David E. Steiner

Retired USAF, Teacher, Dad, Grandfather, Curmudgeon

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Lost Horizon [1993]


Not very long ago I ran across a copy of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon. As you probably know, it’s a simple tale about idealism in which worldly Hugh Conway finds himself in the Valley of Blue Moon at a lamasery called Shangri La.

Those familiar only with the movie starring Ronald Coleman aren’t aware that in the book Conway doesn’t have a brother, isn’t world famous, and doesn’t meet Jane Wyatt. And in the end there’s no assurance that Conway has found his way back to Shangri La.

I have always wanted to think that there were parallels between this fantasy and our own high valley. We too are dominated by a single mountain, and we are a bit sheltered from the worst weather. Some of our permanent residents do seem to live a very long time, though none approaches the book’s Father Perrault’s 259 years.

The philosophy governing Shangri La was an enviable one. As Chang put it, “…we have found that the principle [of moderation] makes for a considerable degree of happiness. We rule with moderate strictness, and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste, and moderately honest.”

I think it’s fair to say that lately we’ve seen far too much immoderate and intemperate behavior in our valley, both in rule and in obedience. The voices of moderation have been cast aside in favor of absolutism; you’re either with us or against us. In fact, the vast majority are moderates who would like to be associated with a way of life similar to Shangri La’s. In the movie, but not in the book, the High Lama says at one point, “We have but one simple rule: be kind.” How different a place this would be if, in the last year, everyone in this valley had lived by that simple rule. Instead we have had rudeness, spitefulness, vengefulness, vindictiveness, intolerance and all manner of unkindness. We defend our behavior on the feeble grounds that “We know what’s right.” That notion, of course, has been responsible for more misery and death than any of us can imagine.

Shangri La, of course, never existed, nor could it exist. We are far too mean-spirited and realistic to allow such a place to exist for even a moment. Hilton was an incurable Romantic, and we live in the real world, where such a story is just an escapist fantasy written in the depths of a depression.

In our own Blue Moon valley, if you were to look someone in the eye and say, “I believe we should be kind to each other,” you might be greeted by an air of profound puzzlement or with open hostility. The most likely prospect, however, is that the person would smile sweetly and agree with you and then carry on as before.

It would be nice to have a High Lama to lead us in the ways of moderation and kindness. Unfortunately, if that is to happen it appears we’ll have to do it ourselves.

Happy New Year.




© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner

Allenspark Wind Columns:


Why Allenspark?

Going Riding [August, 1985]


Used Cars

Peace and Quiet [1986]

Liberals & Conservatives

Going to the Movies

The Screened Porch

The Beginning of The Season

The Weather

The Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The End of The Season

The Gift of Time

The Beavers

Addresses [1987]


Watching the Trees Grow

Postal Rates

Changes in Estes Park

Square Dancing at the Pow Wow

Back to the Hilltop Guild Bazaar

The Solstices

Bird Feeders


The Estes Park Hardware Store [1988]


Limousine Service

A Memorial Service

A Hummingbird


A Hiking Trip

The Estes Park Public Library

Wild Life

Riparian Rights [1989]




Mountain Friendliness

A Motorcycle Trip

Satellite Television

“Weaving Mountain Memories”

Hotel Rates in the Old Days

The Price of Propane [1990]

The Front Range Almanac


Modes of Transportation

Miller Moths

My 50th Column

Modern Conveniences

Rock Climbing

On the Death of Otto Walter, Postmaster

Otto’s Memorial Service

A Big Owl Pot-Luck Dinner

A Whine About Telephone Service [1991]

After the Persian Gulf War

Some Changes in the WIND

The Trip to the Mountains

The Mountains in the Summer


Of Dogs, Music, and Children

Muhlenburg County

To My Grandson

The Sale of Longs Peak Inn

World War II  [1992]

Murphy’s Law and the Computer

The South St. Vrain Canyon


The Hazards of Volunteering

Crime in Our Valley


On the Death of Charles Eagle Plume

Can We All Get Along?

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Lost Horizon [1993]


Rumors About a Visit by the Pope


More About Fences


The Visit of Pope John Paul II

Forest Fires

The New Sewage System

The Snow Pool

The Good Old Days [1994]

The WIND’s 20th Anniversary

The Bunce School

The Shooting Gallery

The Estes Park Museum

Our Government

U.S. West Takes a Hit

The Year of the Hummingbirds

A New “Yield” Sign

Growth in Allenspark

Private Telephones?

The Salvation Army

Creation Science [1995]

Devolutionizing Big Government



Fort D.A. Russell

Domestic Terrorism

Old and New

Barney Graves

Life in the Wilderness

What’s In a Name?

Arthur C. Clarke


The Estes Park Trail-Gazette Columns:

July 1983


Estes Cone

Johnny Grant

Observations in Estes Park

The Bath House


The Sutherland’s Ice House

How Old is Charles Eagle Plume?


Christmas Trees

Tree Murder

Mountain Driving


Mail Boxes

More About Mail Boxes

“Are you related to ....?”


An Accident

The Wild Cat

A July Reunion

A Visit to Baldpate Inn

Opening Cabins


The Times, They Have Changed

Death and Transfiguration

The Population Explosion

The March of Time

Faith-Based Social Services

Looking for Pitch

Recent Writings I

Recent Writings II

Recent Writings III

Recent Writings IV

Recent Writings V

Recent Writings VI



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