Does Our Environment Change Us?

I have just finished the process of moving away from the city, landing in the rarefied region of red rocks and high desert vistas. There isn’t a freeway winding through the hills, just a mostly two lane highway that climbs up into Jerome or Sedona, depending on the direction you take.
There is a Wal-mart and a McDonald’s. That is, I suppose, a fact of life in this millenium and not likely to change anyplace on the planet. Still, there are plenty of small businesses that people are supporting here, and a genuine sense of community that I haven’t encountered since I lived in an even smaller town in Kentucky. In that scenario my next door neighbor was a fifth cousin (yes, that does actually happen), and you could win friends and influence people simply by being related to them by some odd stream of genealogy.
Here though, in Cottonwood, it seems the tie that binds the people is a shared desire to live in a less hectic, more authentic environment in which the normal distinctions of wealth or status sort of fade away.  Rather like leaving your shoes at the door so as to not soil the carpet, people have chosen to leave behind the lives they were living elsewhere and embark on this new journey of a more simple existence.

I don’t mean to totally romanticize this little hamlet in the high desert of Arizona.  But there is something about this place that takes you back to a time when we weren’t so consumed with electronics and getting ahead, of climbing a corporate ladder only to be met with a barren rooftop that offered no personal fulfillment.

People go outside here and they say hello to each other, smile and act in a courteous manner.  When telling someone that I’ve just recently moved, there is a genuine welcome and a sense that they might lend a hand if I need it.  There is a sense of community here.

This is a new life for me and I’m looking forward to it.  Some of the days will offer nothing more than responsibilities, but coupled with expectations of personal achievement and growth, those responsibilities become more like milestones of accomplishment rather than the mundane, repetitive acts that they sometimes are.

The wide open vistas offer more than a view: there is hope and opportunity for genuine satisfaction in the pursuit of life.

I’m so looking forward to all of it.


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