Elkins has always been a special place to me, despite not living here for nearly 20 years. I know that comes across as a strange sentence, but bear with me.
We have a saying in my family about me that goes “born in a blizzard, raised in the rain.” I was born in Elkins, West Virginia in the middle of a January snowstorm (much to my parents’ chagrin). All of my earliest memories are of Elkins: Walking in the children’s parade during Forest Festival dressed in my mother’s handmade costume as a dwarf from Snow White. Tasting crisp autumn apples. Visiting the City Park. Going to Walmart with my babysitter and getting excited about baked potatoes and the children’s’ book section. These early sensations and memories helped shape how I viewed the world and how it viewed me.
When I was five years old, we moved. My family relocated to Portland, Oregon and I was raised in the Pacific Northwest rain. We still kept in touch with our West Virginia family, but we were an entire country away. I sent them pictures and they sent me letters. Elkins, West Virginia seemed like an idyllic fairy tale that I only heard about in stories for a while.
I graduated college and had been working at a wildlife refuge in rural Washington before I ever considered leaving the west coast. On a whim, I decided to move to the east coast. I never considered where fate would take me next!
While looking for jobs I poured through description after description of work related to environmental education. By chance alone I found an AmeriCorps position working with the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area that was based in Elkins. How exciting that moment was! I thought it would be a fun chance to reconnect with my roots, but it was so much more than that.
Nearly twenty years later I have been welcomed back so enthusiastically that it is almost overwhelming. The Darden Weaving Guild opened their arms to me, offering to teach me and a few friends the art of Appalachian crafts (and great baking recipes too!). My West Virginia family has told me so many new stories of when I was little, and they still have pictures of me hanging in their house. Through AmeriCorps I have been able to dress in old-fashioned clothing to help with historic events, plant red spruce trees to help revitalize the habitat, listen to music from the heart of Appalachia and so much more. Even the smallest interactions- getting directions to places, late night grocery store runs- are so filled with love and attention from Elkins residents. Elkins has a special community of people that truly care about one another.
I am young and not entirely sure where my life is headed. I think I have a similar story to many people my age- I am only beginning in my career and passions and have yet to decide my place in the world. No matter where I am headed I know that Elkins and its people will always be a place I can come home to.