Could I live out here?


Could I?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I love it and it is part of my home territory.  My dad loved the West and drove us all around it for more than 20 years.  I’ve seen it change and I’ve seen it stay the same, exactly, as it was.  I love the subtle change of seasons in the dry brush.  It pays to pay attention.   I like arid, sunny, mountainous climates. I was born in the center of downtown Los Angeles.

Race is different out here.  First of all, depending on where you live, you hardly see it.  Inland and northern western states are very white.  White-Mexican relationships are particularly complicated.  There is not simply a binary division between “whites’ and ‘Mexicans,” since lots of Mexcians are “white” in the eyes of Anglos  But it’s not that simple.  This is a territory in which distinctions of color and blood have meant a lot for hundreds of years.  So, Southern California, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado have something in common with South Africa, in that these states share a culture  in which successive waves of very different white people came in, took over, and fucked a lot of stuff up.

I have seen one person of color since I’ve been here now for over a month and half, with a week break in the middle of the period.   It’s not normal.  Almost makes me ashamed to admit that a part of me thrives–no, comes back to life–out here in these sunny, arid mountains.   But lots of people, least of all white people, come back to life in this climate.   That’s why it seems so weird out here—where are all the other people?  The community feels unbalanced, too homogeneous out here. Not quite “America.”

Plus there is no movie theater. Nor is there a decent bar.  Nothing even close to the symphony, not to mention opera or ballet or theater.   I can live without shopping malls–I order everything online anyway.  There is a good used bookstore.  It had a great s/f collection, and that is how I judge a bookstore.  But not much in the way of inspiring artists.  In Pittsburgh I can not only know ABOUT an aspiring artist, I can also be get to know that person, and learn from her or him.

It’s a nice fantasy: myself out on the range, let’s say on an immense ranch of my own, with stunning views and clear streams, rustic exteriors and cozy interiors, great wine, fresh, organic, local produce, maybe even a few goats and chickens, and a steady supply of marijuana, of course, and books, and internet access.  Maybe I’d paint more.  Maybe I’d take up that rustic weaving project.  I’d revert to my hippie self.  Obviously I would grow herbs.  Maybe I would sell them.  I would practice Iyengar with Nancy and get very good.   I would converse with people through the internet, go to conferences, or not.

It’s such a common fantasy, it’s almost embarrassing to be having it.   What makes mine different is that I’d get to be near my brother, who is only a few years younger than I am.  I miss him.  And I’d be closer to my sister, and nearly all of my cousins and aunts and uncles.  My family.  But my son lives on the east coast, and so does my boyfriend.  So  I find myself in the same question: where does the heart yearn?  It years in opposite directions.  Irritatingly.

At least there is the prelude to Edvard Grieg’s From Holberg’s Time.”

In case you didn’t know, Ludvig Holberg was a Norwegian humanist, an Enlightenment thinker who is also called the founder of Norwegian and Danish literature.  Apparently he was pretty good at investing money.  I’ve never read anything he wrote.


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