Tahoe life is a diverse experience | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe life is a diverse experience

Susan Wood

At the risk of making some of you gag, I find myself asking Lake Tahoe residents: when does the honeymoon end?

I’ve heard a variety of answers, and I hope mine will stretch into at least 20 years.

For someone who’s only been here for eight months, I’ve certainly fallen in love with the jewel of the Sierra Nevada.

There are endless poems and theory about how walking with beauty can inspire the best in all of us. I’m the sap who believes it.

You know how innate it is to feel at home. I sauntered through Camp Richardson and figured out why people from all over the world frequent this place.

When I came to Tahoe last October, one of the first places I visited to walk with beauty was Fallen Leaf Lake. I nearly cried.

It reminded me of my trek in Nepal, where my experience prompted me to write notes of my most innermost feelings on the trail as if I was possessed with the emotional spirit of the mountains.

I feel at home in the mountains. They’ve cradled me and given my life meaning on many a hiking or backpacking excursion. But that oftentimes meant driving for six hours to the mountains, so there’s a tendency to feel a little distant.

I like being here. I enjoy hearing from residents that the summer can be nice, if anything, because you’re able to leave your windows open to smell the mountain air – which has a distinct scent. They say it’s the little things in life that matter.

I love walking outside my house and hearing the mountain chickadee call “cheeseburger.” I’m overwhelmed with nostalgia because I first learned of the interpretation during a tranSierra cross country trek from Lee Vining to the Yosemite Valley. A fellow skier coming out of her tent on the last morning of the tour insisted the bird was indeed saying that.

I laughed, gobbled a cheeseburger at the valley’s hamburger stand and reflected on one of the best trips I’d ever taken. (Imagine Tenaya Lake with no people and snowdrifts on its water edge.)

Sure, the Sierras can get under your skin.

But this isn’t the only reason Tahoe grips me.

I know it sounds cliche, but the people also give me reason to want to settle down – a move that’s more uncommon than not as a journalist.

I figured out that this assessment is much like the one I use with backpackers. Anyone who carries their temporary home on their back must have the extent of character that someone who also lives through a winter at 6,200 feet for the beauty of the place.

And like Nepal, I respect any area where I walk in which those I encounter give me eye contact. This observation was glaring to me when I lived in Los Angeles. It rarely happens.

Here’s a philosophical question. Does the power of place cause this phenomenon? Could it be that La La Land transplants to Tahoe look you in the eye here because of the effect this place has on them or are the people who give you eye contact the ones fed up with L.A. who want to leave it?

I suppose I’ll ponder that, as I watch the ripples on the water in my back yard.

My experiences collecting in Tahoe are not reserved to my leisure time.

Sure, I like what I do. You know why?

Because I’m overwhelmed by the notion that everyone matters, and each and every one of us has a story to tell. So I’m not concerned by the size of the town.

I thoroughly enjoy getting reactions around town to different topics. It’s like sitting on the opposite side of the kitchen table from a neighbor or friend.

I also feed on learning about people.

It’s so important for me to be objective in my job, but sometimes I must admit, I like who I’m talking to.

I gained an immense respect for Juan Torres, who I’m sure felt quite vulnerable sharing the depression he experienced after having a stroke and consequently hanging up his boxing gloves.

And learning about Deb Howard’s life that evolved from a remote region of Alaska and the lonely fishing seas to a place for herself at the lake was inspiring to me.

Watching the waitresses at Ernie’s make their customers feel special caused me to take notice. It’s no wonder they’re celebrating their 20th anniversary. People love to feel special.

Cross country skiing with Heavenly planner Andy Strain off the gondola showed me why I’ve insisted on living where I can blend my passion for communicating with my passion for the outdoors.

When I went out bird watching with a Forest Service group and stumbled upon a Tahoe Montessori class doing the same thing, my connections with the people who live were reinforced.

Witnessing the excitement of South Shore Motors salesman Gene Landfather caring for his baby half-gyr and peregrine falcon like a child made the nature factor cross my radar screen again.

Sure, there are some things I would like to see here – like safer bike lanes and an understanding from motorists that those idiots riding the wrong way and on sidewalks are people who happen to ride a bike. They’re not cyclists who ride seriously.

I ride 18mph to train, so when someone is heading the wrong way they’re endangering both our lives and I don’t mince words. I stop and tell them that if we collide, we’ll both die – plain and simple. I don’t tangle with cars. I give them as much room and notice of my plans as I possibly can, then I reward them when they respect my right to the road.

Granted, there is no ideal area to live. Some may wonder how I can live where there’s no mall, museum or alternative movie theater.

But I give you this. The show in my back yard and the players who live there help me relate my experiences to everyday life. They also help me learn more about the inner reaches of my soul than any other outlet.

Has the Tahoe experience been the same for you?

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