Western Affinity

Nina reminded me the other day about this email I’d written to her about why she should move out west to Austin:

My love for the American west is– like most loves–hard to quantify, describe, put on paper. However, I will attempt to share this affinity with you by breaking it into three attributes (that also show my fondness for alliteration): free, fun, and friendly.

Free. Freedom: our inherent need to control our own person, the cornerstone of our country, the right that men die to preserve. When I think of the west, I think of freedom: Wide Open Spaces, the eagle flying strong and proud over Purple Mountains Majesty, soaring into the crisp azure. The mountains are not encroaching, but stand as enormous, aesthetic details, carved out ages ago in this land of timeless beauty, the sky stretching out above them, for miles and miles. Below, the wind rustles through the aspen leaves; a light, magical sound, fitting for this tree’s reputation for driving off evil spirits.

In America’s history, men were always pushing westward, into the untamed and unknown. The Rocky Mountains remain as a piece of America that is still wild and beautiful, waiting to be discovered by you.

Fun. I hate the gym. I hate working out in front of people, I hate doing repetitive movements, and I hate the whole forced nature of it. ( I think that this is one of the few people who really figured out how to make running entertaining, for her and the rest of the gym: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=110545919119838 )

I do, however, love exercise, sports, and endorphins, but most of all, I love being outside. Skiing, rock climbing, biking, hiking, snow mobiling all equal fun, and when they are within thirty minutes of home, life is awesome.

I am also a huge fan of the nighttime activities: swing dancing while a band plays in a closed off street, sitting outside in a natural hot spring sipping on a beer as the snow falls, or watching fireworks from a mountaintop.

Friendly. The sense of community in the west is unavoidable. You will be invited to go on lunchtime bike rides or rock climbs, to volunteer at numerous local events, to buy local. You will have numerous opportunities to be a core, contributing part of your community. Smiles are given without judgment, a helping hand given without question, a hug given without awkwardness.

On one of my first trips out west, to Wyoming, when I was about 6, we were driving down a road with few other cars on it. The first truck that passed, my dad waved at the driver. I asked him if he knew that guy, why he had waved. He replied, “That’s just what people do out here.”

My parents lived for 25 years in Connecticut before moving to Montana. When I visited them for the first time, two months after the move, I discovered that they had already more than doubled their number of friends compared to Connecticut. I had never seen them so social, so active, so happy.


I will conclude with one of my favorite poems:

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,
That’s where the West begins.
Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where the friendship’s a little truer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,
That’s where the West begins.
Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,
That’s where the West begins.
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
Where a man makes a friend without half trying,
That’s where the West begins.

-Arthur Chapman

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