I still love it here, in fact, I love it more. Yesterday — after donating my medical equipment bought to help me recover from the knee surgery I’ve decided not to have (right now? ever?) to the First Christian Church here in Monte Vista (they have a closet of medical equipment for people who need it) I thought about what it has always been about this town that has appealed to me.
I lived six happy childhood years in Bellevue, a small Nebraska town — it was twice as big as Monte Vista because the population included the people living at Offutt Air Force Base, but the town itself was very like this one. It sat between the Missouri River and the endless prairie on the edge of agriculture. It was older than Monte Vista by seventy years, originally a trapper’s way station during the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It had the small-town essence that this town does. On nights when there were little league ball games or girls’ softball some church or other would put on an ice-cream social. People paid a quarter and the ice cream was homemade. We rode bikes through the town, kids like dragon flies, free and unfettered through a dimension almost free of adult supervision. To the pool, to the park, to the tennis courts (by the junior high), to the one movie theater, to the drugstore, to the Dairy Queen.
Bellevue as it looked when I lived there
Last night as I went to sleep I realized I have moved back to the place I was happiest as a kid. I came looking for that, for people like the people I knew back then. I’ve found them. I just returned from a little “boutique” of holiday crafts and gifts. It’s an annual event held at the Masonic Temple by a small group of crafters. I did most of my Christmas shopping. The people who make the items that are for sale work all year toward this weekend. There were cookies and punch — homemade cookies and punch from a punch bowl.
Monte Vista as it is today.
For a long time I’ve been disenchanted and cynical about modern life, our rushing, commodity driven acquisitional culture in which people matter less than things. I was worried when I moved her that I’d have a hard time fitting in but that has not been the case at all. I have been welcomed; it’s as if Monte Vista had been waiting for me as well as I had been looking for it.
I walk the dogs and people wave; some people have come to know me and Dusty and Bear. There’s a little boy who watches for us in the evening because he’s so entranced by my big white dog. People are natural and open and sincere and I have felt my guard drop a little more each day. The kind of tolerance I always knew as a kid I am experiencing here. When there are few people and people need friends and allies against a harsh climate and the isolation of a small town, individuals are valued. Friendship — a huge challenge for me in California — is easy here.
I’m so happy I made the decision I did even though, financially, life is not always perfect — but could any human live with a perfect life?