Town Mouse, Country Mouse?

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Recounting 16 Years of Life 

Ladies in Salmon_laura

Yesterday, I had dinner at a restaurant I first tried nearly 16 years ago when I was just getting started in my community development work. I was 24-years-old and new to Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood the first time I walked through the door at Dish. Yesterday, while sitting on one of the those same bar stools in a packed and soon-to-close establishment, I found myself wondering where the last 16 years have gone.

It’s been just over a decade since I wrapped up my work in the South Side and transitioned to working with communities to realize the benefits of trails and nature. But sometimes it doesn’t feel all that long ago.

I spent only six years there, yet the neighborhood and its residents left an indelible mark on my life and career.

Being back at Dish and seeing some of those familiar faces brought the memories back and had me feeling nostalgic about the neighborhood. (For the record, I live a mere six miles from the South Side, but I am not there.)

But back to the question, “Where have the last 16 years gone?” People say, “Blink and you’ll miss it.” I don’t know how I skipped ahead from 24 to almost 40, but know that this time has presented me opportunities for wonder, pain, joy, and growth. I’ve ventured out into new and scary territory a few times since my South Side days, and my life is better for it.

Professionally and personally, I’ve grown and am still growing. No doubt, people associate both my personal and professional brand with trails. This is a good thing, I guess. I love trails and make it my mission to help connect people to nature for a whole range of benefits. But, really, it’s always been about community. Trails help to connect us to ourselves, to nature, and to others. And, often they literally connect into communities and provide a new revenue stream and source of pride.

It’s funny – I shifted from urban community development to rural with trails as the hook. I left one fantastic neighborhood that felt like home to me (even though I never lived there) and ended up making new friends from around the continent.

People carry all sorts of perceptions about rural America, but for me personally, my world has opened up in shifting to rural endeavors.

Not that all of my work is in small towns, but just last week I was in Salmon, Idaho, the most remote place I’ve ever been. And over the last few months I’ve been to the high plains of Colorado, to small town Kentucky, and villages in the Upper Bay of Fundy. Layer in my nature-based coaching here at home, and my work has become an incredibly enriching and connecting experience. Is this a humblebrag? I don’t know. I do know that when I pause and think about it, I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing, the life I lead, and the people I’ve gotten to know. From the South Side of Pittsburgh to Salmon, Idaho, it’s been one heck of an adventure so far. Where have the last 16 years gone? I don’t know that, either, but they’ve been 16 of my best.

Photo credit: Laura Torchio, taken in Salmon, Idaho

 

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