This Cosmic American Raises a Prairie Where Little Else Blooms

Mojave Mama and self-described desert rat, Geneva traded in the modern conveniences of a bright, vibrant San Diego neighborhood to move to the unincorporated community of Joshua Tree. Lovingly referred to as the Hi-Dez by some, and not-so-lovingly as the “middle of nowhere” by others, it may seem like an unusual place to raise a child.

But Joshua Tree is having a moment. With a storied history of attracting dreamers, artists, musicians and explorers, it’s a wonderful place for people looking for a bit of slow living and a whole lot of simplicity. And it’s here that Geneva’s wind-swept babe, Prairie, rules nature's sandbox. 

A year into rural living, Geneva gives us a peek into the perks (and pitfalls) of this rosy-hued life:

On what’s lost in transition...

“We’ve given up some modern conveniences in our pursuit of a slower pace of life. Back when we still lived in San Diego, we could walk right out of our door to a little park with a playground, countless cute shops, and restaurants. Here in Joshua Tree, shops, restaurants, and playgrounds are limited, and none are within walking distance.

“Don’t get me wrong, I spend my fair share of time wistfully dreaming about endless take-out options and complaining about our super slow Wi-Fi. I miss recycling pickup (this is top of the list because our garage is currently completely full of recyclables that need to get driven into the recycling center). Also, a paved road...and not to mention mail delivered to our house.

“Of course, convenient services like Uber and Grubhub or even Amazon Prime don’t really make it out here (kinda takes the thrill out of diaper delivery when you have to drive into town and pick them up from the post office). And stores like Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s are all about an hour drive away, in Palm Springs.

“So Prairie has learned to take her first steps on an unpaved road instead of sidewalk, but we no longer have to deal with traffic jams or hunting for a parking spot. We’ve also left behind the smell of smoggy air, and the sounds of neighbor’s barking dogs or loud parties.”

On making the move to a slower pace of life…

“My husband, Andy, and I both grew up in small towns, in Kansas and in Georgia respectively. We fled for the West Coast as soon as we graduated college, but we both missed the small town experience and the commune with nature.

“We always talked about finding a small town that was full of like-minded people, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that here in Joshua Tree. This town is full of artists, environmentalists, and other outside-the-box type folks, and we fell in love with it the moment we stepped in as visitors.

“We talked about moving here for years, but I had a job I loved in San Diego, so it wasn’t until I decided to be a stay-at-home mom that we actually made the move. Originally, it was meant to be a temporary escape plan, where I would stay at home with Prairie for a year, then move back to San Diego to beg for my old job back. Well, we’ve been here for a year and half with no plans to move anytime soon!” 

On what makes it all worth it...

“I can walk out my back door and right into a national park! This exposure to the great outdoors is giving my daughter a very special appreciation of Mother Nature that I hope she will keep close to her heart for her whole life. One of her first words was “outside!” and she crawls to the door each night, demanding to go see the moon, or “mo-en” as she pronounces it.

“For all that we’ve given up, we have gained so endless wilderness to explore. We have a magical view from our porch (of the sun setting over the boulders each evening and the Milky way on clear nights). Silence is broken only by the occasional coyote frenzy with no other nosy neighbors for miles.

“Our rent for a 3-bedroom home on 2.5 acres here is less than what we payed for a 2-bedroom apartment in San Diego. And what we’ve given up in terms of conveniences, we’ve gained in an eclectic, friendly small-town community with no chain stores.

“Most of all, we’ve gained time! It’s a slower pace of life here, where Happy Hour is spent around a campfire instead of at a bar, and dinners are more likely to take place in a friend’s kitchen then a fancy restaurant.”

On a day in the life of a desert mama…

“Andy usually wakes up early to start work; he’s an editor and works from home. Prairie generally sleeps in and depending how often I got up for her the night before, I either sleep in too or work on my Instagram and blog projects.

“Once baby wakes up, we snuggle in bed together, nursing and reading a few books. Then I have coffee while she plays in the living room until breakfast time. We always share avocado toast for breakfast and she’s getting into smoothies too. Then we either play more, go on a walk, or run a quick errand before her midday nap.

“After she wakes from nap she has a late lunch. Prairie’s go to foods are yogurt, cherry tomatoes, and vegetarian chik’n nuggets. Usually by that time, Andy is off work and we all go out to explore. After sunset, it’s time to cook dinner, listen to records, and just be lazy together.”

On finding her tribe….

“In the city, there’s so much to do that’s tailored to entertaining your kiddo while allowing you to interact with other mamas. There’s not much in the way of special baby classes here; no toddler music group, or stroller strides, or water-babies, or baby yoga, or baby underwater basket weaving. But the women I’ve met here are quick and easy to befriend, and I have found a little community of like-minded mamas who hold playdates and outings almost every week.”

“All any mama can do is try to make the best choice for her own unique little family. And for us, for right now, this little patch of sand at the end of a long dirt road is a dream come true.”

When it comes to making the most of desert life, Geneva has a few more secrets up her sleeve:

Songs she keeps on rewind:

Anything from Emmylou Harris, John Prine, St. Vincent or Neko Case. With Prairie, I love to spin This Record Belongs To, which is a fun mix of kids’ songs that I enjoy too.

Her favorite after-hours indulgence:

Netflixing and really chilling! I have a major weakness for Antiques Roadshow and I like to watch it with a La Croix in one hand and a microbrew in the other.

Best way to unwind:

We do a ladies craft night sometimes and though I’m always embarrassed by my lack of crafting abilities, it’s just so fun to relax and chat with some girlfriends. When we have a grandma to babysit in town, Andy and I love to sneak off for a soundbath at the Integratron, brunch at La Copine, and maybe a little hiking or thrifting too if we are lucky!

Last thing she does before tucking Prairie in:

We read Prairie I Am a Bunny every night and then she nurses herself to sweet slumber.

For a daily dose of desert life, follow Geneva on Instagram @cosmic.american.

What about you...What’s your dream place to live?

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Tags : parenting   interviews   slow living   simplicity parenting   

Camille Aud
I follow her on IG and I just love her. Seems so kind
Katherine Stemp
So in awe of your life....just beautiful.
Geneva Cosmicamerican
@ElodieNilsson oh man! that's the big question ... short answer, I'm not sure!
Juno Andres
You're living my dream life. Miss the desert so much.
Sidone Moretti
I can't believe you and your husband both work from home. You are (both) so lucky!
Elodie Nilsson
Gorgeous and sounds amazing....but what about later? When she's older and ready for school? Btw...your daughter is such a little cutie.
Maya Slavin
I've been to Joshua Tree a few times and it's just beautiful. This is so inspiring.
Kira Smirnova
What a dreamy life. You're such a great mom, Geneva!