Artistic Community In Joshua Tree: The Middle-Aged Revival of “the Pack”

While establishing new friendships in my late forties, I find myself in a “pack”characteristic of friendship groups I ran with throughout my twenties. High school, especially a girl’s catholic school like mine, naturally lends itself to the “pack.” Within my first month of college as I met new people,  I was once again began running with a pack, the core of which consisted of myself, two female friends, and a guy named Jay. Our fab-4 micro-pack was surrounded by other pack members that overlapped with us frequently; there were also other micro-packs that merge in and out of ours. You could say we had a core fab4 micro-pack with a larger surrounding pack. Throughout all of my joys, sorrows, and drama happened with me, I could always fall back on the pack. The pack was my soft place to land, especially the other 3 of my fab4. friends, fun, music, destiny, rabbit, holiday

Given the transitory nature of the college beach town where we all lived, it did not take long for my pack members to disperse and join the real world. This beach town, overnight became increasingly expensive, causing my fab4, two of which became a couple, to disperse. To this day we still have contact, through our efforts to stay in touch are far too infrequent.

With time and effort, I ended up with a whole new pack of artists and musicians. The beach town that i stayed loyal to, became even more expensive, as the 90s recession hit hard and once again at least half of the pack dispersed, while my life took a turn of its own. I was still living in my over priced beach town, but I was also commuting to San Jose State where I became a part of a different grouping. I was an art major so there was a natural camaraderie. This camaraderie, centered entirely around the creative process, was inspiring though  the pack, though it was a revolving pack since graduation is the eventual goal.

When my ideal affordable living situation ended after 6.5 years (I had been living in a studio on a massage client’s property and exchanged part of the rent for massage) it was not long before I had to face reality and find a less expensive place to live. I moved to a small close knit historic town. The sense of community was strong and I was never lonely, though it was clear that I would never again have a pack. I was in my 30s and my peers were involved in marriages and raising families, a path I had not chosen. I stayed with a relationship that I would have given up much sooner, if I had a pack to fall back on, or if the area I was living in had any other single adults.

Straying further from a home-based sense of extended family through community, I ditched my downtown San Juan Bautista apartment, moved into an RV with my two cats and three rabbits, and hit the road. For two years I served the National Park System and I was blessed on a revolving basis with phenomenal commandery. In the past this comrade had been artist, now it was another characteristic I am passionate about: smart people. The park service provides many a wonderland of biologist, archeologist, and fellow educators. This was my version of heaven.

Due to circumstances described in my blog introduction, I moved to Joshua Tree in 2012 where I did not know a single soul so I take advantage of record low housing costs and buy a house. For the first three years I met nice people and pushed myself to got to the farmers market to socialize. I had no friends and the grief I was suffering made it too difficult to reach out to others. When I joined a meetup hiking group things began to change.  I was invited to join a women’s walking group where I met a wonderful woman who invited me to her 61rst birthday party. Incidentally, she is now part of my fab4 core group of the larger community pack.

Attending this birthday party changed everything. Suddenly I had friends, a community of artists, and a fab-4 consisting of the three women with whom I made the strongest personal connection. I discovered an interesting phenomenon, the over 40 resurgence of the pack. I don’t know if this is unique to the high desert, or if it is something that happens with folks who either did not have kids or whose kids have reached adulthood possibly with their own kids. Not only did these folks take me into the foal, they were also creative kindred spirits.

visions in the clouds, cloud shapes, desert storm, hi-desert sky



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