The best place in the world | Views of Calaveras County

There are many reasons why we end up where we are, geographically and in life. But if you had told me in college that I would end up where I started, in Calaveras County, I would have asked you what happened. Was there a global catastrophe? A child out of wedlock? While either scenario is correct, I would never consider that I chose to live my 20s in the land of bullfrogs, cattle, and cannabis, where a number of people saw me showing off a pig.

An after-school swim in Angels Creek, circa 2011.

Yet it’s true – I came back and I’m only now beginning to accept that it was my decision to do so. It was my choice to give up the ambitious lifestyle that many of my friends were pursuing in the big cities. During my early post-college years, I felt like I was missing out on excitement, prestige, and wealth. Now I realize that I’ve never felt at home in an urban environment, and that “I just like it here” is justification enough.

Those who have experienced life beyond our little county and have returned know that there are five stages of acceptance: 1. Refusal that you will remain on any type of permanent basis. 2. Too bad you couldn’t pilot the chicken coop, most often scored hiding from familiar faces at the grocery store. 3. Disdain for small town drama and instigators you know far too intimately. 4. Overcompensation in conversations with strangers in which you brag about your incredibly cheap rent and that you “basically live in Yosemite”. 5. Acceptance that the best place to live is subjective and that a community is what you make it.

That said, I respect those who call Calaveras County their home. As is often forgotten in the echo chamber of four walls and Facebook, there are many types of people who make this county a community. There are the old families who built the beloved architecture of our main streets, the ranchers, winemakers, small business owners and civil servants; there are also veterans, tech workers, artists, writers, and demographic minorities who are often overlooked but still choose to live here.

I can’t help but think, in these times, that it’s an antidote to looking within, not just within ourselves but within our communities. Disconnect, get out, find a sense of belonging and pride, an identity beyond our place in the global narrative.

Right now, the big eye is on Ukraine. A friend of mine went there years ago on a mission trip. He saw poverty and met strange people, and he didn’t find this place particularly pleasant. How could he? He grew up in America, where you can travel 2,000 miles to find comparable work and a slightly different shade of people with values ​​that better match your own. We are a nation of unstable people – we’d rather move than make it work. When things don’t go our way, we threaten to flee, as if our allegiance means something. Yet in Ukraine we have witnessed the power of a people willing to die for what is theirs – despite divisions and faults – and a leader who remains to carry it out. If we demonstrated an ounce of their investment in our own communities, imagine what we, the United States, could achieve.

Before the war, Ukraine had an estimated population of 41 million. The United States has more than 331 million, and only 45,000 live in Calaveras County. 45,000 people are threatened by the same forest fires; some 1,000 friends and neighbors who watched me grow up; fewer people get a joke from Rosie the Ribeter; and perhaps even less those who take these winding roads to get to work, windows rolled down to inhale the smell of the paradisiacal meadows.

It takes courage to speak up in a community so small you’ll be heard, and it’s terrifying to fail when your reputation precedes you. It takes confidence to run for office when you could win, and it takes commitment to say, “This is my house; and although I don’t agree with you, it’s also your house. It takes hope for the future to plant roots.

There’s only one place I call home, and it’s the best place in the world.

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