By Paige Crenshaw, Rural Organizing Project
At RARE orientation, I remember looking around the room as our fearless program leader, Titus, stressed that this room contained our new best friends. As he went on explaining the RARE “family” I remember chuckling to myself. Not that I didn’t think I would become friends with the others in my cohort, but because the word family felt over-the-top. A bit comical, even.
My oh my. How that has changed! In the many months since that initial meeting, I’ve crisscrossed the state of Oregon, visiting RARE friends from northeastern Oregon to my new home in the south. I’ve traversed snowy mountain passes and made my way to the coast and gotten a flat tire here and there. I’ve seen the cowboys of Lakeview and sang karaoke in Roseburg and watched the sun go down over Pendleton. I’ve spent many an evening in the Applegate Valley drinking wine and looking at the stars with the best friend I could ever ask for.
I drove down to the coast a few months ago with another RARE member and friend. It was incredible. Oh, goodness. Erica and I sat on this little rock ledge overlooking the most insane ocean landscape. We both are from the Midwest, and were always marveling at the open sky and bigness of it all. We had spent the afternoon laughing and walking around the mystic redwoods. Between bites of slightly-stale Gardeto’s and chocolate-covered granola, I remember looking at the grandness of the landscape in front of us in silence. I burst out laughing in pure amazement as they turned to me and said, “How the hell did we get here?”
The RARE community organically lends itself to cultivating intense and inspiring relationships. When hearing uniquely talented minds talk about the nature of our world, its people, and its cultures, we can become transformed and inspired, both personally and professionally.
If you’re looking to join the RARE program, remember that wherever you land, you exist in such a unique place in the world. You are able to put yourself in the way of beauty every single day, intentionally or not. Please don’t let yourself lose sight of that. Learn to trust yourself and to appreciate the closeness of the RARE community. Try not to wait until your last couple of months to notice the special place you’ve chosen to spend a snapshot of your life. But also remember that the world is vast and inviting outside of a small rural Oregon town, and the work you will do after RARE, whether it be as a city planner, educator, farmer…is so important.
About the author, Paige Crenshaw: Originally hailing from Chicago, IL, Paige studied Sustainable Community Development and Sociology & Social Justice at Northland College in Ashland, WI. After working on both urban and rural farms of different scales during her undergraduate years, Paige developed her own food ethic and understanding of what the relationships between and across food, soil, regional development means for community resilience and long-term sustainability. This understanding led her to explore other facets of community work, spanning multiple sectors — public health, sustainable food systems, and cross-community collaboration. Paige is thrilled to dig into potential and existing possibilities for community development in Southern Oregon. Paige is also jazzed about swimming in natural bodies of water, tidal pools, contra dancing, and garlic.