It's almost August. It's hot, it's high summer, and the one burning question about local politics is a simple one: Who cares?

Don't know about you, but I'm sick of reading about/thinking about/talking about/writing about the local political scene. And given that politics is, as my old pal Kathleen Collins once said, show business for ugly people, let's take a week off and walk on the sunny side.

For those of us who live on the near West Side, daily life has its share of delights. Try rolling out of bed at 5:30 a.m. or so, and taking what must be one of the finest bike rides in America. Go east on Pikes Peak, past an eclectic assortment of quirky Victorian houses, then north on Walnut to Mesa, thence to the Garden of the Gods, through the park, up to Manitou, and back to the West Side.

At that hour, there's no one in the Garden except a handful of runners and cyclists, the morning light is spectacular, and wildlife is much in evidence.

Riding up Mesa a few days ago, I saw two bucks, one 12-pointer, one 14-pointer, ambling slowly across a meadow. I'd never seen deer with those kinds of racks. It took me a moment to realize that these magnificent animals are city dwellers, protected from hunters as long as they stay within the city limits.

Or if biking isn't your style, grab the dog and a copy of Cathleen Norman's new book In & Around Old Colorado City, and explore the neighborhood. Profusely illustrated, exhaustively researched, Norman's book uses the walking tour as a means of immersing readers in the social and architectural history of the West Side.

For example, take a look at the house at 2818 W. Pikes Peak Ave. It seems to be an ordinary, medium-sized, two-story Victorian, probably erected around the turn of the 20th century. Not so. In fact, it was originally a log fort and stockade, built in 1861 to provide protection to settlers in the event of an attack by Native Americans. Decades later, the logs were sheathed in clapboards, and it became a private residence.

But not all of the ancient marvels of the West Side are man-made. In the front yard of a modest cottage on West Bijou stands what is arguably the most magnificent tree in the city -- an Eastern Oak, by far the largest in the city, and perhaps the largest oak in Colorado.

Oaks are not native to Colorado. Well over 100 years ago, someone planted and nurtured this tree, knowing that he or she would be long dead when and if the tree reached maturity.

Coming home this morning, butterflies were much in evidence. A tiger swallowtail floated under the maple trees; a black swallowtail (less common than the tiger) flitted nervously across the lawn. Meanwhile, a question mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) rested on the porch railing.

The deer, the oak tree, the butterflies -- like us, they live and thrive in a wholly artificial environment, an oasis created by those first settlers.

It was a wonderful dream of our city's founders, or so it must have seemed. Pacify the Native Americans (i.e., take their land and make them go somewhere else), divert water from any convenient stream, and make a cool, leafy New England village in the high, arid plains at the foot of the Colorado Rockies.

They succeeded only too well. They planted hundreds of trees; we now have tens of thousands. They built hundreds of houses; we now have tens of thousands. The bucolic village they imagined became a reality, and multiplied. That original dream so perfectly conformed to the way people want to live that we've grown from a few thousand folks to half a million. And that means problems.

Our infrastructure is collapsing! Sprawl is bad! There's not enough water! Confluence Park is a boondoggle/boon! Transportation problems are going to get worse/much worse/ absolutely unmanageable. Our elected officials want higher taxes/much higher taxes/all the money you have.

And you know what? It doesn't much matter.

The life and shape of the city, and its eventual fate, will not be decided by politicians. Every day, half a million of us create our own private/public Colorado Springs, the city that our children and grandchildren will inherit. As for me, I'm going to plant more trees, cultivate my garden, and find time to lie on the lawn and watch the tiger swallowtails.

Let Warren Zevon tell the pols what to do: "Send lawyers, guns, and money/the s..t has hit the fan ..."

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com


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