You know, I grew up in cities...really big cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles. I spent the better part of my life tooling around Europe; hanging out in some of the best and brightest cities there: Rome, Florence, Paris, Barcelona, London....but...but...
There came a day when I wanted peace. Sure you can do a lot in cities. You can eat just about any kind of food; meet just about any kind of person of all races, religious backgrounds, education, experience; and also a fair share of fright wigs.
Yet still something was missing. I could not say precisely what that something was, but I really felt it keenly when I sat alone in our house in New Jersey. It wasn't a need to talk to someone. I wrote novels during these quiet periods; but they were never really quiet. Always there was what I call city white noise: sirens, people fighting or partying; loud music. It was all around all of the time.
The house was built in 1710 and had 14 rooms. I used to walk through these rooms full of the past and present. I would turn off the lights and try to imagine what it was like when the house was a farmhouse and the park across the street a swampy marsh. Yet each time the white noise interfered.
So we started escaping to upstate New York - up to Woodstock and the surrounding area. It was here we found our first house that was ours. It wasn't connected to family and it was literally in the middle of nowhere. Six acres, a hill, and the Esopus Creek. When ski season started though, being at the foot of Bellaire Mountain, the white noise started anew.
But the hillside behind the house was my favorite place to sit and think - close to a huge boulder under which ran a loud stream of rushing water. Best damned water in the world up there. And when night fell, the coyotes came out and sang. And the white noise ceased giving way to the sounds of the earth. Hearing the wind rush through the trees and the dry, crisp sound of leaves flulttering in fall; sensing when the maple sap would run; seeing a lynx pass by as snow blanketed the roads or the biggest legendary black bear that took everyone by surprise with her sheer size. In nature you learn respect and caution. In nature you learn to live with the wild. It's in every one of us. And it feels great.
It was the first place I was able to sense the seasons as they approached and where the pack of coyotes sat on our porch and sang in the early morning hours.
Then work took me to Klamath, California in the Redwood Forest. And the further away from the city we got, the more at peace I felt. In Klamath there was no white noise at all. We would go to San Francisco for a film festival each year to root our friends on and support their films. But it was white noise by choice. I always longed to return to the wild places and the little coyote, Yasle, that had befriended our dogs.
So it was a natural progression to head to Nebraska, close to the reservation where my husband grew up; and where work took me yet again. Our house here sits atop a butte where you can hear the owls talk to each other across the valley; and where the nights and days are full of beautiful sights and sound.
We often found ourselves taking day trips to truly wild places; and living in such a place on windy hill. It's hard to describe what happens when one becomes attuned to the earth again. We run a pizzeria here in Chadron, and I still spend time writing and taking on cases as a lawyer when I want to. But there is no white noise.
People tell us, "Oh, you have such a nice view." I smile and recognize that the view from within has become wonderful, too. I stand outside under a vast array of stars, bright and dim; with the snow dusting the hillsides a filmy silver under the piercing light of the full moon....yes, I have found peace here in the middle of nowhere. And it feels great. I can't wait to smell spring in the air; and hear the hawks cry as they circle our valley looking for food.
And maybe come March, we will head east to visit my parents and suffer a little white noise for old times' sake.