Passing by L.A. on the I-5 southbound I couldn’t help but look at all of the huge, incredibly engineered roads arcing through the air above me and think, “We do the same thing as ants, just on a bigger scale.” Because ants are incredible architects, you realize—and I know, I know. “But what we do requires so much intricacy and…” Yes yes yes that is very true and I don’t mean to insult all of the people who worked together to create these amazing feats or to insult the copious amounts of resources and man hours that went into them, but seriously…we do the same thing as ants. Just on a bigger scale. Because we are so much bigger, physically, so we have to do it on a bigger scale, which requires all of those many intricacies and also you know what? Just because it’s small and comparatively rudimentary doesn’t mean it is without its intricacies, you know.
And just because it’s an amazing feat of engineering, I’m not sure that I’m terribly on board with the idea that it’s good. Huge cities like Los Angeles, an oasis in the desert, comes at an incredible cost. Remember all those resources that were required to build it—that continue to be required to expand it and better develop and keep up with humanity’s (legitimately terrifying) booming population? Those aren’t free, and continuing to pull from them isn’t sustainable—especially as climate change brings the west coast drought and drought and drought. Not to mention the byproducts of so much packed humanity in one place—carbon emissions and methane and water pollution and…
There was no way to do justice to all that traffic.
I come from a much simpler place. That probably sounds silly, but it’s true. I grew up in a rural area. I am literally a country girl, who learned how to drive when she was quite wee by guiding the pickups through the fields while my father and his friends and helpers packed the truck bed and the trailer full of hay. I sometimes forget what a country girl I am—and then I find myself peering out the car window at Seattle or Los Angeles as it passes me by, and I experience a range of rollercoaster emotions. I am impressed and intimidated by the sheer size and ingenuity of it all and I am terrified of all of the people racing around like busy ants and, for however briefly, I am paralyzed by the fear that one of them will (as humans are wont to do) be stupid and their stupidity will result in my death. Or I am afraid that I will do something stupid and it will so crowded that there will be no margin for error—and I’ll die, or I’ll kill someone.
Being around so many people is terrifying.
It is in moments like these that I remember where I come from. Maybe it’s weird but I legitimately forget sometimes. I suppose I don’t identify myself as a country girl at this point—I don’t know if I ever have—despite the pride I take in all that that background has afforded me. I am proud that I am more familiar with where my food comes from—that I don’t suffer from that dissociation with the food chain and the life cycle that so many people in our society do. I am proud that this familiarity has granted me an opportunity to develop a real relationship with the filthy aspects of life—and with death. But I forget where that comes from. These days I think more often about the color of my skin (in fury that people with higher concentrates of melanin in their skin are more likely to be stopped and killed by police than I am) than I do where I was raised that I just…somehow…lose awareness of it, until I am faced with the opposite pole of origins and am forced to crane my neck to stare up at it in awe.
And as I pass through these places so strange to me I come to live on the charity of people I haven’t seen for so long—sometimes years. I have stayed with my aunt and uncle who I haven’t seen in over a year and I am currently staying with my cousin and his wife, who until a few weeks ago I hadn’t seen in many multiple years (I can’t even tell you how many—that’s how long it’s been). It is a reconnection to a part of my family from which I am so disconnected that I often forget to consider them. I didn’t think to stop here in San Diego until my mother suggested it—and I am very glad she did, for the opportunity it has afforded me to reconnect with my cousin and his family. And as I travel from place to place, often hating the way my body aches in protest at the long hours of sitting and often bored with the plain, flat scenery, I think how lucky I am. Lucky that I have a family that will reach out to catch me regardless of how long it’s been since I’ve seen them—and lucky that I have so many scattered connections to re-make. People who will support me along the way and pass me off to the next place. It’s a little baffling, actually—trying to figure out why, but I guess there doesn’t have to be a why. Because family is family, and friends are friends, and I would do the same for any one of them.
Thus I travel on in the comfort of the knowledge that I am worth enough to these lovely scattered people that they don’t mind lending me a bed for the night and feeding me in exchange for nothing more than gratitude. If only I could think of some beautiful way to express how wonderful and amazing that is—this would be the finest blog I’d ever written. But there is no way to express that, that I can think of, so perhaps I’ll go to bed instead.