As I prepare to walk out the door, I turn to my mother to say that I have enjoyed my stay and I will miss her as well, but Flagstaff is my home and I must return. It never fails, my mother proceeds to ask why exactly I love Flagstaff so much that I want to leave her as I stand and listen to her frustration. Every time this ritual takes place, I become more aware of my attachment to this city and how grateful I am to have such a wonderful place to address as my home.
Arizona became my adopted home in August of 1998. I was thirteen years old when my mother and I had immigrated to the United States. Undoubtedly, it was the most turbulent time of my life. We faced the brutality of financial struggles, the challenges of learning the language and the rules of an entirely different system of life. Still the most difficult part was being apart from family and the place we considered our home.
In general, “home” is an ambiguous term, it references different places and infinite variety of ideas associated with it. Nonetheless, the ubiquity of this word lies in the sense of happiness engrained in the concept. It brings a sense of coziness, associated warmth and security. Home is the place to which each person can retreat, literally or in his or her thoughts, to find harbor and in that respect everyone shares their definition with the world.
Following my parents’ divorce, I had moved a considerable number of times, so much that the word “home” had lost that sacred meaning of comfort and simply indicated the place where I slept for the next few months. Today, as a citizen of the United States, I glance at the past with that wisdom, which only comes from losing something as indispensable. I have come to understand that without letting go of the past I would have never found my present here in Flagstaff. I would not be able to appreciate it fully and eventually become the person I am. I embrace my life here and continue to be grateful to this city for adopting me.
With every walk I take downtown, I savor the moments, the sights and ultimately the sense of belonging. There is history embedded in every rock of the buildings and alleys. It comfortably shares space with optimism of our future written on faces of passerby’s. The most welcomed sight is a sight of a friend whom you meet along your stroll through the streets, who invites you out to your favorite local coffee shop to share a cup of hot tea and perhaps to split a big cookie. It has never failed to lift my spirits. The names of the streets and places chime with familiarity: Macy’s Café where local musicians refine their performances, Locket Meadows from which everyone has a clandestine memory of finding intimate connection with nature among the aspen groves, and San Francisco Street that runs up with streams of bikes, cars and pedestrians jointly negotiating their pace. Frozen frames of one’s own memories arise as strangers share their stories of making this place their home. Their reasons for staying are various; some enjoy the smell of rain, the academic spirit of this community, or watching the stars and the ever-changing view of the mountains.
Many take advantage of the outdoors, plentiful for any kind of sport and level of training and fitness. Each season arrives bringing a cornucopia of outdoor activities. The skiers and the snowboarders, who charge up to the top of the San Francisco Peaks to dive into the freshest of powder, await winter. In the spring, the rushing waters bring adventures for white water hounds. It was this city that has lead me to discover my passion for summer sports-my niche in cycling and rock climbing. I soak up this season with ceaseless appetite for the meandering road rushing up the sides of Lake Mary. I live every child’s dream to fly when I climb above the heads of pine trees at the Pit. The greatest part of it all is having these adventures directly at my doorstep. I don’t need to endure long drives and careful planning, but merely to walk outside and meet the trail that takes me to my venture.
The most inviting atmosphere always amazes travelers and visitors, at experiencing merely a glimpse of our city. There is a harmony that thrives in this place and it affects us all by bringing rhythm to the pace of life. Its melody flows through my veins with every crimson colored morning when the city wakes until the train slices the nighttime veil to wish us sweet dreams. At night, the stars are my night candles and the scent of dewy, crisp air is my coffee.
For us locals, it is a place that resonates with coziness of a community that shapes our lives. We may have different reasons for staying here, but there is one common basis-this place is dear to our hearts. We are a small community, but there is a shared sense of responsibility expressed by overseeing development, community programs and overall health of our city. We care for it because our true home is much alike our lives, we get only one. Flagstaff has made me the person I am today and in this life, it is my home.