We have lived out in this windy, dusty little fart of a town for almost 2 years now. Losing all we had in the Paradise Fire/Campfire, we lived for a couple of months in a travel trailer. We needed more space. It got depressing upon an already depressed mindset.
Local property values increased dramatically after thousands of people had lost their homes, so we decided to move twenty miles west of our desired location where we could afford more land and a reasonable house.
However, we knew we were moving back to an area much like where we grew up, an area with much rural poverty. Along with that, we also became residents of an area that shared little of our political leanings. Still, I knew having 5 acres would require for me to become less sedentary. I walk a lot of steps out here in a day and I’ve become inspired to try to record 5 million steps this year on my Fitbit. That would about 13,700 steps a day. So far I have 20 consecutive days of over 10,000 steps and last week I recorded 120,000 steps.
Still, sometimes it is really hard living out here, socially. People generally seem very angry and are not friendly. Drugs and crime are prevalent too. Politeness and friendliness are not demonstrated as often out here as I have grown used to. The guy who lives directly across the street and shares a mailbox post that I repaired for him probably weighs close to 350 pounds, ( I am being kind, he’s gotta be 400) always carries a little dog around in his arms, has not said a word to us even when just a few feet away – not even when I replaced his dilapidated mailbox post. Even the young adults out here seem angry and disillusioned. They seem to hate their jobs. Hell, it took the mail lady 2 years to respond to my greetings. I thought about adding to the city limits sign that states the local population at 1,250 with the words “mostly assholes and dumbshits” but that probably wouldn’t make things any better.
One odd thing about this town is that it has more churches per capita than I have ever seen. I can stand on one corner and see 7 churches. Churches are everywhere. A neighbor told me that the town had once been nationally recognized for its Church per person ratio. I am a believer.
Let me describe the last few days within two stone throws of our place. It begins with ambulances, fire trucks and sheriff cars at an elderly neighbor’s house. This house and the land around it is filled with garbage and trash. It would require many big truck loads to clean it up. The wife was taken to the hospital.
A few hours later, the neighbor who keeps stealing my irrigation water was out in his pasture. He fed his 5 steers and 30 sheep some bad grain. They all died and he had to take a tractor and load them all up on a trailer. Where he took them, I don’t know. But, they actually would have been an improvement to the elderly neighbor’s yard.
On both sides of me, the neighbors are illegally growing marijuana. In the fall, I could walk around with a perpetual smile on my face just from their activities. One of the neighbors, two days ago, was taken away in handcuffs by the police – not for illegally growing marijuana though. You see, a young lady, who barely looked 18 years old, ran out of his house, told another neighbor that she needed to use her phone to and I quote, “I need to call my husband because my boyfriend beat me up.” I couldn’t make this shit up. My neighbor is 62 years old, or so I discovered from the police arrest log, and was charged with battery of a co-inhabitant and false imprisonment.
And then last night, a neighbor called and said, “Hey, there are a bunch of police cars outside your house.” I walked out there and they seemed to be searching in the empty irrigation canal for something along our road. It didn’t even phase me. Oh yeah, another neighbor is raising roosters for cockfighting, but he actually might win the citizen of the year award. The bar is set pretty low, you see.
Why are we out here? I don’t know but for some crazy reason, it seems to be where we are supposed to be. As much as I am disgusted at times by the culture, it still feels right. Every morning, an incredible sunrise is visible through our front window and every evening another beautiful sunset is ours to watch. They are awesome and they can transform your thoughts. It is like a morning prayer and an evening prayer. It touches your soul. At night, it is dark enough out here to see the stars and my eyes and heart are often lifted up to heaven. There are a variety of birds, butterflies , and bees. There is a divine song that can be heard in the breeze, if you are still enough.
We have also planted 28 blueberry plants, 6 mandarin trees, 45 fruit trees, 24 grape vines, 14 olive trees, 16 rose bushes, 70 shade trees and we have created numerous garden locations for flowers, shrubs, and vegetables. We are trying to create a park-like setting and there is room yet for horses, sheep or what have you. The chickens roam about all day. There is a very large shop where one can do woodworking projects or “throw some pottery.” We’ve added solar panels to our roof, so we produce more electricity than we use. We have an above ground pool to help us survive the summer heat. The dogs and the cats can spend hours outside exploring new sounds and smells.
It all seems so odd. How could a place filled with rudeness, anger, and chaos also feel so peaceful to me? Does it take Hell to find Heaven? I can see the ridge that we used to live on for 40 years to our east. To the west, I can see the Pacific Coastal Range. Where before I was geographically attached to our place in Paradise, California, I have become more aware of the entire region which has led to an awareness of Mother Earth herself. I have also become more aware of our galaxy and the galaxies beyond. I find myself thinking more about the universe. I also find myself thinking more about love in spite of my frustrations and wanting to put some graffiti on the city signs.
It’s all good, I guess.