Thursday, October 02, 2008
my face in asheville
I am participating in a fantastic project that I am excited to share with you. The lovely and talented Jen Bowen is documenting the people who love Asheville and call it their home. The project is called Faces of Asheville, and I encourage you to check out her beautiful and well done website about this inspiring undertaking as soon as you are done reading my blog post!
Faces of Asheville is a two part project. The first part is comprised of portraits taken of any and all Asheville volunteers who were willing to come and be photographed, holding a single item somehow representative of themselves. My boys and I went and were photographed individually and together. L held his guitar, of course; G held a stick and wore a mask for his individual photo, and I held a puppy... ;) We also did a family portrait. We haven't seen our pictures yet, but there are great examples of other people's portraits in the website.
The second aspect is for each participant to share their Asheville story. Jen asked us to write about what brought us here, what keeps us here, and what do we hope for our future in our city? Plus she asked us to include our thoughts on the a few more questions regarding Asheville:
1) In the immediate present, what do you like / dislike?
2) In the immediate future, what would you change and what is sacred that should not be changed?
3) In the more distant future, what is your vision or hope for Asheville and the surrounding region?
This was my answer:
I originally came to Asheville in 1992 to attend Warren-Wilson College. As soon as I visited the area I knew I wanted to be here. I loved Warren-Wilson, but at that point in my life I was not sure I wanted to be in school. What I really wanted was to be a mom. I had just turned 19 years old. I had some fun at WWC, and in the meantime I discovered a local herbalist named Whitewolf with whom I started my first holistic herbal studies. I decided I wanted to pursue this training and carry it over into studying midwifery. Asheville seemed like a great place to do that.
Then, sort of accidentally on purpose, I got pregnant. Yay! It was during the amazing blizzard of '93 in which my partner and I got stuck out in Swannanoa. He worked in the kitchen at the restaurant in the Holiday Inn on Highway 70, and the management put us up in a room at the hotel so he would be available to cook every shift for all the hotel patrons trapped in Swannanoa, too. We were there for three days, and during his few hours off of kitchen duty, we made a baby.
Even though I loved the area, I thought I wanted to be closer to my family in Pittsburgh to have the baby, so we moved back up north. Our families helped us a lot, which we needed, but I never quit feeling like leaving Asheville was a mistake. I loved it here so much. But, I was busy having a baby and my partner went back to school and that was what we did for a couple of years. In the meantime, we got pregnant again, and in the spring of 1995 I had my second son just in time for their daddy to graduate college.
We lived, all four of us, at my mother's house in Pittsburgh for one more year, and during the summer of 1996 we returned to attend a friend's wedding at Warren-Wilson. That was it. We knew we had to come back. Though I loved being a mommy and lived in a busy suburban area close to the city, I have never felt so isolated in my life as I did at that time in Pittsburgh. Our move back to Asheville was like a whirlwind. We went to the wedding and were in town one weekend. We picked up a Sunday edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times, and my partner found a job listing that interested him. We returned to Pittsburgh, and he spent the next couple weeks interviewing over the phone, faxing resumes to the company, and lo and behold, they hired him, sight unseen. One month to the day after we had been in town for the wedding, my partner returned to Asheville to start his new job and to look for a place for our family to live. One month after that, on August 1st 1996, our whole family relocated to Asheville, the place where our family, really, had begun.
On the way to NC our very old Volkswagen bus bit the dust, so we were destined to move with no vehicle. He found a place in Montford for us to live, a 2nd story apartment in an old brick apartment quad that seemed perfect since it was walking distance to his new job and to town, and there was a family in the apartment below, a young couple like us with two babies almost the exact same age as our kids. To this day I remain close friends with them, and our kids are the oldest and closest of friends.
So that's what brought me here. What keeps me here is the amazing community. As soon as we moved back, I felt like my whole world opened up. In Pittsburgh I had been an isolated, young, alternative mommy with no peers and no friends. In Asheville there was a thriving, supportive, progressive community of young parents with whom I immediately connected. I made great friends, as did my kids, and I loved living with my babies in such a healthy positive place with so many creative, inspired, loving people. I still do. To this day we have many friends that we have been close to for most of the years since we returned. I can't imagine living without that kind of thriving, conscious, support network.
In the years I have been here things have changed a lot, some for the worse, some for the better. I am thrilled by how vibrant the Asheville arts community has become. Everyday, everywhere you go you can find amazing visual artists, poets, musicians, dancers, crafters, circus performers and individuals doing things you never dreamed of to make this place exciting and entertaining. Unfortunately, with the influx of amazing gifted people, there has also been an element of those who seek to gentrify the town, make it more homogeneous, more upscale, and as a result the racial diversity in town has diminished, and buildings and housing developments have been going up, up, up while dragging the landscape down, down, down. The devastation of our amazing natural resources is by far the worst thing I think that is happening here. The air quality has plummeted since I first came here 16 years ago, and I think the steep slope development, cookie cutter housing complexes and forest clearcutting is criminal. If I had one wish for Asheville and the country as a whole it would be for everyone to STOP, take a deep breath, and to start doing some well-considered urban, suburban and rural planning that would preserve the land and its resources- forests, mountains, waterways, farms, etc. and learn to build sustainably with an eye for integrating with the natural landscape in the places where development and growth must take place.
That is my vision for Asheville and the surrounding area. I want us to create a sustainable haven for individuals and families that wish to live consciously - conscious of community issues such as racism and poverty and oppression and how to work against them, conscious of health and the best ways to live well, conscious of the value of art, music, dance, poetry and the beauty of self-expression, conscious of how to protect the land and the plants and animals for whom this region is also home, conscious of the human need to develop spirituality and seek divinity in a myriad of ways. I want us to learn to truly value diversity and not just give it lip service. I hope we will start taking steps toward this future immediately, so we can reap the benefits of it continually throughout the future of Asheville. Blessed be.