“Normal” There’s No Such Thing

 

I visited my sister last week in the mountain valley where we grew up. She has always lived there, leaving only for a few years of college. I, on the other hand, have lived in six different places since I graduated from high school. (P.S.–we’re both grandmothers now.) These places were distinctly different from each other. I commented how it was going to be in the 100s the week I returned to my current Mojave Desert abode, and she gasped, “Wow, how can you stand it?”

Well, I “stand it” just like when I was growing up there in Wyoming at 6800 feet in the Rocky Mountains, feeding our farm animals, milking the cows, and going to school when it was -20 degrees at 3:00 P.M. You just figure out how to do it! There isn’t a “normal”–there is just real life. What I want to know is how did our ancestors “stand it”?  When I was a child/teenager, dressing up to go out after school to do my chores, I at least had a house that was illuminated and heated by electricity. I could use a tractor to haul the hay out to the animals in the pastures. We had electric/vacuum-powered milking machines to deal with extracting the “cash crop” from our Guernseys and Jerseys.

My grandparents, who all grew up in the same place, and did the same jobs I did, had NO electricity. They milked their cows by hand before selling it to the same cheese factory my parents used. Grandpa had only horses and mules to till their soil and harvest their hay. Grandma had to gather the wood, build the fire, and then cook the meals.

We had a few times when we experienced their lifestyle, briefly. Many winters, our farm’s water pipes would freeze and sometimes break. So we had to take our cans filled with milk to the cheese factory, and when they were washed, they would fill them with water and we’d take them home to use for the livestock, the wringer washing machine my mom would borrow, and every dish-washing, or bath was done by heating water on the kitchen range first. Also, occasionally the electricity would fail due to the extreme cold, or a vicious storm. That meant getting out the oil lamps for the house, and milking the two dozen cows by hand in a barn lit only with flashlights. It wasn’t a good thing.

So, now that I live where it is 90 degrees at midnight during the summers, how do I survive? Well, in a much more comfortable way than the American settlers who moved here first, over 100 years ago. And definitely better than the Paiute people who lived along the Colorado River for millennia before any people of European descent arrived. Their homes were simply branches of bushes cut and stacked into a pyramid to provide a little shade. They ate rabbits, lizards, and fish. They were migratory and so had limited belongings, and dressed in rabbit-skin moccasins and loincloths and very little else.  Also, many people don’t know that here in the Mojave, it gets chilly in the winter. Snow can fall even in the desert, and temperatures will sometimes dip to freezing at night.

My life is luxurious by comparison. I have a swimming pool! I have air-conditioning! I have electricity! I have a pick-up truck! I have running water in my home!  When I taught 4th grade here, we learned all about the early native people, and then the lives of the settlers, and over and over my students would just be amazed that people didn’t die without air-conditioning.

The point is: Wherever you live is “normal” there isn’t a “right way” except for the right way to survive in the world where you are.  Yes, I LOVED living in that beautiful valley where I grew up. Since I had no other expectation for the winter months, I just did what needed to be done to thrive. When I got married, and my husband (cattle rancher from the same town) was stationed by the U.S. Navy in Southern California, and I got to live by the ocean for a decade and a half, I LOVED it!!

When we moved because of his civilian job to the East Coast by the Chesapeake Bay, surrounded by a whole new culture and more trees than I’d seen all together in my entire life before moving there, I LOVED it. It was so different, and there were so many cultural and physical things to discover. Well…let me be clear: I HATED the summer humidity levels…But almost everything else was very intriguing.

So, now I’m in the desert. No trees. No ocean. No pine tree-covered mountains. No oak forests. But! It has incredible sunsets! And NO HUMIDITY. It has amazing vistas. It is NEVER 20 degrees below zero. And when it is 110 degrees above zero, I go swimming.

Don’t get hung up on normal. Don’t let other people convince you that there is only one option for life. And I’m not just talking about the natural environment as I mostly did in this essay. You don’t have to be/do/live like the other people you associate with to be okay. Just be a good person and figure out what you need to be happy, and your life will be NORMAL for you.

Published in Culture
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 6 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @BobW

    Lived in Mojave long ago, some ramblings:

    My dad was a Navy pilot and was stationed at the Navy base at Mojave right after the war. I attended a year or so of grade school there, split classes because too many kids and not enough classrooms and teachers. I can’t say that I remember the heat that much. I’m sure we didn’t have air conditioning then. But I remember I went barefoot often and that I couldn’t walk on the sidewalk.  We lived in a Quonset hut when first there. When there was a dust storm you could hardly see across the room, those things didn’t keep out much dust. Dad would take us for a drive in the evening (no TV) The highway was a two lane that had lots of big dips, fun. We would sing along with the country songs on the radio and spot jackrabbits by the dozens along the highway. I can remember a desert tortoise walking across the yard (no grass). Don’t think there is any off either now. 

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’ve lived in so many climates! And there was something I loved and appreciated about all of them. It’s been in the 90’s for weeks here in Florida, so I walk early and luxuriate in the AC most of the day. And look at the beautiful palm trees and bright spring sky. Loved your post!

    • #2
  3. JoshuaFinch Coolidge
    JoshuaFinch
    @JoshuaFinch

    Normal people are the ones to whom you have not yet been introduced.

    • #3
  4. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    Bob W (View Comment):

    Lived in Mojave long ago, some ramblings:

    My dad was a Navy pilot and was stationed at the Navy base at Mojave right after the war. I attended a year or so of grade school there, split classes because too many kids and not enough classrooms and teachers. I can’t say that I remember the heat that much. I’m sure we didn’t have air conditioning then. But I remember I went barefoot often and that I couldn’t walk on the sidewalk.We lived in a Quonset hut when first there. When there was a dust storm you could hardly see across the room, those things didn’t keep out much dust. Dad would take us for a drive in the evening (no TV) The highway was a two lane that had lots of big dips, fun.We would sing along with the country songs on the radio and spot jackrabbits by the dozens along the highway. I can remember a desert tortoise walking across the yard (no grass). Don’t think there is any off either now.

    That sounds a bit like China Lake/Ridgecrest. It’s pretty dry there, too. We still have jackrabbits and desert tortoise living here, even in Las Vegas. I live on the edge of the city–the open desert is just a short drive from our home. The desert beauty is more subtle than most places, but it will kill you if you’re not smart about drinking plenty of water. 

    • #4
  5. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    I am not a heat person.

    Twenty below would not be fun, but I’d prefer it. My hometown of Chicago provided many a day of Zero to 5 below.

    My new home of Lake County Calif has two months, July and August, where each day it is above 88%. And often it pushes into three digits.

    However most things are air conditioned. The house we are renting is. The restaurants we go to, places of entertainment.

    Also everyone in Lake County complains about the heat. “Boy, it’s just two more months to October,” a store clerk will offer up in late July.

    In the North Bay of San FranciscoLand, very little was air conditioned. Also people didn’t have screens on their windows. “Screens are so expensive,” would be the lament that many an owner of a two million dollar home would freely express. And “It’s only hot a few days a year,” I’d be told. They were right – if by a “few,” the word  now means 50 or 60.

    So next I’d be told, “Why’d you open that window? Oh the breeze. You would like a bit of breeze, and so would I. But with the window open, we would get a ton of flies.”

    In that area, people would praise the hot weather. “I’m pretty pleased the weather lady says it will be 90 or more by Sunday!”

    Here people get as grumpy as I do. It may be just as hot or even hotter here, but I don’t feel  like the odd duck out. We commiserate about the weather. There is an agreement among us: Nothing is nice about 100 degree heat.

    And don’t get me started on the San Francisco natives’ idea about a one hundred degree day. “Sure it’s warm. But it’s a dry heat, so you don’t feel it.” Well, it’s a dry heat inside my oven when the thermostat is set at 400, but who would ever think of baking their head inside it?

    The nice thing about our evenings is that the breeze out of the West flits in through the front door screen. Fresh air, streaming in to cool off the whole house, in a region known for fresh air.

    This is not a million dollar home, but I can open the front door, secure no skeeters or horse flies will come in. Because I have screens! 

     

     

     

     

    • #5
  6. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    We adapt don’t we?  Getting off the boat in Singapore, my wife’s first foreign assignment with me, it was over 90 with equal humidity.  She was ready to go home.  Within a few weeks she was playing squash.  It was hotter in Portugal when the African heat shifted.  Playing basket ball with my kid, we kept drinking but weren’t sweating.  Quit early. Turned out to be just little  less then 140.  It’s a good thing we adapt and get used to things, when the Democrats get through and China is more overtly in control, air conditioning may be too expensive.

    • #6