The river is crystal clear and it gurgles as it flows over stones laid out as if someone had poured a load of marbles over the stream bed. On the shore, the yellow leaves of the trees seem to glow in the light of the sinking sun. Perishable gold leaf. On the horizon, where the mountains touch the sky, lies a purple shimmer highlighting the peaks of soft, white snow. My face is alternately swept by icy gusts of wind and rays of sun providing welcoming warmth to my skin.
The number of people I see: zero.
I am in the high-risk area of the world. The country that is at the forefront of evil and where everything seems to be out of control with worldwide travel warnings and so on. I'm in the United States. And even though I am in the hotspot of superspreading with one foot in the grave, I feel as good and as far away from the world as I have been for a long time. What I have decreed for myself: no news, no disconcertment, no drama.
Here in the state of Wyoming, near the Canadian border, 580,000 people live in almost 98,000 square miles of space. Compare that to San Jose, where over a million people live in 177 square miles. No, I did not suddenly run out of numbers on the keyboard.
I am in the wilderness. It is lonely, rugged, and beautiful. No one is irritating me, and the constant din of the crazy world becomes merely a murmur in the background. This is the moment when I know: I'm out. And that was urgently needed.
There are people who simply unsubscribe. From Facebook and Instagram, from newsletters and other subscriptions. Because it is getting too much for them. This is something that, as a woman with a creative mind with an insatiable need for communication and information, I could not understand for a long time. Then along comes Corona and suddenly there is no other topic that anyone wants to discuss.
Sure, when the pandemic started, the thoughts were thrust between the worry about toilet paper supply—and the fragility of human life. Two things that seemed to be equally important for some people.
Then after the singing and clapping for nurses on balconies, the initial solidarity and positivity began to fade, and our nerves seemed to completely come apart as they were pulverized between strident and opposing opinions, between mass hysteria and conspiracy theories, between restrictions and disrespect. Add to this the constant comparison of numbers that are supposed to all say the same thing, but next to each other seem to agree as much as oil and water. And the dissemination of theories and predictions that fluctuate every hour between epic apocalypse and total trivialization.
Let's be honest: We are basically simply human beings who desperately try to process, between science and anger, that we find we are neither omniscient nor infallible nor immortal. And above all, we are not nearly as important as we think we are.
When I stand in the vastness of the prairie, I know I must log off—from the lunacy—for a while. All this madness. I must separate from the constant cry of news tickers and statistics, from urgent news and the latest findings. I simply must be for a while. Out here in the wilderness.
Wyoming is weird. There are three months of summer when the temperature surges up to 95 degrees and nine months of winter where the temperature plunges to below zero. Spring and fall will be dealt with in a few days as if they were part of a fire sale.
After secretly infiltrating the US through the Aruba loophole at the beginning of October, I manage to experience the two hours that were autumn. And what an autumn! The immense azure sky opens completely, like a blue dome arching up and over the Rocky Mountains. Endless roads, golden-yellow trees, gigantic feathery clouds, and wild animals. Bighorn sheep, deer, bobcats, grizzly bears, and the buttocks of a mountain lion (annoyingly, I am taking off my jacket in the car and not looking properly as my boyfriend drives past the lion). The air is cold, the sun is shining, and there is an odor of wet leaves everywhere.
The towns are all miles apart and many have only between 300 and 1,000 residents. Plus, the mandatory gas station, church, bar. Occasionally time seems to have stood still. Neon signs point to old cinemas, rifles are mounted on wooden walls, and trees grow from the center of some abandoned houses. You hardly ever see people on the streets. Sometimes I wonder if this is just a set for a Hollywood western. In some shop windows there is a sign "OPEN". But it is dark inside and nobody ever goes in.
It is incredibly vast, this country. For every 580,000 people there are 1.3 million cows. So, it is more likely that someone will answer me with "Moo" than with any news about a broken world.
There is no need to worry about the minimum social distance either. Only with the wild bison. But it was already 25 meters, long before Corona. The only real reason to wash your hands here is that you have slipped in mud or bison poop. Sometimes I do not even unpack my mask for days because there is no place you can or have to go inside to shop.
Suddenly, my mind is free. Worries and fears simply vanish in the fog banks between the mountain peaks.
You are not only what you eat; but you are also that with which you surround yourself. It comes down to this: just because news and messages are available 24/7 does not mean that you have to surround yourself with them 24/7, that your phone must constantly ping more pop-up news, that you have to be constantly exasperated about everything you have heard and seen, that you have to have answers to all the problems in the world, or that you have to let unspeakable comment columnists plummet you into a deep depression.
There you are. And your life. Even if we cannot just levitate inside a room and happily eat chocolate all day, we should remember to sometimes just be ourselves, and to free ourselves from anyone and anything that affects us negatively. Take time to go into the forest, listen for the falling leaves, and realize that we have only this one life.
When we are buried in the cemetery, no one cares who was right, who read the most blatant headlines, and who shouted the loudest. When we are buried in the cemetery, it is all about whether we have been happy with our lives, and during our lives. There are no second chances at this point.
You can find more philosophical derailments and inspiration in my articles: