A place is just a place; it’s nothing more than a geographical location, a spot on the map where latitude meets longitude. At least that’s what we tell ourselves when it suits us. But we still have connections to the places in our lives, some of us more so than others. Whether it is a feeling of affection for our childhood home, the spot where we had our first kiss, our schools, or a favorite park bench to sit on while we feed the ducks, we care for it. Whatever the place or the reason, we develop personal connections to the places in our lives.
I've lived my entire life in the city of Reno. Sure, I've traveled, I've been to Alaska a number of times, and obviously to California more times than I can count. I've been to Canada, Mexico, Belize, and a hefty number of the states. After every trip, I've come home to Reno. I've considered moving to another place, expanding my horizons. But there’s this funny thing about my horizons, I’m never happy with them unless they are outlined by the mountain ranges of the Sierra Nevada.
Perhaps it’s Stockholm syndrome at this point, but I love Reno. It’s the best place I've ever been. I know I speak highly of Alaska, and some day, when I’m rich, I intend to have a summer home somewhere near Prince William Sound. But I can’t see myself ever leaving Reno for good. This is my home, and it always will be. The mountains surrounding our little valley are like a fingerprint, nowhere else will ever look the same or compare to the Biggest Little City for me.
Some of you may be asking yourselves why it is that I’m so attached to this town. What is it, specifically, about Reno that has me anchored here so firmly? Is it the city, maybe the insanely high ratio of bar to customer? The fact that there is no set closing time of those bars? Maybe it’s something else. I would say the Truckee River plays a part in it (and it does) but those of you from places with real rivers would just laugh. Perhaps it’s the burgeoning culture of the town; unique enough to be artsy and creative, yet traditional at the same time, thus catering to all ages and demographics.
Maybe it’s the hiking trails, the little secret spots out of sight in the hills and mountains around us. Some of them have waterfalls, others have hidden lakes, and on Peavine there’s a small, concealed valley that’s heavily forested compared to the rest of the mountain. Above it is a wide, open, plateau that (at the right time of year) is covered by wildflowers of the most vibrant colors you’ll ever see. Off to the left, over- looking the small, hidden valley, and around a bend from the field of flowers, there’s a narrow ridge only wide enough for one person to comfortably walk. On the end of the ridge is a small, old, gnarled pine tree; growing out of the rocks. It’s the perfect size and shape to sit under and admire the view while being totally alone.
Or is it the sun? At this time of year, the sun is rising as I’m getting ready for work, and it’s setting as I’m driving home. In all the places that I've been, and all the beautiful sights that I've witnessed, few have been able to compare to the blush of Reno’s sky twice a day. I've seen the sunset (or sunrise) stretch across the entire sky at times, setting fire to every inch of atmosphere above the valley. People take pictures of the sunset over the ocean, or between sky scrapers, and other people find those pictures striking and wondrous, but it’s just not right for me unless I can see the silhouette of Peavine, or the outline of the Lady of Mt. Rose framed in red, pink, purple, and orange.
Then again, while Reno may be nothing more than a spot on the map, a home is something more. A home is the place that you share with the people you love. I may not have a large family and certainly not all of them live in Reno anymore. But my parents are still here, and (as a recent medical scare showed me) they mean the world to me. Then of course we take in to account my other family. My friends have become so much more than just friends to me. I spend more time with them than not, and I've built closer connections over the years with these people than many will ever experience in their lives. Both of my families have, quite literally, saved my life on more than one occasion.
So ultimately, what is it about this city, this pinpoint on the proverbial map, this place, my home? What is it that has me locked in place, with no intentions of leaving? Is it the bars, the culture, my families, the ground, the water, the air?
I love everything about it, from the dirtiest, grimiest gutter to the blindingly clean mountain peaks after a winter storm. I love the creek that we call a river, with the broken dam at Ambrose Park. I love the fact that when one bar closes at 2:00am, I can walk to the one next door, and that bar will still be open. I love the way the sky smolders like the apocalypse is moments away, twice a day. I love the hidden, natural treasures that can be found by simply picking a direction and walking. And I love the memories that I've made, but not as much as the memories that I know still can be.
I owe my life and my love to this city, and I won’t leave it until I've paid that debt, and if I have my way, that’s a goal that will never be reached.