A couple ladies came in to the store. They asked about our little area of the Park and commented on the heat. Yeah, well, 112* IS fucking hot! Many of the tourists are curious about those of us that live and work here. Often visitors want to connect and chat during our transactions or during their time in the store getting gas. I mean, most of them went to a lot of trouble to be here, spending hard earned time and money for the experience. Me? I just get up and go to work or walk out my door. This is my “normal”.
After her comments about the heat she asked if we lived here. “Whey, yes, we do”, I told her, “just up the road”. She then says, “What do you do in this heat?” I told her that I don’t do anything. Just stay home, go outside to check the weather, see that it is still way too hot, then go back in. I has been over 100 for days, peaking at 116*. I do ride my bike to work and get out now and again for little walks in the course of my work day. But, no hiking or extensive walking or visits to the gym. Not right now. She made a couple comments about the remote setting, asking where we got food and essential services. Yes, it is a two hour drive to a small town for groceries. I order a lot on Amazon, Sam’s Club, and other web sites. She was just amazed. She shook her head in disbelief. This is a life she just could not comprehend.
I mean, yes, we live in this remote setting with what can look like a mountain of challenges. We lose power regularly, cannot just “run to the store”, cannot always get what we may need the moment we need it or go shopping just because. We do not have quick access to essential services like doctors or groceries or auto mechanics. There is no cell service and we use a landline for phone calls. I never let my Jeep get to less than 1/2 tank, and 1/4 tank makes me nervous. I have a finite selection of stores, depending on how far I feel like driving and how many hours I want to spend in the car. I have to take a cooler with ice so my frozen items will make it home. It takes planning to get what I need. Living here, living this remote, is work.
Then again, I opened my door to look outside tonight and saw a shooting star. I live in a dark sky area and can see the Milky Way, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor on a regular basis. I hear the wind and smell the rain. I watch the bats eat the bugs out of the sky and greet the coyotes who saunter along. I can walk out my door and go for miles without seeing another soul. I have no traffic. I can sit in my backyard naked. I can dance in the rain to celebrate that it is, in fact, raining. I can pick a hike and drive just a few miles, if at all, to get there. I have quiet that is absolute silence.
I also have community and a network of people out here, just like me. We have and rely and count on each other. When someone goes “to town” we ask of anyone needs anything. We are happy to oblige when they do. We look out for each other and help take care of each other. Thankfully, we all have the internet, too. I feel fortunate to be in this location. I feel fortunate to be among those who have done this much longer than I.
You have to be resilient to live in a place like this. You have to let go of the need to buy things you do not need or participate in instant gratification for that thing you want. There are times you have to make due with what you have and, most of the time, you are grateful to just have that! You will not get your mail or your packages on time. But, your life will be simpler and more streamlined. Your priorities will change. This life is not for everyone.
On the flip side, I can kayak the river, soak in a natural hot springs, hike forever, Jeep for days, camp alone. I can watch the lightening from a passing storm and hear the crickets and cicadas. I can be totally by myself or be with people. I see wildlife each and every day. I meet people from all over the country and the world. I enjoy learning and practicing my Spanish in this complicated border location. I can hang my clothes outside to dry, which takes just a few minutes these days. I can wave at a passing car and they wave back. Hell, I can recognize the car and know who it is!
For some, I am living on the edge. For others, I am living high on the hog. For me, I am living how I choose. I embrace the need for challenge in my life and acknowledge those inherent to this place. I seem to be suited for this lifestyle, as are the people around me. It takes a special sort of person to be able to survive, and thrive, here. I have said it before, and I say it again, I have found my people. People who get me, who share common ideals and values, who love and appreciate nature, and who need some verve to their day. For us, this just works. Maybe for a few months or few years, or however long we are here, we are here by choice. This is our home.
So, for that lady who visited the store today, I thank you. I thank you for reminding me why I have chosen this place to call home. Thank you for helping me to reflect on the glorious location that surrounds me. I mean, you as a visitor are the one who drives for hours and hours, spending your vacation time and money to be here. You came way the hell out of your way to see this place. Me? I just open my front door. I just go to work. I just drive up the road. I am always here.
Cheers to the gifts at our door, the embrace of community, and the diversity of this land.
Cheers to Mother Nature and this place we call home!