Two weeks ago, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend moved to a small town in northern California, where they are renting a shadowy nook on the grounds of a failing ecovillage. INTERN has passed through this town many times on cold and wet hitchhiking trips up and down the coast, but never dreamed she would live here. Now, she's the one waving at hitchhikers, but never driving far enough to take them anywhere they want to go.
It's a very good place place to be a writer, or anyone on the lookout for stories. You can sit in the coffeeshop and listen in awe and dismay as baby-faced highschool seniors discuss their upcoming bachelorette parties, or eavesdrop on pot growers griping about how much further the price of a pound plummets each year.
You can linger in the cluttered aisles of the tiny health food store while a barrel-chested back-to-the-lander expounds on his methods for harvesting wild yeast for homemade ginger beer. You can walk down the road to drink unusually strong gin and tonics in a huge, vacant bar decked out with logging photographs, and walk home again feeling like you've really done something with the evening, even though you haven't.
One of your neighbors beats a drum every morning and leaves gifts of bundled sage on your doorstep; the other one thoughtfully informs you of the best nights to go to the casino at the rez. The local newspaper consists almost exclusively of stream-of-consciousness letters-to-the-editor from people who have grown used to having their bizarreness tolerated and even celebrated by the rest of the community. As you read them, reality peels away. If these people are OK, you think to yourself, maybe I'm not doing so bad.
It's been a long time since INTERN has lived in a place where one can feel productive just by sitting on the curb and absorbing, knowing that something interesting is bound to happen or appear or amble up the sidewalk and tell a knock-knock joke. As a writer, INTERN often feels anxious about producing enough: enough blog posts, enough chapters, enough articles, enough tweets. But simply being is productive too, or can be. At least, that's what INTERN's been telling herself over the course of many hours loitering on the street.
INTERN wants to know: What's the most interesting place you've ever lived? Why is it that the world feels so rich and observable at some times and in some places but not in others? How important is lived experience to writing?