Saturday, August 11, 2007

The divided, turmoiled West

In my limited international travel experience, I’ve often found that people outside the US visualize our country as two coasts, with the West between. Think cowboys and Indians, snow-capped mountains, sagebrush, ski resorts, and Denver.

I do love the Midwest, but for four years I have lived out West. My life has been in an unstable zone somewhere between “tourist” and “local.” I live in a place long enough to know the back roads, to see the bars and the shops on a slow Tuesday afternoon, to absorb the landscape. But then I move. I do not stay not long enough to become part of the true social circles, to see how a town changes over time, or get anything more than a very in-depth portrait.

Tom Robbins wrote something like “geography determines climate, climate determines culture, culture determines morals.” Bernard DeVoto wrote of the West, “Its landscape is dramatic, its climate violent. Its history is dramatic and paradoxical…its inhabitants…are a volatile, expansive people, energetic extroverts at the base of whose conciousness are tensions and conflicts.”

Do we have any readers in the West? I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about this place, and I plan to post on it. I will tag “environment” and “culture,” because perhaps more so than anyplace else in the US, those two concepts intertwine out here.

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