An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
of September 26, 2004
Issued from north-central California's Sierra Nevada foothills, USA


Yesterday my Natchez friend Karen emailed me a picture of a big Praying Mantis on the Giant Ragweed outside the barn door where I've stayed the last year. For me the transfixing feature was less the mantis than the lush, green herbage in the background. Seeing how densely the trees and bushes grew together there I could just feel the region's habitual heavy heat and humidity, necessary to support such luxuriance.

Here in the Sierra Nevada foothills the forest has a certain bluish tinge and is much more open and airy, not to mention cooler, and also there's that incessant breeze.

Cultural conditions are similarly unlike. For instance, I don't personally know a single other vegetarian east of the Mississippi, but from what I've seen so far in this area about a quarter of my neighbors are not meat- eaters. Here liberals dominate the political scene to about the same degree as social conservatives do in Mississippi.

I wouldn't judge either location or cultural ambiance as being superior to the other. However, it's clear that the texture of each world profoundly colors the feelings I have about myself and the life I lead when I'm in it. In Mississippi I feel like a public curiosity at best, always struggling against local dominant paradigms as well as mosquitoes, ticks, horseflies, chiggers, mildew, and suffocating humidity and heat. In this current world, much in contrast, it's easy to feel part of the community, even cozy. And just breathing the cool, pine-scented, dry air on an inevitably sunny, breezy day exhilarates me.

However, I do not automatically prefer having like-minded neighbors and an airy forest around me. For one thing, I know that too much comfort makes you flabby, both physically and intellectually. People like myself shine most when we are challenged, even attacked.

No matter how the current reshuffling of my life works out, I do believe that occasionally it's good to stir up things in one's life, to abandon old routines, and take a fresh look at what you are, where you are, and how you are. There's something magical, almost mystical, about simply putting your body in a new place, looking around, and imagining new potential scenarios. Facebook Icon.