Novelty, in the pastoral county of Geauga, is a lush and wild land of northeast Ohio. My earliest memories of the city are of train rides on the light rail to the terminal Tower in Downtown Cleveland. French brunt peanuts, those red bumpy candies, at the nut vendor as we arrived in the station. The old Higbee’s department store (featured in the classic movie, “A Christmas Story.”), lit up in holiday colors, and the signs and sounds of this hard place of glass, steal and brick. The city, the buildings, drew out my curiosity of city life.
High school offered a semester in Segovia, Spain, living with a family and attending classes to learn the language, arts and culture of Spain. This was a transformative travel adventure, and exploring the ancient cathedrals and churches opened up some nascent appreciation for architecture. The narrow, curvilinear streets and plazas full of the vibrant life of Spaniards fed my interest in vibrant city places. Baseline, medieval Europe.
Flying back, I drew a picture: series of concentric red circles, which now remind me of a Target logo, but were meant to represent economic zones in a city, an almost biological succession of city growth. The difference between the “maturity” of European cities (dense populated and vibrant on the interior circles, economically receding to the edge of tho city) to U.S. cities (strong in the suburbs, disheveled inner rings – remember, I grew up near Cleveland in the 1980’s). I put the drawing in a shoe box of memories of Spain and then went to college for biology.
I was in the marshes of western Lake erie, feeling along throughout the mud for life, for sample collections, surveying the health of the marsh, knowing there was something missing in my professional aspirations. After an internship at Blackwater National wildlife Refuge in Maryland, I moved to Madison Wisconsin, working as a food chemist. The lack of satisfaction grew. Out of listlessness, I discovered the profession of Urban Planning on the UW’s website, and remembered the red circle drawing from high school. This began an burgeoning realization in me that Urban Planning was the profession I was always meant to be involved in. The purpose of my life continues to be pushed towards this end. Oh my fits and starts!
It is my vision that we can build and live in compact, economically viable, culturally rich cites that are clean, and leave nature space to stay healthy. Our future is dependent on building cities in this fashion, and leaning once again to live in harmony with nature.