Ariel Rural development Travel

Pandemic privilege at Rivers End Ranch.

Rivers End Ranch

It’s been over a year since I have posted anything on my blog. A long, weird, emotional, crazy, rewarding year, which included the following:

  1. Leaving Arizona, where I had purchased a house only 11 months prior, then proceeding to become a landlord for the first time
  2. Moving into a 300 square foot cabin that had neither a kitchen nor any kind of indoor plumbing
  3. Occupying said cabin on my parent’s 100-acre ranch in California, a state I had left almost 10 years ago with no intent to move back
  4. Proceeding to travel at least once a month to various states across the western US and beyond for my new position
  5. Learning my mother was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer
  6. Reconnecting with a former boyfriend (Willis), who lived in Seattle at the time (important note: we met while I was living in Mexico, and our relationship has only ever existed in a long-distance form. At least this time, we only needed to cross state boundaries, and not international ones…)
  7. Finally getting a bathroom sink, then a shower, then hot water in my cabin
  8. Advancing in relationship with boyfriend, to the point that he quits his corporate job and moves into 300 square foot cabin with me
  9. Building a kitchen in the cabin
  10. And finally, the last two happened at the start of, and in the middle of, A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

Interspersed within points 1-10 above, we also made a few trips abroad, one to Guatemala and one to Mexico, for two weeks each. I still consider Mexico to be one of my homes, and hope I can spend more time there in a semi-regular way at some point. But in the interim, visiting Latin America (Mexico or elsewhere) has helped me to maintain a connection to the beautiful cultures, delicious foods and a wealth of unexplored outdoor activities provided by our southern neighbors. Spending any amount of time in the global south (if you can even consider Mexico part of what was once called the “developing world”), has always helped me maintain a connection to how most people live in the world, i.e., without as much privilege as many have in the US. When I was living off the ranch, spending time abroad is what kept me humble and helped me to learn how to be a better person, in other words.

So, when I “moved home” Memorial Day weekend exactly a year ago, I happily tried to maintain my habit of constantly moving and exploring to learn about others and myself, mainly by looking for any excuse not to spend more than two weeks in California consecutively. I was excited about ranch life, mostly for free dog care and learning how to build things so I could later apply those skills when I hopefully move to Mexico again someday. It literally took a global pandemic to ground me and remind me that my roots here run as deep as the beautiful old oak trees at the ranch, and this is, in fact, the first place I learned humility. Things I would stress about in previous lives—How do I best maximize my professional development so I may get [more publications, grant dollars, news pieces highlighting the “broader impacts of my work”, a better CV, etc.]—were literally the lowest things on my priority list when I had no indoor plumbing.

The shelter in place order in the Bay Area started March 17 (the night I most recently returned from Mexico) and for over two months I’ve been stuck with my crazy parents and my 89-year old Grampa, while trying to figure out how to live with a romantic partner for the first time ever. If it weren’t for the cloth bandana I’m normally wearing, however, you’d be hard pressed to find evidence of this global pandemic at the ranch. We are so incredibly fortunate in so many ways to be able to ride out a quarantine amongst ample wildlife and with multiple trails to roam when we need a break from literally anything. We still don’t have an indoor toilet and we’re probably going to run out of indoor water this summer, too, with how little rainfall we’ve received this year. But we have food. And shelter. And jobs which allow us to order more food and provide us with outlets to keep our minds active and distracted from all the wonkiness in the world right now. And we’re surrounded by plenty of vegetation we can forage and animals we can hunt if needed for more food and shelter. Who cares if we have to walk a ways to my parent’s house to go to the bathroom, that’s a much shorter distance than most people need to travel to be able to safely conduct one of the most basic activities of human existence.

It has been a long, weird, emotional, crazy, and rewarding year, full of unexpected developments. Not everything over the last year has been great, but for the most part, I am so incredibly lucky and thankful for the abundance in my life, and very curious about how things will continue to develop at the ranch. Stay tuned for my inevitable goat updates.

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