Lawson Hill

The community park in Lawson Hill has been a hub of activity for children bouncing off the walls at home. (Photo by Suzanne Cheavens/Telluride Daily Planet)

Lawson Hill is home to some 500 souls that range in age from infants to the elderly. Just a few miles outside of Telluride proper, the deed-restricted subdivision is a community in and of itself, a vibrant collection of families and singles, some new to the area, some having lived there for decades. Everyone knows their neighbors. It’s that kind of neighborhood.

Despite shelter-in-place orders, school closures and the shuttering of most businesses deemed nonessential, Lawson’s vibrancy remains intact, if a little separated. If anything, say residents, it’s become an even friendlier place.

“I am noticing a general shift in civility in our neighborhood,” Stanya Gorraiz said. “I’m one of those folks that waves at everyone, whether I’m driving by, walking down the street, playing with my kids on our driveway or at the trash center.”

Gorraiz, a restaurateur who with her husband James owns Steamies in Telluride and Shake N Dog in Mountain Village, said her friendly gestures weren’t always reciprocated.

“Over this past week, Lawson seems friendlier with one another,” she said. “There seems to be a palpable compassion that we are all in the same boat. It makes me so happy to see my neighbors embracing one another, despite the fact that we physically can’t embrace.”

At any given time of day, residents can be seen strolling the neighborhood’s hilly streets and same-family children play in the community park adjacent to Rascals Preschool.

“I have enjoyed walking in the neighborhood,” Mountain Village Planner and Lawson Hill resident Michelle Haynes said. “Everyone stops and talks with each other.

But for extroverts like Telluride Middle School teacher Sue Knechtel, the forced distance from her circle of social contacts has been a challenge. Though busy during the school week with e-teaching, the adjustment, she said, has been, “really difficult.”

“There are so many different kinds of learners,” she said of her students. “I’ve really been made aware that some kids need more help and more guidance that’s better accomplished in person.”

Though Knechtel has two roommates — a couple — she said they’ve been mostly insular, holing up in their respective bedrooms. But still, she said, “It would be really different if I were 100 percent alone.”

“It’s not my nature to be social distancing,” she said. “It’s been a struggle.”

The struggle, she noted, has to do partly with the fact she’s “falling down on the self-care. I’m not even motivated to go for a walk. It’s a strange time.”

Citing a study of numerous Harvard grads, former students who had attained varying degrees of success, Knechtel said the primary indicator of success among the study group was connectivity — the connection of loving and being loved.

“It’s become very apparent to me how important connectivity is in my life,” she said. “I’m feeling the loss of connection with my colleagues, the kids and my friends.”

Taking in fresh air and getting the heart rate up are popular activities in Lawson Hill as evidenced by the number of people outside at any given time. It’s also been a time for some, like Luci Reeve, to learn something new.

“The daily walk is crucial for my mental health,” Reeve said. “The rest of the time I'm pretty OK with reading, sewing, cooking. Today I took a big chunk of my day to make a ‘how to make a face mask’ video for Ah Haa. I learned a lot about cinematography and lighting and how many takes.”

But for people like Nancy Craft, who works from home and lives with her husband, the writer and painter, Rob Schultheis, sheltering in place is not so different from the usual rhythms of their lives, save for being able to see friends. Her work as a travel consultant has largely dried up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she has been far from idle.

“Even with little to no work, there aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything,” Craft said. “Creative mending, extreme knitting, 14 days to sleeveless workout, map of the world puzzle, solitary walking, and cross-country skiing, baking and cooking, planning future tours to Japan, Mexico, Bhutan and sleeping late.” 

Like many, Craft has taken to social sharing platforms like Zoom to “meet” with friends. 

“I participated in three Zoom gatherings last week,” she said. “One was quite chaotic, as it included ‘quarantinis’ and everyone was talking at once. Another was more orderly. Both were fun.” 

Her take on the pandemic’s effect on her life?

“I guess I am oddly content.”