Emily Articlulated: Reasons to stay

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

For the past few months, I’ve held a question in my mind — not in the fleeting and up-front way I ponder what I want for lunch, or in the ruminating way I wonder about another person’s thoughts on a topic I care about. This question is one that’s quietly stayed with me, retreating into shadow every time I try to look closer at it, as if we’re both afraid of what we’d find in a head-on confrontation.

It’s the question of what my actual breaking point is — of what specific circumstances would tip me into longer being able to live in North Idaho — no longer relating to the place enough to call it “home.” 

This question pokes its head out with each headline describing our Legislature growing more extremist by the bill, with each young person packing up and shipping out to a new community in another state, and with each of my own growing concerns about the kind of future I could realistically have here.

Emily Erickson.

But, still larger and more looming than that question, is the fight that hasn’t drained out of me yet, nor the stubborn attachment I have to the first place in which I was inspired enough to put down roots. And sometimes, the act of writing and reflecting is also the process of rediscovering what I know. So, I’m sitting here, fingers hovering over my keyboard, determined to remind myself of all the reasons I know to stay.

There’s the obvious and omnipresent natural beauty. I spent time at Green Bay this week, and had the same breath-stealing moment I always do when looking out over the lake and onto the Monarchs; their impressive slopes seemingly pulled up from the water and held there by the sky. The clouds above them were tinted pink and gold, a painter’s brush slipping into a pastel palette before each white and gray stroke.

There was comfort in the familiarity of spring always seeming to bloom there first, its little patches of green emerging just to remind us that rebirth is possible, and that growth can be both small and resilient. 

I stood on the beach, trying to view the rocks through the same eyes with which I first saw them — my gaze rapt in wonder at how even stones, with their smooth, rounded edges and kaleidoscope of colors, were more beautiful here. 

Then there are the friends-turned-family, whose time I share in the makeup of my day-to-day life. They’re the people I call on to share the simple, mundane pleasures of taking a walk, making a meal or grabbing a coffee, and also the ones on whom I rely for helping process my big decisions, for celebrating the things of which I’m proud and for grieving the things I’ve lost. Also nearby is the family-turned-family, with both sets of my partners’ parents’ homes in close proximity to ours, with all the stability and comfort of “home” through each of their open doors.

There’s also the little house and the piece of land my partner and I get to call “ours.” Nestled into a grove of cedars, it’s the physical space he and I are crafting together, one weekend wood-working project at a time. It’s our playground for learning what our shared taste is; deciding which mix of his and mine feels perfectly and uniquely ours. 

Welcome and belonging radiates in the glow of our lamp lights through the windows at night, in the tendrils of smoke gently swirling out the chimney on a crisp winter morning and in the tail-wagging greeting of our pets at the fence when we get home from work.

Then, there are the social hubs — the third places that personify the heartbeat of the Sandpoint I love — curating community and gathering with each pulled up chair, bar stool and couch cushion. These establishments are like literal life rafts; places to go when I need to remember there are others who think and feel the same way I do, if only I position myself in the places they regularly engage. 

There’s alignment in the feeling of artwork on the walls, in music on a stage and in snatches of conversations about the things I also hold dear.  

Finally, there is the hope that this is just a moment in time, a charged few years in which our pendulum of change has swung too far in the direction of extremism, and will, inevitably, correct itself. There’s reason to stick with the belief in reason; that people will return to common sense so we can reestablish our common ground. 

In my reflection is also a hope for others, for the community members grappling with their own versions of my question, and that they, like me, are reminded of the many reasons we still have to stay.

Emily Erickson is a writer and business owner with an affinity for black coffee and playing in the mountains. Connect with her online at www.bigbluehat.studio.

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