“This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are.” –Someone (maybe Plato)
I see the sky through the windows of my 12th story condo; it is pale pink, dotted with decadent blue billows and streaked with the wispy remains of clouds that have somewhere else to be. The mountains look soft against the early morning light as if someone drew them on the sky but started to erase the edges. The promise of a new day rises.
With heavy eyelids and slow moving muscles my dog and I head for The Cherry Creek Trail. As we descend on a ramp that takes us below street level, harsh noises of the morning rush are hushed into a peaceful whisper. We have seen the trail through every season. In the winter tender snowflakes fall quietly into the sluggishly moving creek. In the spring the creek swells with the weight of reckless rain drops, spilling itself onto the paved path. In the summer, grass on the banks grows so tall and wild that it is impossible to see the creek at all. And come fall, brightly colored leaves drift happily to the ground and enter varying stages of decay before floating lazily through the creek’s unhurried currents.
As I descend down to the trail, I leave the busy world above behind but I am entering Denver’s beating and broken heart. Here is the place where nature and man discontentedly merge. Here is the visual representation of the inevitable clash between gentrification and destitution. Here is a place that lacks tolerance and empathy. Here is the place where the interplay of commuting, work and leisure is most evident. Here is the place where the genuine pulse of our city thumps hardest, propelled by the interaction between intimidating heroin dealers, professional cyclists, dogs in search of the perfect patch, new moms with baby strollers, citizens seeking shelter and refuge, dedicated runners, bike commuters, and those in search of their next fix. Here is where Denver’s complex community dynamics meet ineffective social and political policies. Here is where Denver’s heart truly beats, and also where it breaks.
If we citizens of Denver ever want to affect meaningful urban change we must start with The Cherry Creek Trail; we must observe its rhythm and learn what its beat tells us about our citizens or we will never feel a stronger pulse from a heart that is less broken.