“Wyoming: The Solace of Open Spaces” by Gretel Erlich Essay
“Wyoming: The Solace of Open Spaces” by Gretel Erlich
“The solitude in which westerners live makes them quiet” (Erlich 209), but this does not mean they hide from human contact, for example, the people of Wyoming. There people, in one way or another, keep in contact with each other and they keep in touch with reality. In the short story, “Wyoming: The Solace of Open Spaces,” Gretel Erlich writes about the tight community in Wyoming. Although they are separated geographically, they are not isolated individuals, they are far from isolated. Wyomingites make an effort to know and exchange a few words with one another, communication is very important.
They are always welcoming and open to strangers who are in need of some help or service, no matter how you look or where you are from. Also, there is little distraction for Wyomingites to wander away from their community. It’s so desolate there is nothing for you to do but converse with the people in your community. In addition, these people are in touch with reality and know what is important in life, they do not dwell on insignificant materials. By stating these factors, Gretel Erlich convinces the reader that Wyomingites are not isolated individuals, but members of a community.
One factor is that the people of Wyoming are always finding ways to know and communicate with each other. Erlich spent time in Wyoming and said, ” and despite the physical separation, people stay in tough, often driving two to three hours to another ranch for dinner” (208). Although these people live far away from each other they still consider each other like a neighbor. To us, city people, a neighbor is the person that lives right next to you house. To Wyomingites, a neighbor is not just a person living ten feet away from your house. A neighbor is a friend living in their community. These neighbors are people who they trust and care for. They think it is important that they keep in contact with each other, no matter the separation
Wyomingites are also friendly and approachable people, always there to lend a helping hand to a person in need or to just flash a smile and say hello. Erlich stated, ” friendliness is a tradition, strangers passing on the road wave hello” (209). A wave or just even a glance is a rarity in cities. Everyone minds their own business, but Wyomingites are different, they make an effort to be kind. These people are so friendly that there are times where two truckers are seen on the road, having as nice conversation and sharing the coffee from their thermos. They are also very open and kind to strangers. Erlich had said, “if you were traveling, desperado or not, any lighted ranch house was a welcome sign” (209). Even if these strangers can be potential criminals, Wyomingites do not care because to them, that stranger is another friend, a potential community member.
In Wyoming, there is little distraction for Wyomingites to stray from their community. For Erlich’s stay in Wyoming, ” one of [their] evening entertainments was to watch the night sky” (214). There is nothing there to keep them isolated from other people. Also, the land is incredibly vast , and the sky is even more boundless, so this brings them closer together. In cities, people are too busy with work and children are indoors, drooling over the television set or playing senseless video games. Wyomingites are diligent workers but while they work they are still chatting with other ranchers. They probably spend their evenings, after a nice dinner with the neighbors, outside having a discussion under a glittered sky. Children would be running around, laughing and playing with each other. They would be developing their minds because human contact is vital for a growing child, not an artificial person on the television. Since there is not a large number of distractions, it not only keeps them in touch with the community, but also with reality.
These people are in touch with reality and know what is important in life. Erlich proclaimed that, ” a person’s life is not a series of events for which he or she is applauded or exiled but a slow accumulation of days, seasons, years, fleshed out by the generational weight of ones family and anchored by a land bound sense of place” (209). Erlich uses the words weight and anchored as if people are weighed down by their family and their home. These people are humbled by their family and their home. What she is saying is that life is not about what people think of you whether it is good or bad. Life is not about having someone’s approval or praise. Life is about just living out your life, and not trying to live up to someone’s standards. You just live your life, take it as it is, and know who you are and where you come from.
Wyomingites do not dwell on artificial or superficial things, such as wealth or physical possessions. They know that what is important is their family and where they came from. This “place” doesn’t necessarily mean a tangible place, it can mean the ethics and principles from which they grew up on. The people of Wyoming don’t work for more money or more physical possessions, they work to support their family and keep the land that they have. Wyomingites don’t work for someone’s approval, they work just to satisfy themselves as people. These people learned these lessons when they were just little children. They watched their parents work to support them and not caring if they have more cows or more land than another rancher. They just live life as it comes.
There are so many other factors that make the people of Wyoming a functioning community but those factors aren’t that important. What is important is, making an attempt to communicate and keep in touch, openness and friendliness, no disruption from trivial matters, and keeping in touch with reality and knowing what is imperative in life. These people don’t try to isolate themselves from other people, they try their hardest to make friends and keep the friends they have. Most importantly, they don’t dwell on insignificant factors such as superficial or artificial things. They may live an extremely boring life, but they don’t care. It’s their life and they’ll live it the way it is because they are happy with the way things are, making new friends and having a close relationship with the people in their community.