To the out-of-towner, the passer-by, the east coaster looking for a dot on the map to satiate his childhood desire to experience the Wild West, they see your century old fire tower, the Bavarian stained glass windows adorning your gothic cathedral, and the Algeria Shrine Temple perched on one of the many knobs scattering your landscape. They devour your handmade caramels as hits from decades ago dance between the olive-painted booths. They travel back to the time of trolleys, rediscover their youth riding a hand-carved cutthroat trout, and peruse local pieces contributing to your moniker as the “best small arts town in America.” They lace up their boots, tie down their kayaks, and stuff their bags to tackle the same trails and waterways that Lewis and Clark wrote about two hundred years prior.
As one who entered this world within your city limits, I too at one point saw what those above saw. When I introduce people to you for the first time, this is the side of you I share. But, it is not the side of you I fell in love with, nor is it the side of you I see when I close my eyes and think of you.
I think of your cobblestone sidewalks that I tripped over on my way to grade school at Hawthorne. I think of the shaded canopy tunnel created by the trees lining Flowerree St. that I rode my bike through. I think of the widow’s walks and Queen Anne Style architecture of the upper west side’s mansion district that created an acres-wide haunted town for my siblings and me to race through every All Hallow’s Eve. I think of summers spent skimming knees on the 1906 trail and developing elaborate tales for the history of Devil’s Kitchen. I think of Thanksgivings playing football with family and friends at your aptly named Hill Park. I think of the trains meandering across town whose horns pierced through open windows as I lay in bed listening intenlty on those adolescent summer nights. I think of the fact that those trains were guided by the same tracks I would walk alongside years later with my future wife. I think of piling on half a dozen layers to soften the blows as I flew off my sled and skid across the densely packed snow, now ice, encasing Guad Hill. I think of walking into the Merc and the baristas already knowing your order or swinging by Van’s to grab a missing item for that night’s dinner and seeing five people you know. I think of the fact that I have found a home. I have found a place where although the world feels large because you are under such a big sky, you don't feel small. You feel a part of it all.
Thank you, for everything, Helena.
Participate in our "Love Letter" campaign and see how you can submit your own love letter here.