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"So much the worse for me, I guess."

Once you get about three hundred miles East from the Pacific Ocean, you enter BuffCountry. On Interstate 84, it starts just East of Hood River, Oregon, but fully emerges only after breaching the Blue Mountains' summit. To the East lies days of travel through the most obviously bleak landscape. Scorched hills. Buff brown fields. Apparent wasteland. In the West, geologic history left the land short of soil. Some more enterprising plants moved in, few of them what anyone would label really green, with grayish probably the most popular choice. The few green plants managing to make a living there only serve to amplify the contrast. Green's rare. Buff brown dominates.

My first visit to Albuquerque left me with the impression that nobody there took care of their yards.
Few seemed to have lawns, apparently preferring windy weed patches. After a few subsequent visits, I began to understand that my sensibilities, nurtured well within the Northern Arboreal Zone, simply had not developed adequately to properly interpret the subtlety of the landscape, it looking like windy weed patches and all. We moved to Colorado's Front Range in late May, in a relatively wet year. The prominence known as Green Mountain was actually green then. I didn't understand that the label amounted to a figurative or hopeful name nine months of the year.

BuffCountry still seems a bit off to me, disadvantaged. The lawns all turn brown in the fall and refuse to green up until April or so, no matter how much encouragement they receive from man or nature. The roadsides hardly seem scenic, a gritty, rocky cacophony of what seems to hardly pass for nature. Rivers flow through but fail to influence the porous soils to spring forth nature's bounty. Antelope seem unconcerned. I usually fret my way into and through the place.

I now live in BuffCountry, and after spending seven weeks out of it, in a much greener valley, I find the whole operation disturbing again. I've lost the discerning eye that could find the subtle symmetries. That eye will doubtless return, though I suspect that it will ache for the ease it once had simply sorting through various shades of green without having to first wade through the predominant framing shades of Buff brown. I can't seem to help wondering why nobody cares enough to keep their lawn watered, though I know somewhere deep down inside of me that it's not a matter of negligent stewardship. What offends my eye turns out to be nothing more than the dominant feature of this country. I was raised spoiled rotten on green. The Intermountain West, BuffCountry, grew up with no more than the occasional sweet green, framed in a buff brown background, foreground, and foundation. So much the worse for me, I guess.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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