We drove down south to go hiking this weekend a beautiful area named Starved Rock, full of limestone canyons and cliff outcroppings. Because we didn’t have a cold enough winter, you can see the levels of the rivers are low, too much bank not enough water.
I heard on the radio this happens because without the temperatures low enough for long enough the water doesn’t freeze and there is too much evaporation during winter. What this means to Starved Rock canyons is that there is a trickle of waterfall instead of a gush, the water drips over the sides of the limestone forming still, stagnant pools. The mating frogs have less room to get their groove on.
As we were driving there, I talked with my husband about how I could live in such a place where there is less population, less consumerism, where there is a small tavern filled with Harleys, all of the bikers out on a ninety degree sunny day in the country.
My husband and I are polar opposites, he an introvert and me, at least by comparison, an extrovert. I thought it odd that he stated without hesitation that there is no way he could live in the middle of nowhere, less because of the spaciousness between neighbors and more because of the people. His thoughts, coming from a man who grew up in a very small, homogenous hometown, followed that the people would be nice as pie making assumptions about us because of the way we look. Essentially, we look the part, caucasian, not too thin, not too fixy. We blend.
But he’s familiar with small town mentalities. He and I both grew up in them, but mine being in upstate New York was wildly liberal by comparison. If you knew how not liberal my hometown was, you’d appreciate his comment. He feels that we would be treated well until the truth of our beliefs came to the forefront, and then our lives would be very uncomfortable.
And you see, that’s the thing about a small town. Things can get uncomfortable very quickly when you just don’t fit. As much as I don’t believe in getting political on this blog, I’ll state a few facts. We believe in people. We believe in women’s rights. We believe that you should have the right to marry whomever you want, and do whatever floats your boat to borrow a southern expression of my mother’s.
We believe in freedom of religion provided you don’t put it on anyone else, and lest you think that is the athiest/agnostic viewpoint, I’ll even share the fact that one of us was raised actively in a church and finds great strength in their religion. The other is a dyed-in-the-wool athiest.
All of this got me to thinking. He told me that he could live in a small town provided it was a small town of artists, whether actively so, or just people who believe in art, in humanity, in being kind regardless of color, gender, sexuality or class. Essentially, we believe in being kind.
Where does that leave? I know some great towns in upstate New York, places near where I grew up, New Paltz or Woodstock, then there’s always Portland and Seattle. There are many places in California, but all that sun and happy weather would do me in.
But what happens when the liberals among us all gather in these places? Yes, there must be a joy in being surrounded by like-minded individuals, but doesn’t that take away the opportunity to effect the landscape in the rest of the world, and by landscape I mean perception.
At different times in my life, I have been in the position to change people’s views on things. It happens because I look a certain way and work a certain job, and I am not what people think. My life hasn’t been what people may assume based on my picket fence and 2.5 children. It was at those times that people may have changed their views, based on knowing me and been forced to deal with liking me and perhaps not liking my views.
If we all congregate where we’re accepted, is it taking the easy road, not one where we can make the biggest difference?
And it doesn’t just go that way, it flips to the other side as well. If I lived in a like-minded area, I wouldn’t have met some amazing people who differ on what I thought were nonnegotiables. How could I ever write, honestly write, which has nothing to do with publication, if I was to seclude myself amongst people who thought and believed just as I do?
So, we had a beautiful hike, and touched some frogs, and got our hearts pumping. And I thought about how odd it was that I could live in an area so unlike my beliefs and my dear man who would just as soon not talk to someone as talk, needs more people, more stimulation, more art, more culture.
Or maybe it’s just that I need canyons and cliffs and trees. Because at the heart of it, I’m just a mountain girl.
Growing up in the Catskills does it to you. Maybe it was in the water.