Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's just 1000 miles, but it feels like a different universe

There used to be a lot of stuff in my life I thought I couldn't live without. Living in central Contra Costa County, CA would have topped the list, along with a sales job that included lots of travel, company vehicle, generous entertainment budget and various perks that made 15 hour work days and six day work weeks acceptable...until the reality, the economy, and some unexpected health issues brought life as I knew it to an abrupt end. Things went well for a while, and treading water, I downsized, trying to reinvent myself as a freelance writer and community columnist for the local newspaper. It worked for a few years; I rediscovered the wonderful city and population of Pittsburg, CA. The town and I were simpatico...like me, the diverse waterfront community was trying to re-create herself...like me, she was often misunderstood. Also like me, she couldn't quite keep her engine running without the appropriate re-fuel.
Bottom line- a tri-fecta of events have converged to bring my life as a California girl to an end.
I need to clarify this. I am a California native. I love my state. I still get misty at the sight of the State Flag, would never, ever consider picking a California Poppy on the side of the road, and regularly observe Admission Day (September 9, 1850). I'm not one of the Californians that got disillusioned with the Golden State and just took a hike.
That said, I am no longer a resident of a master-planned Contra Costa suburb. I'm not even a California resident at all. I've been transplanted to the rural community of Hotchkiss, Colorado. Elevation 5351. Population 1006 at last count. I'm guessing the livestock population is more than triple the human population. This place could not stand in sharper contrast to where I come from. Zoning? Building Codes? Orderly neighborhoods with parking enforcement? Ha!
You will find rustic log cabins nestled next to modular homes, tucked in behind spectacular 6000 ft. custom ranch homes on multi-acre parcels, which border trailers with lean-to storage sheds.
Go figure. And here's the thing...contrary to what my old home owner's association told me- no one has died. Sure, stuff looks kind of clutter-y and eclectic- OK sometimes like a trash bin, but Satan has not taken up residence, people still lead decent lives, take care of their kids (at least as well as they do in CA) and just because a resident is permitted to do car repairs in his or her own driveway; it has not hastened the end of civilization. Looking back, I'm ashamed to admit that I spent the first few months of my stay here mocking the apparent lack of zoning, and the fact that there were no HOA 'police' keeping things 'pretty'. Recently, I've come to have a deeper understanding of what pretty is. Of what's real. I'd like to share my observations from the perspective of a suburban CA girl who's been dropped into another world. No malls, no traffic (unless you count those cows and sheep).
The challenges of survival in a place where there are few shopping options, one grocery store, and zero fast food. Discovering the beauty of living in a place where you don't have to lock your car or your home, and organic farming is bountiful, and ultra liberals co-exist with staunch conservatives and libertarians. Learning about the mixed blessing of a community where everyone knows their neighbors; people look out for each other, but the gossip tends to run higher than the Gunnison River.
I've got stories I can't wait to share...and survival advice I'll be asking for. So far I've learned that no matter how settled you are in life, you're never too old for an adventure.


  1. Just like you this is amazing. I can't wait for your next blog!

  2. Hi From Mary W.! This is pure Sarah! FYI, we're having a gully-washing rain here in SF, and you'd think we were in the backwoods of CO without a compass. People are NOT coping!