All of my picks here, and what I’m specifically hoping to check out with when I get access to the sale on Monday morning here. Those Celine sunnies!

+An epic new arrival at J. Crew, as is this this drop-waist striped dress (nearly sold out in all sizes already). I’m so bummed because the latter was marked 50% off a few days ago but wasn’t available in my size that day. Now it’s showing as in stock in my size but full price. Both are in my cart…very tempted!

+Another really good drop-waist option for around $100. (ICYMI, drop waists are a big trend for the summer.)

+Just received a good old fashioned mailer in my inbox from Frank + Eileen — on the back cover of the catalog, they included a code for $50 off with ESCAPE. I know I’ve raved about it a lot, but you must try this linen set. I have been living in it! I wore it for travel day to Aspen and have never been more comfortable.

+OK, has everyone been hearing all the hype around InnBeauty’s Extreme Cream? It’s been described by many as Augustinus Bader Rich Cream for less (under $50). I’m going to test this next.

+Seriously cute water shoes for little boys. Like Floafers, but less expensive, and I love the little ribbon trim.

+Saw a gal wearing this Varley tennis dress in Aspen (casually, just around town) — obsessed! Love the ringer-style trim on the sleeves. I think I might order, too. I had a lot of questions about what to wear in Colorado in the summer and will share thoughts in a separate post soon, but the tl;dr is that you’ll need a lot of active gear and layers. It was frequently 45-50 degrees in the morning and 70-75 in the afternoon.

+Back to J. Crew: also absolutely LOVE this pointelle striped tank. Love the idea of pairing with jeans like these.

+Two items in my cart as a result of my Hallam Lake experience: my own birding binoculars and the Sibley book of birds that our guide carried with her. Hyper niche, but our guide, Rebecca, also authored this book on the birds of the Roaring Fork River Valley!

+The Outnet has a great crop of Zimmermann in stock: love this one.

+I was bummed to discover that J. Crew no longer carried their “dock shorts” for boys this summer — my son had these in tons of colors and even wore them as his uniform shorts (in navy) for most of the school year. They had a good above-the-knee length and came in great colors. Just discovered J. Crew Factory now carries them! Ordered in a few colors. Great everyday wear!

+I just discovered a new swimwear line called Ricki Beach Club. I love the coastal patterns! I have these beach pants and this one-piece en route to me now.

+Just treated myself to some new pens. An instant way to encourage journaling, note taking, creativity IMO.

+This leave-in hair mask has been generating quite the buzz. I feel like everyone’s talking about it! However, I’m still high on my love affair with Crown Affair’s leave-in conditioning spray and in-shower hair mask.

+Loving this mini Little Liffner bag.

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2 thoughts on “The Osprey + The Heron.

  1. The birding excursion sounds so wonderful and I especially appreciated your reflections — “How they manage the world with what they have”.— sounds like such a special moment in nature that resonated with me, too.

    1. I’m so glad those words jumped out at you, too — I literally had to pull out my phone to jot down the wording!!


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