I grew up in a twin city with a total population of 20,000 (a metropolis in our neck of the woods). This was too small for me, I was bored, my wings felt clipped, and I could not stand the petty, busy-body gossips. After high school, I packed my car with as much as it could hold and gloriously headed for the University of Denver. With a deep disdain for small towns, and a hunger for space to grow and the freedom to experience more of the world, I did not look back and rarely ever visited.
Sweet Freedom! First Denver then Los Angeles. These cities were glorious for my soul. The rhythm was intoxicating and electrifying. With an endless supply of incredible opportunities and possibilities, I learned much about the diversity and nature of humans and culture. Relieved of the rose color glasses I wore growing up, I began to see the world for what it really is – complicated, simple, glorious, painful, small, and large. I bared witness to the chaos and hatred driven by anger, fear, pain, and confusion. As well as the love, compassion and strength that it takes to heal these deep wounds.
In time, I realized that a large metropolis also has their drawbacks and when we became pregnant with our first child, I yearned for the place I spent many summers working in harmony with the earth; a place I have always considered home – my grandparent’s ranch in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. My love for the hills and the prairie is embedded deep within and it called to my soul in the same way the largeness of the world called to me after high school.
It is only now, 24 years later, as I travel more in the local region, I have become captivated with what smaller towns offer and symbolize. Their heartbeats and rhythms are slower, perhaps more peaceful (particularly compared to larger cities). They have their own rituals and celebrations that, at one time seemed small and trivial to me, but I now realize as valuable to the history and essence of each community.
The weekend after Independence day, Scottsbluff and Gering, Nebraska celebrate Oregon Trail Days to honor the important landmark for the travelers following the Oregon, Mormon, and California trails. There are still ruts in the earth created by the Prairie Schooners carrying families, prospectors, and explorers in search of adventure, freedom, or a new way of life.
When my husband and I traveled to Fremont, Nebraska to pick up my beautiful motorcycle,we passed through several small towns. Oakland, Nebraska was most unique. It touted itself as the Swedish Capital of Nebraska. Population 1,209 it is the home of a nationally recognized Swedish Heritage Cultural center (in the middle of the farmlands of Nebraska – who knew?!).
- Buffalo, Wyoming, (it was not named after the animal) population 4,600. Founded in 1879,
this little town lays at the base of the Big Horn mountains and has a unique charm that embraces its rich and vibrant history of the Cheyenne tribe, outlaws, and presidents.
If one slows down and notices, the pulse of each community can be quite enchanting and distinctive; even mesmerizing.
I do not necessarily want to live in a small town again, but it would be easier today that it was when I was a teenager. Perhaps it is because I am older that I can appreciate these places better. Maybe now I could care less about petty gossip and drama. Or it could be that I can finally take pleasure in the simplicity and slow pace these communities offer. It’s possible it is all of the above.
None of that may really matter though, because what I do know is this new found appreciation opens a vibrant world of exploration, invites interesting conversation, and offers a new way to explore authenticity and passion. It is amazing what one can find once the perspective “glasses” are adjusted – a new journey of self-discovery in the world of possibilities.