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Pieces of Home

By Lola Dalrymple, Phase II Fellow

Since I arrived in Highland County last May, whenever I tell local residents I am from New York City I have received a similar reaction: some shock, and a refrain of how different I must be finding things here in my temporary home on Allegheny Mountain. There is no denying this: things are, without a doubt, different. Every day I am taken aback by the natural beauty of my surroundings, by the fresh air I get to breathe, by the crispest spring water I drink, by the wafting smell of the latest spring bloom. In short, I feel so very fortunate to be where I am right now.

At the same time, I find myself experiencing waves of homesickness that are new to me. I have long said that I love being from New York, but that I never want to live there again. But now, as my hometown has been grappling with months of insurmountable tragedy, I perversely long to be there: to be step-in-step with my people as we figure out how to proceed, how to go on in a very changed landscape.

I know I can’t be there right now, and it very well might be a long while before I do get to return home. So what I’ve done instead is figured out ways to bring home here. I’ve seen that as different as two places-- Highland and Manhattan-- may appear on paper, there is indeed overlap. So, here it is: an ode to New York, to the things I miss and love, but in its own way an ode to my new home, too.

New York locals get a bad rap for being rude and unfriendly. Sure, we can be brash at times, and we’re often in a rush, but really we just take some time to warm up. If you’re patient, you’ll find a city booming with hospitality and warmth. Here on the Mountain, some locals (pictured) also appear cool and distant at first glance…. But wait for it-- the icy stares melt and they’ll let you in.

In New York, my favorite thing to do is walk. And walk, and walk. I can easily get lost in the scenery and in the din and in my own thoughts, without realizing I’ve walked for miles. Here on the mountain is no different. The woods never look the same on any two days. They are a welcome refuge for wanderers-on-foot like me. Also, just like in New York, you never know who you’ll run into on a walk.

If New York is one thing, it’s richly diverse; and its diversity is exemplified in the city’s culinary offerings. I wouldn’t be here at AMI if I didn’t care deeply about food. Much of my love for food is born from the myriad of cuisines I have been able to try at home. Within blocks of my doorstep there is Vietnamese and Ethiopian; haute French and the best slice in the City. We might not have those outside options here on the Mountain, but we have certainly found a way to travel the globe in the kitchen. One night dinner might be Indian curry and naan, followed the next night by collards and cornbread and Appalachian cider baked beans, followed by falafel and tabouli. The world has truly become our oyster.

There is nothing worse as a New Yorker than getting stuck behind a gaggle of tourists as they move glacially down the sidewalks ogling at what you, the native, might find to be mundane. But I even miss moments like those. It’s important to remember that those tourists are experiencing wonderment and awe at the things you get to see every day. And there is beauty in that.

*Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I see the similarities between our flock of ducks and a flock of tourists. Similarities too many to enumerate.

A good view of the skyline never gets old.

Perhaps most important and dear to me of all: there is good pizza and there are good bagels. Home is not home without both.

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