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Go West

June 22, 2012

In honor of my upcoming trip to Seattle, WA/Prescott, AZ, here is a blogpost about my two homes:

I listened to this really great podcast a while back about a guy who grew up in Iowa and later moved to Montana. He explained that he always thought of the West as some mythic place of endless possibilities where mountains shape the horizon and people are tough and rugged. He pointed out that if he hadn’t grown up in the Midwest, typically characterized by flat, unassuming farmland, he would not appreciate the grandiose surroundings of mountains and extensive vistas that line the left coast.

It got me thinking about the story of my family, and how my parents dropped their lives and values formed by the Midwest to take their chance in the West – to raise a family, start a business, and eventually wind up with two kids that took that mentality and extended to the rest of the world.

In the early 90’s, my dad was hiking Zion in Utah with some of his buddies and literally came across a brochure for Prescott, Arizona, bragging about its hometown charm and old west aesthetic. A couple of years later, the Rudder family moved.

Now, fourteen years later, Bruce (my father, who mostly doesn’t mind that I call him by his first name) runs a successful business, picks his own hours and both he and Jane get to hike and mountain bike to their hearts’ content. It is pretty amazing how my parents built their lives up from scratch. It really embodies the go west mentality of seeking new opportunities – a new life – in a landscape that constantly reminds you how small you are.

Prescott is a rough, high-mountain desert town that consists of Ponderosa Pines on one end, and rocky, cactus-filled yards on the other. It’s sunny 360 days a year (my estimate) and depends on the ever-scarcer monsoon season to bring the rains every July-August. I never tire of the Arizona sunset, starry nights, and love to think back on the lightning storms that lit up the sky in the distance as seen from our back deck. However, I have to admit that it took moving to Seattle to appreciate those distinctive aspects of my dear hometown. I sometimes wonder what makes someone tire of the landscape that surrounds them throughout their youth and trades it in for something different, and in my case, even opposite of what their used to.

I still have the ability to drive around the Northwest and think “Wow, it is so green here.” The lush surrounding of evergreen forest, vines, ivy, ferns, and moss still captivates me. Don’t even get me started on how awesome I find the leaves changing in the fall. I imagine that many Seattlites think little of the absolute emerald that saturates the Emerald City. I love a grey-sky day but also appreciate when the sun peaks out over Olympic Mountains as seen from the beach in Ballard. The coffee is always dark and the food is often local. It’s where I’ve decided to call home because I connect with its aesthetic. It is where I was fully formed as an adult with a love and eagerness to be outside and an even greater eagerness to know the world. Today, while joking with friends, I offered to write a haiku about how my love of the city:

Though you rain so, much

Flannel and coffee abound

I love the Puget Sound

Something about the West Coast… Now both my brother and I are the black sheep of our Prescottonian friends. Lately, I’ve taken to describing him as a nomad because of his ability to float and fit in wherever he goes – regularly a fisherman in Alaska, once a bike-commuter in Portland who built an art gallery on an old fishing vessel, occasionally a microfinance economist working in rural Kenya, and presently a straight up nerd-o Energy Economist with the federal government in DC who moonlights as a playwright.

Either way, we both are always saving up money to spend on travel. While my approach may be differentiated by a little more structure (study abroad programs, cultural exchanges, and of course, Peace Corps), we are no doubt driven by the same lust for new and love for exploring. I believe that it has a lot to do with the seeds planted by our parents to take on wherever we define our west to be.

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