Sometimes the world seems to exist only in two bright spots on either side of a single, narcissistic continent (especially when you try writing for the internet). Everything important apparently condenses under false, blinding lights where no one sleeps, and time passes faster than the sun can chart across the sky. It has a way of making those of us who exist somewhere in-between those two points feel like we’re just outside of what matters, of what we’re supposed to understand. Like we’re constantly being left out of some long running inside joke.
I’ve never been on a subway (hell, I’ve never even ridden in a bus), fighting for a semblance of personal space, and I’ve never seen a skyline built on nothing but rising steel. I’ve never lived with the noisy, ceaseless backdrop made by millions of other lives playing counterpoint to my own. I didn’t grow up incased in concrete and metal, where the only trees in sight have been specially planted to combat the gray. I’ve never dreamed of being able to afford an expensive condo on the “right” side of town with just enough space that maybe I can finally breathe. I don’t understand the different, nuanced parts of New York, LA or Chicago and I don’t know which streets I should avoid or what neighborhoods are “up and coming.”
I do know the way the sun bears down in the height of a desert summer, heavy and real and brutal. They don’t teach us how to avoid being robbed or harassed as kids, they teach us which cacti are safe to eat if we get lost or how best to avoid heat exhaustion. I know the way it feels to stand at the precipice of a wide valley and see nothing but undisturbed country in all directions for miles and miles and miles. How it feels to know you might be the only person between where you stand and where a dusty horizon ends, and how you can feel simultaneously connected and afloat in the same breathless moment. I know how close the stars can feel on a moonless and clear desert night, and how small those distant twinkling lights can make a person become on the inside.
I don’t know New York street or subway etiquette, or how not to be an obnoxious, wide-eyed tourist in everyone’s way. But I do know how to saddle and shoe a horse, I know how to fix a broken line of fence when it’s over a hundred degrees outside and I can feel my insides cooking, and I know how to watch for snakes in the tall summer grass. I don’t know the exhilaration of being lost in a huge city with the promise of a glittering future just ahead, present at the center of a media driven world. But I do know the complete and heady freedom of galloping on horseback across unfettered land and the satisfying exhaustion that comes from a hard day’s work, brought to life with my own hands.
I know the silence that follows the setting of the sun, when there’s no T.V. or video games or computers to fill the stillness, just soft voices and quiet smiles in the deepening darkness. I’ve heard the soft inhale the world takes before the sun rises and the long exhale as it sets bloody and strong against sharp, purpled mountains with the promise of a desert rain on the breeze.
These are the things a country girl knows.