Las Vegas – and Nevada – is not at all what I expected.
I grew up in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania, I’m an Appalachian boy. The Allegheny mountains with their lush summer forests and bubbling streams have always been the place where I felt the most peace, at home with God.
But for the last decade or so, the pain of the combination of my particular ailments has become increasingly severe in the winter months. I began to look south for a similar environment, deciduous rolling mountains in a warmer clime, preferably in an arts-based community. Tennessee, the Carolinas, even southern Virginia. Nothing seemed just right, and the high humidity in those areas is anathema to Khrysso.
And then last year a dear friend who had relocated to Las Vegas came home to visit, and Khrysso and I were both piqued by the life that she described there. But despite the positive qualities, I couldn’t get past what I perceived of the landscape: barren, dry, colorless, lifeless. In comparison to my beloved Alleghenies, it seemed completely alien. I couldn’t imagine ever feeling home there. Regardless, knowledge is never a bad thing so we continued to investigate. The more that we learned about Las Vegas life and politics seemed to confirm how much we might like it there. It’s hot. It’s dry. But I just couldn’t get past that desert.
We arrived late our first night in Vegas, went from the airport to rent a car, and straight to a hotel on the Strip. That first night, gazing out over the casinos from the 19th floor, we were completely underwhelmed by the excess we viewed. That definitely wasn’t what we were looking for in Las Vegas.
The next day we began to explore other areas: Henderson, downtown Vegas, and Sun City/Summerlin. We could feel the community, the neighborhoods, and started to get a vibe from the people we met. Nearly everyone was an immigrant from somewhere else, and most were extremely welcoming. It was looking good. The living sculpture of the cacti is amazing, and often planted right next to pines, and I was gobsmacked by that flora. The surrounding mountains are breathtakingly different and majestic. But still, could this ever be home?
The third day, Khrysso and I headed out of the city altogether. We took the nearly deserted loop to Calico Basin, Red Rock Canyon, Bonnie Springs, and Blue Diamond. We stopped at the Red Rock overlook, and I sat alone and marveled over the desert to the crags that looked as though you could reach out and touch them. The sun was warm, the sky a piercing blue, and as I sat there and meditated, I felt it. The Great Artist was there, too. That was the hand that had painted this vista, it was beautiful, and it was… alive. The sage, the cactus, the chipmunks, the brush, the ground, were all vividly alive. It was life, but flowing from a spring that was new to me, and my parched soul drank deep.
So much of life in Ohio means pain, and has been pain, for so long. As much as I love what is familiar, my family and friends who have lifted me up and celebrated joy with us, it doesn’t bring healing. This is not my time to settle quietly and abide, treading water. New seeds have been planted this year, a new door is opening, new opportunities abound. We are so excited by the burgeoning arts community in the Basin area, the growing Arts District, and have fallen in love with Boulder City. No matter where we go, it will be safely in the hollow of the Maker’s hand. It will be home.
So begins the new adventure of the Artists LeFey: Big Move West! Stay tuned.