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Year in Yosemite: Natural Opposites - Explore

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Sierra Daily

03/19/2012

Year in Yosemite: Natural Opposites

YosemiteNow that I know that we'll be leaving our home in Yosemite National Park by summer, I've become acutely aware of everything around me. Almost daily I add to my list of things that I'll miss—the frogs that bluster and croak in the seasonal pond by our library; the first daffodils that bloom at my daughter's school; the magnificent ride from Fresno to Yosemite through the Sierra foothills and, of course, the breathtaking beauty of this place.

And while I know living by the beach in Southern California will offer its own version of views to rival Yosemite's, I don't believe I'll find anything in Orange County to rival the mountain area's deeply eccentric charm. Where else but here would you find a building that's part gas station and part church? Where will I find another chiropractor's office that has copies of Body & Soul magazine sitting alongside Guns & Ammo? Will the Elks Club of Orange County help children get craniosacral bodywork like the Elks Club here does?

In the mountains, Tea Party members serve vegan meals at their restaurants, a California Highway Patrolman runs the area's only grass-fed beef farm and children who are home schooled for religious reasons look and sound an awful lot like children raised on "hippie" communes. I love it all. In the mountains, the most improbable things, and people, often find themselves sitting side by side as if opposites attracting were a preordained part of life here.

YosemiteIf there is one unifying theme, it seems to me to be a love for the land. Casual conversations, usually about the weather, regularly turn into musings about nature. At the gas station, the attendant filling my tank mentions that he's worried our very warm, dry winter will mean trouble for the trees this summer. "How will they fight off beetle-bore disease," he asks?

A Forest Service botanist stops to talk about the forest fauna, wondering how the animals will fare if there is a sudden, major snowstorm. The librarian in Wawona takes a break outside just to listen to the frogs.

Everywhere, everyone talks about the possibility of a bad fire season this year. But the worry here is different than in the city. Naturally, people are concerned about their homes and safety, but there’s also an acceptance and understanding about the good to be had from fire. To be raised in the mountains is to grow up with an awareness of the danger of dense underbrush, the need to rejuvenate forests and the absolute necessity of fire to the health of giant sequoias.   

Before moving to Yosemite, I had spent my life living in cities. I know first hand how seductive that life can be. Don't want to cook? Head for a restaurant. Looking for a distraction? How about a store or a movie? In the city, it’s easy for nature to seem divorced from daily life. But not here. Somehow the mountains seem to produce a fair crop of I-can-do-it, outdoor-oriented, independent-minded people. It's something I find as bracing as the air. And I'll miss them — Body & Soul and Guns & Ammo readers alike. 

-- Jamie Simons/ images by Nancy Casolaro

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