It came to me while listening to Hank Penny’s song, “I Like the Wide Open Spaces.”
I never really thought about it while living in New Mexico or Guatemala. And I kind of took it for granted. But it has come into a fine relief here in Germany. Our world has a dearth of truly wide, open spaces.
From what I’ve seen in Europe so far from every direction, every angle there are signs of land pushed, twisted and shaped into service of people. Of course you can go for a hike or a walk around the forest and they are all well cared for and very nice and quaint. But right around that corner is a hunting blind or a paved trail.
I miss being able to go a few miles from my house and know that I could be mauled by a bear or horrifically slaughtered by a mountain lion. Or hiking 20 kilometers and not seeing another person or electrical wires.
I’ve had a hard time pinpointing exactly what this means for me, not being an especially outdoorsy type. I would ordinarily make one backpacking trip a year into real wild lands that had been left to their own devices. And then I would think of that state of being fondly the rest of the year from the safety of my home in downtown Santa Fe.
Even sleeping in a tent is a different experience here only to be done in approved campgrounds reminiscent of the old KOA campgrounds (wow, they’re still around). I’m sure there are some great parks around somewhere, but every time I board a train and strike out across the land, I’m greeted by miles and miles of farmland. Rivers channeled and forced into a consistent shape carrying barges of coal.
It’s not that I don’t like people, but you can’t spit without hitting someone around here. I guess that’s why so many friends I talk to get starry-eyed when I mention New Mexico and driving across the US. Or why when you type in the words ‘wide’ and ‘open’ Google auto completes it with ‘West.’
On that note it’s getting late. I haven’t written anything interesting here in quite some time and I don’t know that this qualifies, but it’s an observation of life in Germany/Europe.