“Why don’t you stay in the wilderness? Because that isn’t where it’s at; it’s back in the city, back in downtown St. Louis, back in Los Angeles. The final test is whether your experience of the sacred in nature enables you to cope more efficiently with the problems of man.”
-Willi Unsoeld, mountaineer
January 11, 2012, Washington, DC: It was from cramped tents and foggy vistas and clear-as-day summits and muddy trails that the power of place first started to get to me. The vast impact of our surroundings was apparent sitting beside a campfire in a hushed forest or paddling a kayak across a still sound at dawn. I fell in love with ideas about place by watching these landscapes where change is glacial.
But the beauty of loving cities, too, is that change here is quick enough to witness it. Urban landscapes and streetscapes evolve in our lifetime and morph into someplace new entirely. More importantly, they do so with input from people who live here and love it. As much as the backcountry speaks to us, we are invested back in our cities and hometowns because not so deep down, change is our thing. We are excited to have a hand in it. We are eager to fix things. To make it work. To step up and participate. To see swift results.
We document and record as we dive in. We chart the growth of our towns and our cityscapes as they change at the pace of a flip book. We note the increments on our blogs and in photographs, like modern day time capsules. This was the year just before the Boilermaker shops opened and the lofts filled up at the Navy Yard… This was the year we fell in love with our neighborhood and learned more about what it used to look like… This was the year people pitched tents down here instead.
Stick around down here in the frontcountry long enough and you’ll start to remember the days before places like this one looked this way. Stick around here and you’ll appreciate the transformation of these spaces — and how this community of neighbors made them better. Stick around to invest in these places we call home and to recognize that we love our cities, in large measure, because they are accepting of change — both within and outside of ourselves.
If you need a break from the noise, you can always go camping.
Do we love the backcountry for its constancy? Because we see the very same views explorers saw centuries ago? Do we love the frontcountry because of its rapidfire evolution? Because we can play a part in the way it takes shape?
Is it possible that our love for our cities and towns is inspired by someplace else entirely?