I don’t know what to write about. You see, I am sitting here at camp with plenty of time to write but nothing is coming to mind. So I thought I would write you this letter. I’ve been reading Edward Abbey and he can just go on and on about a cactus bloom or a slab of sandstone. Yet when I look around my camp, I just see trees. A tent. Camp gear. Marching ants that want my food. Mosquitos that want my blood. And flies that want both.
It’s strange to be on vacation from vacation. My backpacking trip ends tomorrow but I don’t have to go home. I don’t have to go back to work. So it feels kind of different. I’m not so desperate to get away from it all. Rather, I’m sort of going inward. Traveling to a deeper state of experience and appreciation for life. A broader perspective of my new life, as it is now. I’m simply relaxed in the knowing that we’ve created all of this. Actually, we’re creating our reality moment by moment. Day by day. And on our own terms.
I don’t think I’ve ever simply done exactly what I want. Day after day. It’s strange indeed, this new way of living. But it’s made sweeter with the knowledge that it’s only temporary. I’m not rich. And I’m not retired. I’m only taking a break from life as I know it. But what if? What if there IS a way to live every day exactly the way that I want to? And if so, what does that look like? How do I function in the world this way and how do I give back? These are the larger questions at hand. Is one year long enough to break away from old habits and lifelong beliefs of how the world should be and how a person living in this country should live their life?
As we travel along, we run into all kinds of people. And they are all very different. It really does depend on where you go. City to city. State to state. Country to country. You can learn so much from travel. People have a lot more connection to their environment than they probably think. I’ve learned this by going into the backcountry first and then visiting the towns. For example, Idaho is almost nothing but forest. Miles upon miles of rough, unchanged, largely inhabited forest. Land of the jagged Sawtooth Mountains. A very masculine state. And the people carry this same energy. Oregon on the other hand is soft. The ground is soft. The trees are soft. The plants are soft. And the people here have a genuine softness to them. A very feminine energy so it seems. Where Idaho is live and let live, Oregon is love and let love. The friendliest people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. Instead of rough around the edges, Oregon is soft around the corners. Even the hills are soft in the fading sunlight.
More often than not, I just run into two types of people. People who seem happy and people who don’t. And some places simply have more of one than the other. I’m not exactly sure why this is true. Could it be access to recreation? Where there is lots of recreation, people seem to be happy. Perhaps it depends on the population. Where there is plenty of room to spread out, people aren’t constantly getting in each others way.
Wherever people are happy, it shows. Houses are well cared for. Yards are thoughtfully kept. People are riding bikes. Is it even possible to ride a bike and be unhappy? People are fit and attractive. Their dogs are attractive with coats that shine and eyes full of joy and excitement. Their flowers bloom and their gardens grow. Local businesses are owned and run by the people who live there. The shops are tidy, offering local produce, local art, and full of sweet smells. The signs out front of these shops are artfully handwritten with care.
Here is the key word. CARE. People who are happy CARE.
People who are happy surround themselves with happiness and thrive on making others happy. And it is such a joy to find little towns like this. And I’m not talking wealth here. I’m not talking rich vs poor. For I have run into dozens of little farm towns filled with loving people who seem to truly care about their homes, their streets, and the towns they live in. You won’t find an old washer or dryer in a yard. And you won’t find trash in the streets.
I’m not sure what comes first. The happiness or the caring, but you cannot have one without the other. If you’re not happy, try simply putting some thoughtfulness and caring into whatever it is that you are doing. Clean the windows. Cook a delicious meal. Plant a garden. Or go ride a bike. But do it with care and grace. Giving it all your attention. And most importantly, put love into every step. Soon you will forget that you were ever unhappy. Living among other people who also care certainly makes living a happy life much easier. Caring IS contagious. And it’s really cool when you find little towns where this exists.
Then you stumble into areas of neglect. Boarded up windows. Trash in the gutters. And in the stores, lifeless produce, dusty bags of stale potato chips, and a lonely soul behind the counter with tired eyes. And I wonder, how did this happen? And why do these people still live here? I don’t claim to have the answers. I’m just asking the questions. Any comments?