I have forgotten how the wind roars through the Carson Valley. It often succeeds a quiet morning, clear and sunny; just after lunch, the breeze starts, clouds appear, and the cottonwood trees begin to stir. As the afternoon comes on, the winds increase, whooshing and howling, and loose sticks pelt my caravan. This is the natural changeability of this place, but I had forgotten it since my visits here as a child. My mother’s parents lived here, along with great-aunts and uncles, second cousins, friends of the family who were as close as family — all became the large web of western cousins, the Hollisters at large.
It’s been thirty years since we made regular visits. In that time, Nevada has grown popular and populous — everything feels more grown up, more cosmopolitan. The tiny town of Genoa now seems more than just a bar and a post office, Carson City seems more than a few small casinos and the old museum, and Reno, once the “little biggest city in the world,” now seems a bustling metropolis.
Yet still all this seems calmer, less desperate than its California neighbor. I take a drive to Reno and am amazed to find a certain evenness on the streets, parking lots with plenty of spaces, and no angry drivers. People smile, or if they don’t smile, they at least seem happy enough. The surrounding mountains and hills are still as beautiful as they ever were. The smell of sage and ponderosa pine and dust hangs in the breeze.
I am staying with my cousin Jennifer and her husband Kurt, and their friends & housemates Angel and her twelve-year old son Nick. It’s relatively relaxed and even-tempered group, full of conversation and shared dinners. It reminds me a bit of my own household in Oregon, when I’m there, with my friend Carrie and her daughter Arawen, who is eight, and home-schooled, as is Nick. Here in Genoa, someone’s always around, and more family is not far — Jen’s mom & dad live just next door. This is the way it’s always been with the Hollisters, and now I remember the contentment that comes with such settlement.
My living quarters are in the housetruck, of course, parked in a quiet spot behind the garage, plugged into power and internet. Although my little parking space is not far from Jack’s Valley Road, which connects Genoa to Carson City, I’m somehow sheltered and relaxed enough that the traffic noise doesn’t bother me. Perhaps the wind really does disguise. I spend quiet mornings at my desk, programming and drinking coffee. Angel and Kurt have gone to work, Nick does homework, and Jen attends to the graphic design work she does for local clients. Afternoons somehow fill with errands and things to tend to on the truck — finally, I install working taillights — and evenings I help with dinner and talk politics and culture with the family. It’s a good, simple life, and I’m happy to be here to live it. After the clamor and chaos of California, settling down for a week is a simple but effective comfort.