I was sitting around a table the other day with a bunch of people all who lived somewhere in the Denver metro area. I was the only one who didn’t live near the city, and I quickly felt out of sorts. The conversation centered around restaurants near the city and the best food nearby. I must confess I rarely make it down to Denver, so I had no idea of the restaurants or locations they were talking about. I’ve always had a bit of anxiety about fitting in and trying to be “part of the group”, so desperate for something to contribute, I mentioned something about the leaves changing up in Nederland. They looked at me quizzically, and then thought I was talking about people smoking marijuana! One woman asked where exactly was Nederland and I tried to give directions and explain, with little success. Talk about a disconnect…
It was in that moment, that I realized even though where they lived and where I lived were only a mere 30 miles apart geographically, culturally, we couldn’t be farther apart if we lived on opposite ends of the country. In fact, people from San Francisco and New York City probably have way in more in common than I did with these “city folk.” While my days are consumed with looking for the beautiful Aspen foliage dotting the hillsides around Nederland, watching out for elk mating in nearby meadows, and planning my next Fourteeener hike, my Colorado brethren who only lived 45 minutes from me, were plotting which cool restaurant in LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver) they should hang out at that evening. And I felt so not part of the group.
This feeling was never more apparent than after last year’s Great Flood in September, 2013, which dramatically affected mountain and canyon residents up and down the foothills. We were very lucky in that our house suffered no damage from the flood, but our access to Boulder, Fort Collins, Denver was basicallly cut off for almost a month. We resorted to driving back dirt roads to get to and from work, or grocery shopping, our commute to Boulder more than tripling one way from what it was before. At the time, I was working for an organization in Westminster, and within a few days, for my co-workers life was back to normal, and people had forgotten that us mountain folk were still suffering the consequences of the flood. They expected me to meet my obligations exactly the same, and even suggested I stay at a hotel nearby (at my cost), so I could better be available.
The city folk vs. mountain folk cultural difference can also come into play as city folk decide to move up to the mountains. They don’t understand why dogs aren’t on leash all the time on our private dirt road we live on, or why they can’t drive a million miles an hour getting to and from their house, or why the roads aren’t maintained to their liking. Our neighbors from across the street just recently moved after being here only two years, saying it was just too quiet up here, and there wasn’t enough social life for their liking. By the same token, I know for myself, if I tried to live in a city, it would just be too noisy for me, too much traffic, and not near enough green space and trails to suit my tastes. I guess in the end, there’s enough possibilities for everyone in this state to have whatever their heart desires whether it’s the city life or the country life.