It’s been a while since we last caught up. I know you’ve been busy in your life and probably haven’t thought twice about what we’re up to, but just in case there was a little bit of wondering of what’s going on with our wanderings, I wanted to update you.
We settled down in small town called Bluff, Utah. It’s a town we never heard of previously, and although it’s not exactly like the country song that says, “we put the roots right here because this is where the car broke down”, it feels like it sometimes.
Maybe it feels like it because that’s how some of the people ended up here. It’s a town made up of people who intentionally moved here because they loved the area, people who came here for a new life and people who were never able to get away.
Actually, it’s hardly even a town as there are only around 150 full time residents. It’s not a town we think of in today’s terms of monstrous, anonymous cities, but it’s a town of yesteryear where everyone knows everyone else and sometimes the intimacy of close relations causes the enmity of neighbors.
Recently, I heard a local describe the town as an “end of the road town”, one of those places like Key West, Provincetown or Marfa where the stream of civilization stops and the untethered remnants of society find their home. On the south, it’s bordered by 17 million acres of Navajo Nation Reservation and all other directions bump into federal, state and additional reservation land.
And just in case you’re taking my description of “untethered remnants” as a bad thing, let me try again. These are strong and autonomous people who have either learned to survive here through lack of other options, or find their way here thanks to the stunning beauty of the area. The town is made up of archaeologists, painters, writers, river adventurers, laborers and various other artisan craftspeople.
It’s a town that’s in the middle of nowhere and in the same time, in the middle of everything. We’re surrounded by national and state parks, natural wonders and even the mountains of Colorado, all allowing for an inexhaustable amount of exploration. As a local park ranger once told us, “pray for reincarnation” in order to attempt to see all the wonders of the area.
We’re also surrounded by reality… a reality that’s easily hidden in the bigger cities where we previously lived. No matter where you live in town, you’re a neighbor to poverty. Errand runs to the closest big towns often require the difficult decision to pick up, or pass by hitchhikers. Are they the crazy person who’s going to stick you, a little old lady simply getting groceries to take back to the reservation or a teenager trying to get to their job?
A drive through the reservation reminds us of the conditions we saw in third world countries as we reminisce about our time in places like Laos, Cambodia, Peru or even Mexico. There are people living in the middle of the United States who don’t have running water or electricity, have nearly zero help from any social services and pay an unbelievably high “poor tax”. Imagine the little lady mentioned earlier who has to spend an entire day just to go get some groceries.
That doesn’t mean they’d want it any other way, but it does remind us of the complexities of the region. Jocelyn and I are in a religious and ethnic minority, and while we thought we could figure out our other hometowns pretty quickly, this area will take a lifetime. The complexity of the local Native American cultures which were thriving for centuries but merely surviving lately are very different than what we’ve previously known. We’ve learned to move slower and step back and listen before we make decisions or even join in discussions.
It’s such an intriguing area, and we’ve definitely come to love it as our home. The natural beauty is astounding, the people are incredible and the adventures are endless.
As we’re waiting to figure out what we want to do next, we’ve volunteered to take over the local Arts Festival. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a great way to get to know everybody in town and it’s a great example of the power of servant leadership.
Shameless plug: If you’re around Bluff next weekend (Oct 19-21), check out the Bluff Arts Festival!
This part of our journey allows us to experience so much that we never thought we’d be able to do in life. Whether it’s live in a very small desert town where you can get to know everyone, learn about so many different cultures in the US or take over a non-profit arts festival, it’s been a great experience. You can almost literally be anything you want to here, and there isn’t a single fingerprint of corporatism… but I’ll cover that one more later!
So what’s up with you? I know some of you are working on your FIRE, getting married or going through other life changes. Are you actively pursuing what you want in life?