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Taking That Detour May Lead to Creativity and Home

Nature's beauty carved by man

Driving the straight, flat, road to Bisbee, AZ, I felt like a city interloper in my compact Volvo to the bucolic farmers in big Ford pick-up trucks and their one street villages.  Not oblivious to the cultural changes in urban areas, one of the villages had its own nail salon/ yoga studio.  But it was clearly country.  Pursuing my mission of discovering the creative soul of America by taking the byways off the Interstate, I had a tip that Bisbee was an art town grown over an old mining town.  Little did I expect an outpost from Occupy Wall St. populated with Venice Beach style bohemians.   The Welcome to Historic Bisbee sign is posted at the strikingly beautiful and ugly at the same time open pit copper quarry, once the most productive in the US. Stopping for a photo, I reflected on the hidden beauty of our earth revealed by a rape of the surface that uncovered the multicolored striations of red, green, and purple rock. 

Home as an art piece
This road trip was initiated to explore the authentic smaller art towns of the US by trusting word of mouth and intuition.  Although I used a guidebook, as an experienced traveler I know that spirit of a place varies widely from what is written about it.  Steeling myself for a tacky and soulless re-do of an original town (I expected Prescott, AZ style with shiny Indian war statues and chic restaurants in the former brothel), I had just passed up on Silver City, NM due to time considerations.  I was not going to take strike two.  In other words, in this case I was not pulled by passion but obligation.  It is a kind of discipline with the self.  Keeping this agreement kept me in integrity with my purpose.   

Occupy Bisbee
I rolled into the town and parked and immediately it felt unique.  A couple young men in long hair and beards rolled by and smiled.  I wondered 'how did they get here?'  Turns out it is that kind of town.  Walking around I saw a house whose front was a bouillabaisse of bizarre statues, colorful paintings, and ‘found art’ junk, another one was painted red and white stripes, across the street an artist was painting the scene, then I came upon a vacant lot that would have fit well at Burning Man.  Old concrete retaining walls were painted in various colors, streamers and paintings flew in the breeze, and on the second level overlooking the street was a gaggle of tents.  Signage indicated alliance with the Occupy Wall Street movement.  

Later in conversation with an older guy in long gray hair whose last home was his boat in the Bahamas and a young man in his twenties who works two nights per week at a restaurant, I learned the story:  This town has been occupied for years by a cohort of free spirits sometimes called artists, sometimes hippies but generally refugees from mainstream culture.  Now, with the OWS movement they have taken over the two lots in the center of town.  Both men are friendly and welcoming in the spirit of this authentically ‘quirky’ town.  In fact, my new acquaintances said that many people in the town are paid by their families back home to stay there.  In addition to the arty funk, there are several old hotels that have been rehabbed but not ‘gentrified.’  Every building exuded originality and well, quirky.  The town is real, from its dirt paths connecting uphill to street level, to the drainage pit with a sign that threatens death if you go in it, to the original Queen’s Mine Hotel and its front yard of unrestored mining equipment.  The only new building in town is the misnamed Convention Center which is really a collection of tourist shops.

The complementary mix of the decaying old mining town, the artists, the busy at noon bars, the chic old hotels, and the natural setting welcomed my soul.  This is how I like it; creativity, antiquity, all ages, and sunny skies.   As I usually do in places like this, I asked the older guy from the sailboat how he got here?  He said he was in Scottsdale, AZ (the antithesis) and his brother said he belonged in Bisbee.   Turning to the young man serving the free food, he said word of mouth and then he asked, ‘are you looking for a home?’  This was an arrow to my heart.  Was my yearning that obvious?  They had something I wanted; community, authenticity, and creativity.

Residence Bisbee, AZ
As I drove away, I reflected on the importance of taking that road less traveled.  The road of that leads to the soul’s fulfillment.  Whatever path you take, what is crucial is to trust your intuition and take that side road through the flatlands and fields that may lead to home.  And if not home, a view on another way of living.


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