Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dippin' in the Desert

We landed in the smoggy and sprawling city of Denver on July 27th, eager for our reunion with family. Josh’s loving parents picked us up at the airport, ready to embark on the four hour return trek to Rawlins, Wyoming. Ironically, the first reunion we came upon was “a new hometown- Reunion, Colorado.” They named a town Reunion, and claimed it to be everything any perfect suburbanite might ever want, and in driving distance to every box store imaginable! Needless to say, the arrival into the state of Wyoming was glamorous and glorious, a relief to be seized and appreciated. The 12 days spent there was devoid of our cell phones and internet. We spent time making and eating delicious dinners, enjoying Aunt Cindy’s backyard gardens, moving cattle on horseback and via truck, celebrating Sadie’s birthday, hiking, enjoying time with Grandpa Bellin and Gramma Smith, and spending time at the ranch.

Josh and I took a trip to Sinks Canyon near Lander, about two hours northwest of Rawlins. We hiked to some falls and slept under the stars. It was both wonderful and refreshing. We were able to make the same trip with DonRay, Sue, Cindy, Sadie, and Rebekah, hiking and then sharing in a wonderful campfire meal.

Traveling often seems to bring about recognition of contradictions- this time proved to be no different. Wyoming offers stillness, darkness, quiet, beauty. But you can’t find an organic apple to save your life. Cattle, elk, antelope, and wild horses roam free. But the ranchers and cowboys don’t get compensation for lean and healthy hormone-free cattle. Nights are cool and the air is clean, but the state is in its eighth year of drought. It’s a place of immense history left unscathed, but being stripped of its ancient rocks and landscape. Coming back, flying over fields of lush green plants, arriving to a garden overgrown, was a bit trippy. Wyoming is dusty and dry. The people are worried and wondering. Water tables are dropping.
Going there, or maybe just going away, really makes you think about things… things you believe in, things you love, the steps you walk. The steps that most recently I’ve been walking have been over farmland, gardens, farmer’s markets, and food co-ops. Being in Wyoming and not being able to buy fresh, local produce really threw me for a loop. It is not available in Rawlins unless you actively grow in your own backyards (applause to Cindy and her tomatoes). The only organic option at the single Rawlins grocery store was a jar of 505 salsa. And I think that’s only because they offer almost a whole aisle of Mexican salsa. It isn’t an affluent town or a town with booming businesses or universities. It’s the hub of Carbon County, a county that spans 7900 square miles and has 15,639 people (I’m not kidding), but none of that land mass features a farmers market or a marketing organic farm. I guess that’s not too hard to imagine considering the elevation of 7,000, 8 year drought, and the fact that it really is a desert. But even so, shouldn’t these members of this community have available to them pesticide and chemical free food, free of corporate schemes? Food available that benefits the local economy and the local people? The very things I love about Wyoming, the things that are so opposite of what is happening in Denver, are exactly what submerses the citizens of Carbon County in a world lacking healthy options. Even crazier and more contradictory is the fact that all this beautiful, slick cattle wanders free on the range, lean, healthy, and happy. Yet the carnivorous people aren’t feasting on this meat, the animals they dedicate their land and resources to. They feast on what City Market, the monopoly grocery store offers- fatty, “choice” beef that may have once been theirs, but is now full of fat and cholesterol, chemicals and hormones.
So anyway, that was our vacation. It was time spent comparing worlds and places that are both from the earth, and both full of people who come from this earth. It was time enriched with home, family, and lots of love.