Birds of a Feather

Saturday, November 17, 2001

Up in Big Bear

Greetings ,

I was itching to get up to the mountains, and when we got here, it was still morning. I breathed in that brisk, clean mountain air and beamed.  I feel so free up here. So happy to the core.

I belong here.

We unloaded our overnight bags into the cabin and took off with O and Freddy for a long walk. We stopped by to chat with our neighbor, Jeff, who was putting up holiday icicle lights on the eaves of his cabin, then with another neighbor, Woody, down the way. They were as  genuinely happy to see us, as we were to see them.

We waved at passersby, smiling, as we continued our walk in our neck of the woods, up and down, along the perimeter of our broad peninsula.  We stopped to admire the sparkling lake and the fleecy clouds above it. Our trotting dogs, smiling with their wagging tails, were as joyful as we were to be out and about in nature.

Down the hill, we live in the Los Angeles area in an upper middle-class bedroom community, in the midst of an upwardly mobile, status-driven, consumerist society. I say this without judgment. Los Angeles is what it is. I am not complaining, grateful for the opportunities that it has afforded us.

Different strokes for different folks, yes? 

Besides, my simple, "less is more" lifestyle and preference is less contributory to the recovery of our country's slumped economy.  Daily, we are being exhorted to spendspendspend; it would seem, these days, that engaging in conspicuous consumerism is our patriotic duty.

An absence from the mountains for two weekends only underscores how different we are.  We don't fit in down there as well as we do up here. Our suburban neighbors are good people, certainly nice enough, but are far more occupied with directing their energies toward competing for money, status and position using what they wear, drive, live in (and who they marry) as recognizable symbols of their success.  We just don't connect. 

I don't comfortably work in the front yard there as I do here. Truth is still truth even if it makes me sad. Once, a couple of boisterous neighborhood teens came up to me as I was busily weeding in the front yard.  Mistaking me for a hired gardener, part of the brigade of immigrant gardeners that swoops in to mow, edge, clip here, clip there, air blow and swoop out in their pickup trucks, they asked with perceptible condescension: "What do you get paid for doing work like this?"  They were thoroughly nonplused when I pointed to our house, replying, "I live here."  

I rarely take long walks in the neighborhood there. Cement sidewalks, manicured lawns and cookie-cutter gardens, and houses without welcoming front porches do not inspire me.  I've noticed how city folk avoid making eye contact, and I've come to realize that people don't wave hello to each other simply because they don't bother to see each other.

Spending time in the mountains helps me to count its unique blessings.

Up here, our neighbors -- and we -- wear comfortable clothes; this time of year, we're in baggy fleece pants and even baggier sweatshirts, the more worn, the softer, the better. You wouldn't know if we are executives, professors, artists, or poets. Nobody knows how much money we make (or do not make). 

Or care.  

With such role-definitions erased and the rustic life-style eliminating the need for social niceties (like shaving, makeup or hair done up), a true solidarity is palpable in our neighborhood.  

We connect.  We like each other for who we are as people. "Birds of a feather flock together."  I like being amongst this flock of high-flyers.

Do you have to go live in mountain woods for a weekend to wear baggy, worn comfortable clothes in public, wave and smile at your neighbors and passersby, and take long walks? Probably not. 

But it couldn't hurt. 

"Life is a Gift."

Author Unknown

P.S.  If you would like to share a portion of yourself  with words, in response to this journal entry, you may do it here.  

 "The only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


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This web journal was created on a September Morn, 
September 29, 2001
September Morn 2001