Yesterday, movers came and packed up all my belongings in a mere three hours, and I’m sitting on an air mattress looking out at my empty flat. My heart hurts as I think about leaving the place that has been my home for four years. Lots of people have been asking me if I’m excited for my move to Arkansas, and the answer is without a doubt yes. I’m excited to start my new job, to get to know my new colleagues, to explore a different part of the country. But right now, I’m sad to leave Syracuse.
It goes without saying that the university—more specifically, the Writing Program and the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program—has been so important to me as I pursue my Ph.D. But it’s not just that. Syracuse itself has been important to me. I’ve lived in different cities and states each time I go to a different school, but it’s not the same. In college, I was sick and depressed that my mom was dying, and in my Master’s program, I was sick and depressed that my mom had died. It wasn’t until I moved here that I started healing, coming to terms with myself, thriving.
So this is my ode to Syracuse–not to Cuse Nation but to the Salt City.
Because Syracuse helped me get through four years of a Ph.D. program.
Because even though people at the university crap on the city, the people here are genuine, the living is cheap, the access to fresh food and gorgeous parks is excellent, and the seasons are unbelievable.
When I was accepted to the program here (in January 2011), my family members took turns calling me to bug me about the horrible winters. I’ve learned the value of good, waterproof snow boots (both for me and my dog). And I’ve learned the beauty of walking outside at midnight right after a good snow and just listening to the stillness in the air and watching the millions of glittering snowflakes sparkling under the streetlights. The still beauty of a fresh snow is difficult to capture in words.
And although this past winter was too much (-30 and 4 feet of snow?), the springs and summers are perfect. Syracuse is the first place I’ve lived where the people in my neighborhood have flowering trees. The first spring I walked through the Westcott neighborhood, I felt like Snow White as I tried to tip toe across petals lining the sidewalks from trees that had become too heavy with blossoms.
Despite complaints from friends from larger cities, Syracuse has given me so much delicious food: Indian (Dosa Grill), hipster faux-Mexican food (Alto Cinco), tapas (Laci’s Tapas), donuts (Serres Donut Shop), lemon custard and sea salt ice cream (Gannon’s), vegan milkshakes (Strong Hearts), and the absolute best coffee (Recess). Syracuse taught me the joys of getting fresh vegetables delivered once a week through a CSA and consequently ruined grocery store produce for me. And the most delicious peaches I’ve ever eaten can be found at the CNY Regional Market.
Syracuse has shown me beautiful lakes, parks, and outdoor festivals. Every time I go to Green Lakes, I find myself taking the same photo from the same spots along the leisurely walking trails because it always seems more beautiful than the time before. Even just the rose garden in Thornden Park by campus is worth going to again and again. I have looked forward to going to the Lafayette Apple Festival every October, which is nestled into a valley and is home to the most delicious apple fritters you could ever hope to eat. And I’m thankful to be within driving distance of so many great state parks (Chimney Bluffs, Letchworth, and Robert H. Treman are definitely worth checking out).
Syracuse showed me a community of nurturing activists who proudly display “Don’t Frack NY” signs in their yard, who stand up for what they believe in regardless of whether that means getting arrested, and who work to educate community members during events like the Westcott Cultural Fair.
Syracuse showed me a community of incredible crafters and artists, and I’ve loved following the works of these folks at the Salt Market, Pepper Market, the Westcott Art Trail, and the Syracuse Arts and Crafts fair.
Syracuse showed me a community of the most dedicated pit bull and dog advocates I’ve ever seen. The people who dedicate their time at Helping Hounds, Cuse Pit Crew, and the CNY ASPCA are angels without wings. I am forever thankful to Helping Hounds for rescuing Queenie who I was then able to adopt three years ago.
I am thankful to Camille at the Bed N Bowl in Chittenango for opening her home to board dogs. I took Q to The Bed N Bowl for the first time two years ago when I flew to Minnesota. I was intimidated by all the dogs barking from inside the house, the cluttered yard, the barn with a screwdriver holding the door in place. But Camille was immediately a calming presence, and I was so grateful for all the text updates about all the friends (and boyfriends) Q was making. When I couldn’t take Q home with me this past Christmas, it hurt, and I knew Camille was the only person who would understand that I wanted Q to have a nice Christmas, too.
I am thankful to Renee and Sarah at Best Paw Forward for taking Q into their daycare and helping her feel safe around other dogs again after she was attacked by a dog on a trip to Michigan last year.
I am thankful for the folks at Mother Nature Pet Supply for often knowing better than my vet and for one time spending an hour trying to fit Q for a new harness.
I am thankful for the evenings I have spent sitting on my porch watching dogs play in the field across the street, sipping a cold drink, and feeling the breeze blow. I am thankful for my neighbors who stop and talk to me when I walk to and from campus. I am thankful to have been part of such a weird and interesting community of students and teachers and activists.
I am thankful to have lived in a place that allowed me to become comfortable with myself as a teacher, scholar, dog-owner, neighbor, and parallel parker. A place where I felt safe coming to terms with myself and my anxieties and my depression and my needs, to advocate for myself and to others.