The sun hangs low in the autumn Idaho sky, a dim glow that will give way to the dark, white tunnel of northern winter. The trees protest this wintry transition with a final blast of gold, orange and red. But the trees will relent and surrender their color to the cold as the salmon surrender their color to the river. In the Rocky Mountains in fall the barley bales are all stacked, the bow hunters weave lightly through the forest, and skiers dust off last year’s skis in anticipation of what is to come.
Meanwhile, 2,300 hundred miles away, the sun rises over an eastern city. The dawn erupts into a spectacle of comings and goings, Turkish coffees, concrete, and glass. Halal food trucks are prepped for the stampede of bankers, engineers, and millennials who grow hungry on the commotion. Californians, South Africans and STEM seekers wake up in one of America’s most diverse and fastest growing cities, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Back in rural Idaho, boxes are packed, closets are sorted, and preparations are made. In 2018, the 21 year Idaho experiment comes to an end. We will leave the rivers to the trout, the plains to the pronghorn, and the ski lifts to the zillionaires. The population of 2.4 million in the greater Charlotte metropolitan area will expand to become 2,400,003 as we load our belongings and two horses to head east.
The adventure starts now.
Two Californians, one Texan, and two equine Idaho natives will embark on a journey to the other side of the country. My company is expanding their marketing presence on the east coast and found an adventurous volunteer who would transfer. Hundreds of hours have gone into planning and executing this adventure, which at times, has been wrought with logistical difficulties. But finally, with the wind at our backs, and determination as our guide, we leave rural Idaho for the city in the east.
Culturally, Charlotte straddles not only the border of North and South Carolina, but also the old and new south. And it would appear that the new south is winning. The downtown feels like California 20 years ago: diverse, energetic and full of possibility. Downtown Charlotte feels very much more like a Canadian city than an American city.
Around Blaine County, Idaho people are keen on viewing the southern states with disdain. But while Blaine County gives a lot of lip service about diversity, the Carolinas are diversity. With the second largest Mormon population in the US, Idaho comes in at around 89.1 % white which makes a conversation about diversity rather awkward. The color and values of Idaho’s religious majority reflects into all aspects of culture, politics and business. In contrast, North Carolina’s 45 % non-white population results in a tapestry rich with texture and talent. In 2016, the Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina ranked 7th in STEM jobs among US cities. This emphasis on innovation draws Asian and Indian influences into food and dining. Nestled on the street level are cafes, cathedrals, Indian grocers and Trader Joes.
Twenty minutes south of downtown Charlotte, the Fort Mill area benefits from the energy of its border neighbor. But the urban interface recedes into horse ranches, parks, and lakes. Hike and bike trails wind along the banks of the Catawba River, and a 2,100 acre greenway, twice the size of New York’s central park, offers a refuge to horses and humans alike. It is in this green space where our Idaho horses will mix and mingle and conduct their daily horse business of grazing and napping.
No place is perfect and every place comes with its challenges. I find Idaho’s resistance to progress creatively stifling and am interested in giving someplace else a chance. The Charlotte area seems to have something for everyone in the two and four-footed, Lomax-Self entourage. I am excited for this bold career opportunity and the chance to travel and grow.
I have lived in the west. I have lived in the north. Now, we will live in the sky scraper, wine bar, horse ranch, hot, edgy, affordable south. Back in the Rocky Mountain west, the days will shorten, ice will form on the dew, high country elk bugles will be answered by the crack of rifles, and the newspaper will contain notices of very young people who died suddenly.
But this bird has flown, dragging my whole flock along with me. My little tribe. Returning to my larger tribe, the city with its big ideas and relentless pursuit of questions. After being a stranger in an odd land for too long, I am already gone. Or, as the profit once said, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
And finally, Muse just conveniently wrote the theme song to my adventure. Thanks Muse.