Saturday, June 20, 2009

Don't Fence Me In

Although I was born in the southeastern United States, I've spent most of my life west of the Mississippi, the vast majority of that time being in the Rocky Mountain states or further west. I've spent time back east, most particularly the summer after high school that I worked in Philadelphia. But in my heart I do prefer the open spaces that we have out west. My wife, who grew up in Montana, jokes that in Montana they considered the neighbors too close if you could see their house at all. I'm not quite that extreme. I enjoy the comforts of the city. But I love being able to drive down the road and see for miles around me, as we can here in Arizona. I'm not talking just a couple miles either--I'm talking 50-100 miles at times.

We just returned from a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. From our town that's a 9-hour drive one way, including time for a meal along the way. It's some of the most open highway you can imagine, with vistas that stretch from horizon to horizon. Admittedly, not all of it is the most scenic country, but it is open. You won't feel fenced in.

While taking a lunch break during our drive my wife and I were looking at the road atlas. We had just covered the stretch of 60 miles from Lordsburg to Deming, a stretch in which there are only a couple exits from the highway leading either to a small gas/souvenir station or to a dusty road leading off into the distance. Beyond that, no homes, no inhabitants. Just endless open space. The atlas before us happened to be open to the pages showing Colorado and Connecticut. We recently finished watching the Gilmore Girls series so we were perusing the map of Connecticut, trying to piece together the various places mentioned in the show. What caught our attention though was that the entire state of Connecticut could almost fit in the space between Lordsburg and Deming. What a constrast when you consider the number of people who live in Connecticut versus the absence of people in that same amount of space in New Mexico. I don't intend this as a criticism or put-down of Connecticut. I'm sure it's a lovely place. Maybe someday I'll have the chance to visit. But there is a big difference between living in the wide-open spaces of the west and living in the more populated spaces of the east. Given the choice, I'll stay with the west, thank you very much.

Having traveled a lot of places in my life, I continue to be amazed at the diversity of God's creation. Each place has its own unique character and beauty if we are open to seeing it. The same is true of people. It's easy to dismiss a person or place as being ugly or worthless if we don't stop and reflect on God's hand in shaping it. Yes, some places and people may be more attractive in appearance than others, but every person and every place bears the marks of the Creator's hand. I'm still learning to see it at times, but I know it's there.

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