Town or Country
Where are we supposed to live?
We’ve been looking at houses down in town, trying to find a place where we could live with Mariah’s grandma. And I kind of like the idea. Kind of.
A big part of the American rat race is the idea that everyone has to move away from their parents and make it on their own. And the flip side is when they need help, our parents have to make it on their own too. It’s occurred to me that this makes for a lot of unnecessary work. We pay separate rent, or mortgages, or at least property taxes. We pay for childcare when it would be built-in if we lived with our parents, and our parents and grandparents pay for in-home care, or to live in a facility. That too would be mostly built-in if we lived with them. I understand that’s how families worked for most of human history.
Moving is a lot of work, though, whether it’s out or in, and I know it’ll be a big break from my usual priorities. But where we live now, we’ll have to move sooner or later. Even if we paid someone to plow the driveway and stack the firewood, our house has too many stairs to grow old here. If we find a place accessible enough for Mariah’s grandma who’s nearing 90, then it would be accessible enough for our parents, and for us in the future. We’d never have to move again.
But moving in with Mariah’s grandma would also mean moving from the mountains to the flats, because she’s already on oxygen (Nederland is in the mountains, Longmont is in the flats. Go figure). That’s also in line with what people did for most of human history. No one lived in the mountains of Colorado in the winter, especially not the native Cheyennes or Arapahoes. They did some hunting and gathering here in the summer, then had the sense to get down before the big snows. The mountain men might’ve wintered over, but they didn’t really live off the land. They sold furs for the fashion industry and bought flour, sugar, coffee, and tobacco with the proceeds. Same with the miners that founded all the towns around where we live. Now they’re tourist towns.
I worry about what I would do to stay in shape down below though. Not many of the places we’re looking at have wood stoves, or backyards big enough to shoot a bow in. So my current exercise goals of heat and meat would be obsolete. I suppose I’d be more likely to walk to the grocery store. And I could walk my kids to school, like my parents did with me.
I’m not about to do a full energy analysis, but I wonder which place is more sustainable. Here, we can cut wood on our property for heat and in theory eat fish and game and berries for most of our diet. I like this idea of forced connection with nature. It’s what I aspired to when I was younger, in the thick of my obsession with extreme sports. The climbing and skiing and mountain biking was partly just an excuse to get out of town. Above all I loved to camp, and saw the ideal lifestyle as camping year round, and staying fit and entertained in the process.
I only ever lived in town until moving to Colorado, though, and I always lived within a stone’s throw of other houses until moving to Lazy Z Road, where we can hardly see anything but woods and mountains.
Maybe I was able to give up extreme sports and partying so easily because of where we live. This is where other people vacation and recreate. I don’t need an escape. As a sign in nearby Eldorado canyon says, “Slow down, you’re here.”
But is living in such a wild place the best thing for wild places?
The nearest grocery store is a 15 minute drive away, on a road that’s notoriously hard on cars. Same with the schools that our kids will soon attend. The school bus route will have them riding nearly an hour each way. Most of our neighbors commute to Boulder or Denver for work, or are retired. I bet I’ve driven more in the five years I’ve lived in Colorado than in my previous 25. Electric car or not, that takes a lot of resources.
And it cost more to truck my last load of salmon from Denver to Nederland (60 miles), than from Seattle to Denver (1,300 miles). That’s the flip side of seclusion.
In the flats we could grow a garden. We could have our salmon delivered in front of our house and store it in our garage.
We could take care of our families, and make it easier for them to take care of us.
We’d have neighbors, for better or worse.
But we would have to go out of our way to spend time in wild places. Is that how it should be? Should we let the wild go because we love it? Will absence make the heart grow fonder, or will it make us absent-minded about how we treat the planet?
What do you think?