Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Little About Where We Live

Along the length of California's coast, there is a small section, about a 25 mile stretch, that has defied human ambition and contains no roads. It is called the Lost Coast, the longest roadless stretch of coastline in the lower 48 states. It's probably a wise choice, given our soils' severe instability, coupled with our proximity to the Mendocino Triple Junction and our average of 81 inches of annual rainfall. Roads here have a tendency to slowly or rapidly slip away downhill, depending on the weather. We have big earthquakes, on average, every 10 years. Our last large one was in 1992, so we are all feeling a little bit wary lately, wondering when the next one will surprise us.

We are about 50 miles from the nearest city of appreciable size, and getting here requires a winding and twisting, car-sick-producing, over ridges, through mossy forests, across rivers and creeks, along spectacular ocean and mountain vistas driving experience. Once one arrives here, it seems like a good idea to stay for a while. (Some of our relatives have had the challenging experience of driving a motor home into our lovely valley...I hope they will try it again!)

Our little village is home to approximately 280 year-round residents, and we enjoy an anomolous community-based lifestyle and livelihood here. You may visit the country doctor in his weekly clinic by day, and play poker with him at night. You may hire your friend to dig a ditch with his backhoe, and in return, you might purchase his groceries or lawn mower parts the next time you travel the distance to town. You will definitely spend a lot of time trying to juggle a buzzing social calendar with your family, friends, and acquaintances, attempting to balance potlucks, board meetings, dinner dates, play dates, and ad hoc swimming hole visits, all while trying to maintain your garden, cook all your meals (there are no restaurants here), raise your family, and build your latest construction project. Mostly, you will not travel anywhere without seeing someone you know. 

For all the lack of anonymity and "free time", life in a place like this is endlessly rich with the people you know and our collective relationship with the land. After trying it on for a while, it becomes infathomable to imagine living any other way. I mean, what if I couldn't purchase a dozen eggs from our neighbor? Or study yoga with someone who grew up here, steeped in the river and the grass? Or speculate about whether or not the salmon will return in numbers great enough for harvest within my lifetime? What if I couldn't find a quarter beef from a local pasture, and had to *gasp* go to the regular old store. I certainly could do it, and I do on occasion, but it is a different kind of interaction with the world. Not necessarily better, but different. Me personally, I like what I have going here, and it feels alive with connection.

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