Sahel, for those not in the know, is the Arabic word for shore. A border. A line. A beginning or end, depending upon one's viewpoint. Of course, it could be said that end and begin are all one in the same.
In Africa, the region known as the Sahel stands between the arid north and the tropical south. A borderland, as it were. A frontier.
I call the narrow rift-like valley that stretches tunnel to tunnel a Sahel because it too is a shore. A line. A border. A frontier.
This pocket of nowhere is hemmed by national forests and wilderness areas. A border between the eastern front range of the Rocky Mountains and the High Country. Beyond the Roof of the World, stands the rest of the American Maghreb, and the rivers run after the twilight instead of the dawn.
Here, the ruins of the mining days stand so close. Ghosts of a bygone era and a fallen civilization. A sort of steampunk middle earth that was doing steampunk long before it became a genre of fiction or a fashion statement. Those who live in this stretch of geography are like refugees from a more affluent time. The history and mythology of the past runs along with, past, and, sometimes, merges with the present, molding into a yet unrealized future, thus showing time for the abstract that it is.
It feels like everywhere and nowhere all at once. Spit-shiny real and dreamlike all within the space of the same heartbeat. It is here dragons slither and coil along the tall peaks and the gods themselves dance with earthly feet. A place possessed of a certain magic should one pay close enough attention.
Our little Sahel is paradoxically the fringe of mountain jerkwaters and tourist traps and waystaion destinations along a major east-west route. One jumps off the end of the world to get here. A place inhabited by hucksters, snakeoil salesmen, gypsies, dreamers, and drop-outs from what could be dubiously called the real world.
I have lived in isolated and fringe-type places more of my life than not. Perhaps it's no surprise I found my Kashmir in such a place. An environment that seems pure mythology when trying to relate it to an outsider. But what said outsider does not see, or chooses not to, is how little difference there is between reality and such mythology when it gets down to brass tacks and bedposts.