Why you love the places you live, in your own words
Last week, I put out a question to you, dear readers: Why do you love the place you live?
I got to wondering about the idea because of the recently released results of a Gallup survey called “Soul of the Community,” which shows that people feel attached to places primarily because of qualities like beauty and social openness, rather than more hard-edged economic factors.
The response from you was immediate and tremendous. You sang the praises of cities and farms and towns and the middle of nowhere. What I read from you all really moved me. Thanks for opening a window into your lives.
Here’s a selection of your responses, edited for space and clarity:
My hometown is the best. We are located in the Black Hills of South Dakota in a small valley with mountains on three sides of us. We have an awesome view and one of the best canyons in the world. Our local creek, Spearfish Creek, freezes from the bottom up, and we hold the record for the most extreme temperature change. This town is Spearfish, S.D.
— Sande Barrett Bihlmaier
I love Durham, N.C., because it is a small town with a passion for all that is homegrown, sustainable and community-oriented. We are famous for innovation and entrepreneurship, our foodie culture, and our amazing art and music scene. It’s got a rich history and is also a bit rough around the edges. As one Durham resident puts it, “If you don’t like living next door to witches or Hindus, people with black or brown faces, kids with spiky purple hair, or gay folks who are firmly out of the closet, this is definitely not the place for you. Because Durham is for the rest of us.”
— Crystal Dreisbach
Photo: Michael ShanePlease be seated, but I am going to praise a city that has been the brunt of jokes for decades — poor, bedraggled, down on its luck, never winning a sports championship, Cleveland, Ohio.
There was a classic old T-shirt that came out of one of the more horrific periods of the city’s history that explains my sympathy — if not love — for Cleveland. It showed the skyline of Cleveland, buried in snow, with the simple message, “Cleveland: You gotta be tough.” Against all odds and any sense of reason or logic, I find the ethos expressed in that T-shirt to be appealing. Especially in the face of all we are going to be hit with in the future, I think that ethos will get us through better than “Kumbaya” ever will.
I love Lake Erie. A lot of people do, and they crowd the lakefront parks to get their fix. The metroparks surrounding the city are an asset, even though they are run by a bunch of golf addicts whose idea of nature is the 15th hole. In spite of this numbskull mentality, there are still plenty of areas in the system that are worth hiking and biking through.
It is a gritty place, but when you get tired of the grit, it is easy for you to escape to some really bucolic places in upper New York State and Canada. So that is why I like this tough city.
— Randy Cunningham
Photo: retro travelerI love where I live almost exclusively because of the combination of stunning natural beauty and world-class parks and trails. In Anchorage, Alaska, I’ve skied down miles of coastal trail, looking at moonlit ice floes scattered across frosty mudflats. I can drive 20-30 minutes to a trailhead and hike or ski off into the wilderness of the Chugach mountains. In between, there are over 100 miles of trail winding throughout town. I go salmon fishing near downtown, dodge moose almost daily, and have seen eagles, bears, marmots, foxes, swans, owls, all kinds of cool birds, lynx, and a wolverine within 20 miles of my house.
Sure, those greenbelts and trail systems thread their way through a sprawled-out wasteland of box stores and strip malls; driving habits are terrifying (we go for manly vehicles in lieu of drivers’ ed — or common sense); mass transit is nearly nonexistent; the earth is flat and cooling (so I’m told); and it’s generally a Guns, Trucks, and God social climate. But I still keep meeting other crazy backcountry skiers, winter bike commuters, even the occasional wild-eyed treehugger. It doesn’t hurt that local beer, food and music are excellent when the weather isn’t.
Certainly your attitude about where you live makes a huge difference. Even when I lived in sprawling south Florida, I managed to find the sweet spots. But it irritated me to no end to have to drive through hell to get to my favorite hiking trails. Finding those spots now is not quite so challenging. We moved to Brunswick, Maine.
What needs some serious attention in Maine? Mass transit. But I think when you can manage to look around you at least once a day and think, “Man, I am so grateful I live in such a beautiful place” — well then, you scored.
Photo: Sarah GoodyearI love my Jersey City, N.J., neighborhood because of:
- View of Manhattan and the Hudson River from my living room window.
- Density — the opposite of sprawl. Each human takes up less acreage.
- Living in a high-rise means we get to meet congenial neighbors. And we also get to kvetch about those other neighbors that sometimes put their garbage into the recycling boxes in the compactor room.
- Walking distance to stores, restaurants. Easy neighborhood for bicycling.
- Walking distance to the local marina and sailing club. Sailing along the Hudson, in view of Manhattan.
- Extremely short walk walk to PATH trains into Manhattan, and Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.
I live in a rural area on California’s central coast, in the Santa Lucia mountains. It’s beautiful country, especially in the spring, with a great variety of wildlife, including mountain lions, eagles, (golden and bald), and even a few condors! My family is privileged to live on a piece of property with a good well, so we can grow a vegetable garden, and fruit trees.
We also have a wonderful and diverse selection of neighbors and a community hall, where the locals have potlucks, concerts, yoga classes, and an informal little farmer’s market.
The ecological downside to living in a rural area is th
is: In order to work, shop, or even get together with friends, you generally have to drive. “Neighbors” are much farther apart here than they would be in town. But there’s always a trade-off somewhere — some of us are city people, and some of us just aren’t city people, and I fall into the latter category.
— Storm Dragon
Photo: Angelo MercadoI love San Jose because I know the way.
I know the way to avoid the 101 when it’s insane, and the 87 when it’s slow. I know the way to the giant purple building downtown with the museum where children are encouraged to touch. I know the way to find the best place to watch the banks of the might Guadalupe River when it’s been raining and swelling and attracting ducks and herons of all types.
I know the best way through downtown to my classes at San Jose State, the one I called “my goat path,” which takes you past a great coffee shop, through the convention center, and into the park with the giant sculpture of the Feathered Serpent. I know the way to the best public restroom, where the doors extend almost all the way to the floor and there’s classical music playing.
I know all the ways around the city: north from the Alviso Sloughs with its old ghost town, and south to the Santa Cruz Mountains with the windy, forested roads. East from one sacred mountain, Mount Hamilton, and its neighborhoods of excellent bahn mi sandwiches, to the other sacred mountain in the west, Mount Uhmunum, which means “Resting Place of the Hummingbird.”
I know the way because this is where I was born and raised, and no place will ever feel more free, more alive, or more home than here.
— Eliza Thorn
Where to start? Had you asked me this six months ago I would have laughed hysterically. However, Memphis, Tenn., is really coming around. We just had a seven-mile trail added to our already huge urban park trail system. This trail gets you virtually anywhere in Memphis by bike no matter where you are. I am happy to say that once spring hits I will be what we call spittin’ distance from four huge farmers markets, all complete with CSA opportunities and good organic meat. I can’t be too dishonest and pretend to love the city as a whole, but I feel like it’s cleaning up, and that’s what I love.
— Hannah Giles
I was just thinking how amazing London was yesterday on a brisk wintry walk through the narrow streets of “The City.” The place is oozing history, yet glowing with modern intervention, a dynamic mix of architecture, people, music, ideas, expression, spaces, cultures, and cuisines.
I’m always fascinated by the numerous squares and wide open parks. In some you can’t see the immense city that surrounds them. In some you can even see deer, whilst the bustling streets lay only hundreds of yards away.
What is it without the people? The way people can still have regard for each other (most at least), although they are among tides of millions. A desire to improve, to change, yet a strong sense of tradition and custom. Passion, styles and opinions collide, yet an overall sense of conduct prevails.
The issues for me are that it is spread out, forcing me far from work just to be able to live in a small apartment, and pretty expensive.
Photo: Ben BeiskeI love Miami like I love my family: it’s mine! But I’ve also got a pile of reasons why Miami is the most amazing city around.
Miami’s the only real immigrant city in the world: meaning immigrants get the chance to truly run the place.
Given the rate of change in the world, we need the lessons of Miami: how to welcome the different, not just into low-paying jobs and poor neighborhoods, but right into the halls of power.
— Albert Harum-Alvarez
People, people, people are what attach me to a place. Why do I stay in New York City? — because of my friends, and also because of all the interesting people I bump into on a daily basis. All of my communities here — my bed-bug-ridden building, my congregation, my neighborhood, my daughter’s school — are full of the most entertaining, thought-provoking, moving characters. Would this be true anywhere but NYC? Maybe, in other giant, world-class cities, but it’s hard to imagine this variety and richness of humanity coexisting anywhere but here. Every day I have some unexpected and fascinating conversation. This is why I love NYC.
— Sam Maser
Baltimore is a gritty, honest city — but that’s what makes it so beautiful to me. Everywhere you go small groups of people are working on great projects. The city has underground art galleries, collectives, independent bookstores, huge community farm, all created by normal people like you and me. … Yes — there’s poverty, homelessness and more abandoned buildings that you can even count, but out of all that not so great stuff comes a city of people who work hard and do amazing things.
I’m an environmental activist and organizer — but every time I drive into the city on 95 and see the giant smokestacks from the incinerator that says “Baltimore” I get goosebumps (the good kind). And to me that’s how you know you’re home.
— Rachel Fauber
Photo: Richard JohnsonBoulder, Colo., became my choice as a new home. Reasons:
1. As a gay person I wanted to be some place where I was welcomed for who I am, not what I am. I was sick of all the anti-gay politicians and religious fundamentalists in the south. Boulder’s a very welcoming community and wide open to new ideas and eccentricity. It’s very easy to get involved here.
2. Boulder is located in a dramatic natural environment, right at the literal edge where mountains meet plains.
3. The city’s built environment is attractive, with a very vibrant downtown, no billboards, a 55-foot height limit, attractive streetscapes, strict development controls, and attention to detail.
4. The city is compact and surrounded by about 150,000 acres of greenbelt acquired over the last 45 years by the city and county governments. The city’s crown jewel is that open space, and the recreational opportunities it allows, along with wildlife habitation protection and land leased for organic farming and ranching.
5. The presence of a major university (CU) helps attract creative people and assists with the arts and cultural scene and the healthy economy.
6. Boulder’s in the forefront of research on climate change, the “green” economy, alternative transportation and community sustainability. It also puts great emphasis on sidewalks, bike paths and lanes and public transit.
Being 45 minutes from central Denver allows one to live in a smaller community while having easy access to the amenities of a large city.
I hope this doesn’t sound too much like a chamber of commerce spiel, but I certainly found Boulder to have been a great choice for my “second life.”
— Eric Karnes