Thank you, Cedarville, for the welcome

Cedarville, Ca.
Surprise Valley near Cedarville, Ca. Photo: Jim Catlin, 2015

I recently took a trip up to Cedarville from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Cedarville is in the far northeastern part of the state at the edge of the surreal Surprise Valley. The drive from route 5 over 299 takes you along the southern boundary of the Cascades. From the road you can intermittently see the large hulks of Mount Shasta to the north and Mount Lassen to the South. You emerge from the forest into the high desert. Cedarville sits at the entrance to the wilderness where 299 goes over the mountains to meet the most remote area in the lower 48 states. This is one of the approaches to Black Rock City where Burning Man takes place each year.

As a stranger, I never felt so welcome in a place. Why would this be?

I have written about the lack of friendliness that I have encountered in the small city I live in just north of San Francisco. Many of the people I know resonate with the sentiment that people in the Bay Area are hard to get to know. Everyone is busy making a living and keeping up with the rapid changes that the tech industry has thrust upon us. The cost of living is skyrocketing, whole industries are being “disrupted” as employees reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs and social mores are increasingly fluid as civil society is redefined. Competition has been promoted rather than community.

Many people no longer have a firm foundation of who they are, how they fit in and how they should act. This is, I think, why so many of us here feel a sense of dislocation.

Not so in Cedarville.

In this town of 400, if you go into a restaurant or store people want to know about you. They ask for your name, where you are from and how long you are staying. They tell you about their lives in the town and why they have come there.

They are a diverse group for such a small town. They include old ranchers, young cowboys, organic farmers, Burners and hippies. They have found a way of life that is remote and demands cooperation. There is no time or use for divisiveness. Professional boundaries are blurred as the chef at the newest hip restaurant is also a real estate agent. People do 2 or 3 jobs to keep the town running. This is how it used to be in the frontier days. This is how it is for them now.

I felt really good about myself and the world after this visit. It dawned on me that we all could definitely use a little more welcome in our lives.

The middle of nowhere is definitely somewhere. I most assuredly will be back.