I’m sitting in the backseat of Gretta the Jetta on I-70, through desert brown cliffs cut by the twisting Colorado river. The sun out, the sky blue, the iPod groovin, the conversation flowin. It’s a beautiful springtime day in Grand Junction, CO now but just an hour ago we were driving through the wintered mountains of vail, covered in a May snowfall. Driving along with Sara (a friend from Overland, this is our 5th state together since last June) and her friend Georgia with a plan for travels through Moab, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bend and Seattle. Two 2014 Michigan grads and a Pomonian intentionally wanderings through the west.
But before I get too far ahead, I want to reflect on my time at Ghost Ranch for a bit, more specifically, the people of ghost ranch.
I was once asked in a co-op restaurant in Washington what I was most grateful for. After some contemplation and a plate of eggs, I told her I was grateful for the kindness of strangers. And that’s exactly what I found at Ghost Ranch. From the employees to the volunteers to the visitors, everybody greeted each other with, at the very least, a smiling greeting.
A little over two weeks ago, I walked into the GR dining hall by myself. Lost. Nervous. Hoping desperately I might find companionship. And I did. More than I ever could have hoped.
In the couple weeks that followed, I met some truly incredible people, each with a story to tell, a unique perspective on life. The wandering wrangler that finally found a home at ghost ranch. The kilt-clad bearded chef with dreams of hiking the PCT. The Star Wars-loving 12 year old kid stuck in a 23 year old body. The blond your guide that knows every word to Finding Nemo. The farmer raised around books with passions for good food and good people. The former reverend that sold all possessions that wouldn’t fit in her Toyota Tacoma and came to Ghost Ranch. The list can go on and on.
My Dad taught me that to engage in productive and meaningful conversation, all you have to do is ask questions. Listen, hear their experiences, be open to someone new and unfamiliar, smile. I won’t learn anything new by talking about myself and trying to “one-up” the next person’s story. It takes careful and active listening to learn and grow. Everybody, despite living on the same planet and in the same country, has such a unique perspective of the world. With tolerance, curiosity, compassion, we can take that encounter and turn it into conversation. It’s not easy and often those meetings lead to nothing more than casual small talk. But when we get past that and get into some real issues, without the anxiety of self-protrayal, our potential is infinite.
So many people, so many stories, so many perspective. People along the path, that’s what we all are. Just keep moving and listening and learning. Now off to Moab tonight!