While Southern Oregonians are generally the first to make proud declarations about the scenic beauty of their home, it’s also part of the human condition to forget how good we have it – until “it” is either gone or absent. Being away from the valley recently served as a pointed reminder to the girls and me of what an magnificent place we reside. With the forest-laden mountains surrounding and an abundance of water, there is exceptional allure to the State of Jefferson. Even our smallest towns are attractive, and it’s clear that the people who live in this area are actively invested in and have a care about the physical environment of this place.
Driving south from Fallon, Nevada along U.S. Route 95 (the major 646 mile long highway that runs north to south directly to Las Vegas), one is treated to a stark and dramatic landscape of both naked nothingness (or so it seems to the novice passing eye) and nature in her most raw miraculous form. This is high desert county where daily survival of plants and animals is an act taken neither lightly nor for granted. Rough dirt and sand stretches blandly away from the asphalt into distant rolling hills, followed by folded steeps of curved perfection, into valiant and ruggedly stunning snow-capped monumental ranges of the truest velocity.
Most of the little towns – pinpoints along I 95 map – are simply and literally falling apart. We saw wind blown and weather-wrecked buildings, trash heaps and gully-washed ruts large enough to swallow whole houses and cars, abandoned everything (even military bases)…clapboards shacks, mining machinery, rusting signs, now broken promises of cold beer – hot coffee – rooms for rent – ice cold Coca-Cola, whispers of lives that once were – banging unheard along the exposed highway.
Passersby barely slow. They maybe, just barely, even give it all a notice or a thought – that once in Mina, you could get a hair cut or have your oil changed, and once in Goldfield, you could stay at the historic hotel where today each window across the first floor bares a bright red “No Trespassing!” sign, or three miles down the road you could find the Shady Lady Brothel.
All this evidence that “humanity came here once, but gave up and left” poked at my heart, as we made our way across the Silver State. While the distant ranges and changing colors of the steeps and mountains pulled us forward in anticipation to our adventures in Death Valley, the forlorn roadside trash provoked me – the way watching a bloody boxing match makes you want to look away and yet, you can’t.
It’s the stuff of life. It’s the oddness of human behavior flanked by impressive natural beauty, and it’s hope declared out loud and then lost in silence to something more powerful.
Thanks to those among you who endorsed my recent two week break from blogging. It’s been a rich time with pen and paper and a healthy step back from the screen. It’s also lovely to be home. ~ mlp