Life in the Desert

Despite it’s year round allergy season, the wind that could pick you up and carry you over the mountains, and the fact that there is absolutely nothing to do here, I wouldn’t be more grateful to have grown up in this valley. If you google the Antelope Valley you’ll see pictures of gorgeous sunsets, the golden California Poppy, Joshua Trees, and a whole lot of dirt, but there’s so much more than that. Geographically that’s about it, we have some tumbleweeds here and there, and for some reason palm trees, but the real beauty of this place is rooted in its diversity.

It began with humble farming beginnings, of mainly alfalfa, until the alfalfa dried up all the wells and the land became dry. During this time, all the antelopes had also been driven from their home never to be seen again. The land became barren at first sight, but come spring, it was home to the state flower which loomed and invaded every once space in the hills, roads, and homes.With the land lost of it’s fruit the sudden growth into the place stopped, except for the lone miners who worked in the mines of Boron. The quietness of the desert surrounded the area, a perfect oasis for the coyotes who creeped through the night and found shade under the Joshua during the day.

It wasn’t until the breaking of the sound barrier that the area really got moving. People from all across the country poured into the desolate area, and it became one of the greatest test areas in the world, and remains to this day. An air force base was opened and jobs were plenty. The desert even became suitable for astronauts. It became a mecca for plane manufacturing.

The next great influx into the first came from The San Fernando Valley and LA. As it became more crowded, and more unsafe, families packed up their kids and headed north. at the expense of of an hour commute to work. The schools weren’t bad, the houses were cheap, and there was at least an hour separation from the drugs and gangs. It was quite, secluded, and no one  was on top of each other. It provided the small city feel, without being too far from the big city.

The Antelope Valley really became the melting pot that you always hear America being referred to as. There were people from different cities, and even countries, each with unique ethnicities and nationalities. Divisional lines began to be drawn however, as the diversity of economic backgrounds also increased, and just by saying where you lived defined you. Living on the West Side meant everything, while living on the East Side meant something completely different. Quartz Hill was home to the luxurious homes, and if you lived on Godde Hill, you must really be someone. Where you lived usually defined your political alliances as well, and somehow the valley became a conservative stronghold within very democratic California with several churches on the same block.

I often speak of my childhood here fondly, and am always meant with confusion and disbelief. To the eyes of a passer by, and even to some natives who haven’t lived here for long, it’s a desolate place. To them it’s filled with unmotivated people who never leave it, and sad people who do escape that always seem to find their way back. They see a wasteland void of life, a sketchy stop on a road trip. They see the devastation our fires bring, our section 8 neighborhoods look, and  find the silence to be so sickening, and deafening. They see our lack of a Whole Foods, our drug problems, and the bugs, the snakes, the never ending heat, the scorching winds.

They don’t see the beautiful desert sun rises and sunsets, or the commitment the community has to each other. They fail to see all the treasures the desert holds, the beauty in living in a place always on the fine line of life and death. I’ve learned more valuable lessons here than anything I could’ve ever learned in school. You learn to appreciate the little things, the cool breeze, the blanket of cold that will enwrap you in the night after a long summer day. Most importantly you develop a heart for others. Those veterans you hear about that have nowhere to go, walk our streets without a home. The kids you hear about that eat only at school because their family has no food at home is the person sitting next to you in class. Your best friend’s brother was killed in a drug related crime. Your neighbors are the family that can’t afford to buy their kids school supplies. Your teachers work two jobs to make ends meet, because they have families too. The elderly that can’t pay for the medication because social security isn’t enough to live on, is your grandma. I didn’t have to become a drug addict to see what would happen to me, I had friends whose parents were.  All the abstract people always talked about, but never seen, become very real.

The Valley brings such an awareness to real people, and their very real struggles which teach humility, compassion, and understanding. It’s a place of true diversity on every spectrum, with life teeming in every direction. It’s full of people doing the best they can, for themselves, and their families, and also full of people going through hard times and their darkest days. Home to new beginnings, fresh starts, roads less traveled, old beginnings, familiar faces, destinations unknown, love, and pain. Most importantly, home to me.

-Kat

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