The road up to ESV was dry, the short drive beautiful. I was already feeling better by the time I entered the meadow at the edge of the forest and saw the rough-hewn buildings that make up the core of the Village. Astonished is the only word I can use to explain my reaction to the progress which has taken place there. The three or four buildings that stood there this summer had become a dozen. Most of the new construction seemed to be cottages built out of cob, a kind of rammed-earth construction which has become popular in the west. At least among the alternative “Simple Living” communities.
I noticed that the walkways were very lovely, and nicely maintained. In the center of the Village stood the original CCC bunkhouse and kitchen, to which the new proprietors had added a meeting room and some offices made of straw bail construction. On the roof was an array of solar collectors. I could tell from the look of them that they were the new efficient South African models, like those used out at McCoy Industries. Another array of collectors and a couple of small wind generators also stood at the south end of the meadow, completely outside of the tree line. This was probably sufficient to power the whole village, and more, without using anything off of the power grid.
I had to wait a few minutes until the ten A.M. clinic began, so I poked around a bit. It looked as though most if not all of the cottages were occupied. Outside of one, I met a sweet young man busy fitting a rail to the porch. He told me that there were about two dozen regular residents, and a half dozen visitors at any given time. Meals are communal, and eaten in the old dining hall, he informed me. I tried to gently question him about the identity of the funding source for all of this, but he just shrugged his shoulders, “I can’t really say.” But I think he meant, “I don’t want to say,” or “It’s none of your business.”
Finally, I asked him where the clinic was held, and he pointed to another of the old structures, at the edge of the woods behind the main building. I took my time strolling up the walk. There is something very refreshing about winter on the Oregon high desert. The light hits you at an angle barely above the horizon, even at mid-day. Because of the altitude, and the lack of pollution, the sunlight is intense. Yet the temperature is only about 20 degrees fahrenheit. I never cease to be amazed by it.
When I reached my destination, I found a nicely-carved sign over the door saying simply “clinic.” I pushed it open to discover a small waiting room, with no one inside. I could hear voices in the back, arguing. Not violently, or with malice. Just insistant. This is what I thought I heard:
Woman’s voice: Listen, Isaac, I can’t have the police coming around here. Do you understand? I will be deported.
Man’s voice: I understand, Rosa. I’ll get rid of the bones tonight.
Crossing the floor to listen closer, I heard a scuffle, and as I approached the windowed door to the next room, I saw a man, ragged, with a full growth of beard, hurrying out the back door.
I immediately knocked, not wanting the doctor to think I was snooping. Just because I was. She opened the door timidly, seeming somewhat flustered.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I didn’t hear you out here. Won’t you please come in.”
She led me into an examination room, and sat me down. “I’m doctor Rosa,” she said, “Now, what can I help you with, today, Miss…?”
“Susie,” I said. If she was only giving out her first name, then so would I. I could see that she didn’t remember me from our brief encounter this summer.
“Doctor,” I said, “I’ve been feeling depressed lately, and I thought there might be some physical reason…something that can be treated.”
“Have you been having thoughts of suicide?”
The abruptness of that question kind of startled me. “No,” I said. “Nothing so bad. But it’s been effecting my work. Sometimes I sleep until noon. I thought maybe there’s something you could prescribe.”
Dr. Rosa hesitated, “Well, Susie, it’s not so simple as that. A lot of doctors are quick to pass out pills for every little thing. But feeling depressed may actually be a sign of health. You know sometimes we are depressed, because life is depressing.”
“Yes, but…” I wanted to protest.
“A more constructive course,” the doctor went on, “might be a determination to do something about your life. Perhaps you need to get out more, and talk to your friends. Drugs can sometimes help you cope, but they are not a solution.”
I might have said something sarcastic about the lecture, but I wasn’t really here for drugs, and I thought she might have a point.
“There is a group that meets in town every few weeks. They are a… what is the phrase…a self-help group. They talk about many things to make life better. You might see what they have to offer.” She handed me a slip of paper with a phone number.
“Thank you, doctor,” I said. “maybe I’ll check it out.”
“You are welcome, my dear. And come back if you have any other problems.”
“I will” I said. “Thank you, again. Do you mind if I ask? Your accent, I was trying to place it….”
This time, there was a definite hesitation. “Spain,” she said. “I was born in Barcelona.”
I smiled. “Gracias, Dr. Rosa.”