By Naomi Desilets, Phase I Fellow
Mondays start with stretching.
Whatever parts of my body that have not been fully woken up by coffee slowly come awake as we bend and stretch and get ready to begin another week, tending to our small patch of earth.
Mondays also mean weekly meetings.
These consist of reviewing what is coming up in the week ahead, trading off chore responsibilities, and walking through the garden, listing out tasks that need to be tended to.
But before jumping into this business, Monday meetings begin with a check-in question. Always a different prompt, this is a time to share how we are feeling, to share and get to know each other better.
With only six weeks left of Phase I, this week we were prompted to share what we were feeling grateful for.
There are many things that I am grateful for from my time at AMI, but I am most grateful for the people that I have met as a result of moving to this small Appalachian town.
Being an outsider entering a small, tight-knit community was a daunting thought. As a city-girl, I was used to the anonymity of walking around the city. The first time I went to pump gas at the local station, I was thrown off when people in town instantly knew I must be one of the new AMI Fellows. And yet, this small county has won over my heart.
Being up on a mountain, I assumed that we would feel isolated with only the other Fellows to turn to for community. How wrong I was. What I found was an amazing network of people ready to welcome us into the fold. Consisting of AMI alumni, Highland County natives, and “snowbirds” who live in Highland part-time, these people have warmly welcomed us, sharing this special place and bountiful harvests of food. All the Fellows have found community within our farmer’s market cohort, and some have expanded and gotten to know community members on other ways - through group sports (mainly Frisbee), getting involved with live music at the local cidery, co-hosting local radio shows, and going for hikes with locals who are excited to teach and share about their native Highland County.
Amidst all these wonderful people, I am most grateful for our local mentors, “mountain parents” as the Fellows affectionately call them, who have opened their homes to us. I want to thank my mountain parents, both official and the extra ones I picked up along the journey, for their countless Sunday lunches, patience, and wisdom. They have given advice when I had car trouble, shared countless cups of coffee and potluck dishes, sang songs, swapped gardening tips and told me stories of what the county was like years ago. In short, these special people helped make Highland become my home away from home.
Upon sharing that I would be staying in the county for 2020, they jumped into action, knocking on doors and calling people they knew, making the whole transition, for the first time, seem a little less daunting.