Reflecting on my time so far in Wyoming, I can’t help but recognize how much the culture that I originally felt friction against has grown on me significantly. Wyoming is marked deeply by a sense of independence. In the small town of Laramie where we’re currently residing and in the even smaller towns we stop by, it’s easy to forget the rest of the world around you still exists. When I first arrived in Wyoming, I felt overwhelmed by this sense of isolation. While the quaint towns were peaceful and the scenic, I couldn’t imagine living in the Laramie River Valley. It wasn’t until we spent the Fourth of July in the town of Rock River that I realized Wyoming’s rigid isolation could blossom into a more beautiful sense independence, and even a welcoming community.
Upon arriving in Rock River, a town of just over 200 residents, the first thing I noticed was the end of the town just a couple hundred meters down the road. But as soon as the Fourth of July celebration began and I was able to spend time around the residents, I realized the emptiness of the environment only emphasized the community of the people. Being able to spend relaxing downtime eating dinner, playing outdoor games, and watching fireworks with my own peers and the Rock River community alike helped me finally feel more comfortable in my surroundings on this trip and understand Wyoming culture more.
On one of the first days of our trip, we were assigned to read an excerpt from The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich. Some of the lines that resonated with me most bubbled up from my memory while we visited Rock River. Ehrlich commented that “we Americans are great on fillers, as if what we have, what we are, is not enough… We fill up space as if it were a pie shell, with things whose opacity further obstructs our ability to see what is already there.” I’ve found that Wyoming has a lot less of this “filler” than any other place I’ve been. It’s easy to see the things that matter, such as good company, when there are less physical and social distractions. There’s solace in the desolate space.