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Carbondaler explains town’s attraction, plans to stay

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(Editor’s note: This is part of a series that explores how folks came to live in Carbondale).

By David Troxel

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There are some forces of attraction that can’t be resisted. Just ask Conor Johnson.

Johnson grew up in Palisade and Grand Junction, and was 10 in the early 1990s when he first visited the Carbondale area with his family. He remembers attending a cousin’s wedding in Redstone and having breakfast at the Village Smithy. At the time, it seemed like a pretty cool place.

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When he was 15, Johnson’s family moved to Glenwood Springs, where he finished high school while being increasingly drawn to spend time in Carbondale. He had connected with the growing music scene here, playing music and attending shows with friends. Also during those years, Johnson became aware of an “explosion of culture” as Carbondale became, in his view, “a collective of people helping each other out, becoming a hub for community and culture.” Finally realizing that its pull on him had become too strong to ignore, Johnson fixed on a plan to make the leap.

“It just kept pulling me that way until I thought, ‘well, I spend so much time there anyway, I might as well just manifest a place.’” A few weeks later something opened up. “I just knew that it was my kind of place,” he told The Sopris Sun.

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Manifestation

The idea of manifestation filters through much of Johnson’s description of his relationship with Carbondale and its people. Another concept that appears regularly in conversation with him is inspiration, which he says he has found in a diverse local spiritual community, and credits for his willingness to “keep persevering, do what I want to do here and not be discouraged if it doesn’t take off right away.”

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Johnson resisted advice to attend college straight out of high school, instead taking time to explore his interests and talents while also “going inward” to meditate deeply on his calling. This comprehensive approach to identifying a life course led him after several years to obtain an associate degree in graphic arts from Colorado Mountain College, where he combined his academic training with the meditative insights he had gained to create a “vibrational, energetic” style of graphic design that became the signature feature of his company, Present Moment Productions.

“A lot of times I’ll get a feeling for a logo or whatever it may be, and then I really go inward and meditate on it and see what comes up,” said Johnson. “Usually it’s totally out of the blue; I just see something in my head, and it becomes very intuitive.” He credits his involvement with energy medicine and hypnotherapy as factors in his ability to “be a medium for different energies. A lot of times I don’t know what’s going to happen, what kind of energy is going to come through. So that boosted my creativity on a lot of levels.”

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Today, at 33, Johnson has found a groove in Carbondale that he believes reflects the typical experience of his generation here. With a resume that includes graphic art and web design, gigging as a DJ and instrumental performer under the name “Sheelus” (from the Irish Gaelic for “music”), and providing home care and support for local elders, Johnson balances his passions with unexpected opportunities to contribute to and draw sustenance from a vibrant Carbondale social landscape. He describes himself as one of many people who “have their own little niches that they get into where they really thrive, so they keep that going.”

For instance, Johnson points to the growing need for home care and support of the valley’s aging population as the unanticipated source of his strongest current potential to earn a stable income in Carbondale. While maintaining a strong passion for his art and music, he expresses a “deep satisfaction” in his work with community elders, a job that came looking for him instead of the other way around. “I was introduced to caretaking by a friend in the field who was overwhelmed with work, and he thought that this kind of work would be right for me,” he said.

But does he worry that the growing demands of caregiving will interfere with his other interests? On the contrary, Johnson expresses appreciation for the diversity of his callings and his Carbondale connections that have encouraged them, while also hoping to see more networks develop between the diverse local demographic groups “to help us all flourish even more than we do now.” Asked if living in Carbondale is ever a struggle, he replies enthusiastically “No! I feel very grounded here. Being so involved with the community and the people in it, it would really be harder to leave than it is to stay.”

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