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Life in the Wilderness
At various times in the past I’ve observed that we’re looked upon as living in a somewhat remote spot. The Boulder Daily Camera recently published “The Insider’s Guide to Boulder County and Rocky Mountain National Park,” $12.95, available at local bookstores. It’s a pretty thinly disguised compendium of advertising, but let’s be fair – the Camera isn’t a non-profit newspaper.
There’s a paragraph in the book about Ferncliff Store which says it’s nice to have a store in this “virtual wilderness.”
This used to be a wilderness, virtual or otherwise, but calling it that now may be stretching the point.
We are always in a push-pull situation with regard to our relationship with the land and our environs. I grew up in Oregon and we had many of the same problems. Oregon is a beautiful state. It has an ocean, mountains, Hood, Jefferson, great skiing, big and wild rivers, the Columbia and the Rogue, high plains, desert country, the Steens Mountains, and the weather? Well, if you’ve been there for any significant length of time you know it’s not what the reputation suggests. Oregonians have carefully cultivated that “Oh, it rains all winter” myth just to keep people away. We do much the same thing in Colorado. “The winters? Oh, they’re terrible! Cold! Snow!”
We exaggerate these things because we have this ambivalence. We want to brag about where we live and we want them to visit, but we don’t want them to move here permanently. Colorado will be the fifth most visited vacation state this year and that’s the way we like it.
Do we live in a virtual wilderness? Well, most of us have indoor plumbing. We have electricity and private telephone lines, computers, fax machines, satellite dishes, central heat and two car garages. Doesn’t sound like much of a wilderness to me.
Still, (unless we’re in real estate, which is another story) we like to emphasize the hardships when we talk to people who might be interested in living here. Why do we do that? We do it because we like to preserve the myth of living in a virtual wilderness. I have a friend who extols the virtues of ascetic mountain living. Still, she’s spending all she can on improvements to her house.
All this is the result of wanting to have a wilderness and the tourists with money who will want to visit it. The trouble is we want to go home at night, turn up the heat, have a hot bath, microwave dinner, settle down with a little HBO or log onto Compuserve and top off the evening with a little time in the sauna or spa.
Can we have both? Many of us already have both and we try to keep as quiet about it as we can. It makes us happy that the Boulder newspaper believes we live in a virtual wilderness, surviving on chokecherries, corn dodgers and venison, packing in flour and salt for the winter on our snowshoes and checking our trap lines. If they feel sorry for us, maybe they won’t move here, and they’ll take pity on us and plow our roads so we won’t starve. I tell my friends all over the country, “Yeah, it’s beautiful in the summer but the winters are killers. It’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.” Okay, so I lie. But most of us have shaded the truth in this regard, mostly because we don’t want too many people living here. In my case, I like my friends right where they are. It’s okay for them to visit but I wouldn’t want them living here.
It’s no surprise that a writer who lives in Boulder would call our valley a virtual wilderness. It’s pretty obvious they’ve not seen a real wilderness and we might as well face it, a real wilderness is getting harder and harder to find. And if you found it, would you want to live there?
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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