(Long story short: instead of getting together at Christmas, when everything is crowded, closed, and/or seething with winter plague, we gather the clan in the fall, at a different place every year. By spending the money on travel instead of presents, we can see all kinds of fun and interesting places, and nobody has to cook!)
I've ventured out from my North Texas hobbit-hole a fair few times now, and let me tell you – there is really something special about going out west. It's not because the nature out here is somehow magically better than anybody else's nature. It's not necessarily some epigenetic American pioneer fantasy, either. I think maybe it's because the ratio of earth to civilization is still so high here, even after all the Manifest Destiny and Go West, Young Man and Get Your Kicks on Route 66 of the last three hundred years. Look here:
|from Wired Science, and more specifically, NASA's Suomi NPP Satellite|
It's frightening, really, to drive up roads that close for snow six months out of the year, and wonder what it would be like to break down in a blizzard and find yourself helpless, miles from any other human being.
|image courtesy of my sister's enormous phone|
Or to sit by a still lake, your phone at zero bars, and imagine how long you would go unfound if you suddenly had a heart attack.
|taken by me|
Actually, I think that's one of the Western's most powerful attractions. It's the only genre I know of that centers on a place – and more than that, a place so immense that it affects every living thing within its boundaries. You had better step lightly and stay wakeful, it says, because nobody is coming to help you if you can't. It's not horror – there's nothing malicious about it – but a place so vast and ageless as to be almost incapable of noticing you. Human emotions like love and hate have their opposite here, in hundred-mile stretches of geological indifference.
|...and again. No, I don't know how she does it either.|
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.