February 20, 2018
Calling Duluth Home
by Sara Cole, President and CEO of Duluth Family YMCA
I’m new here. I have come to understand that I should not say that too often or too loudly (or maybe at all), but I think it may be evident in the confused look that I often wear while trying to determine in which direction I should walk through the skywalk downtown or when I am verifying the correct way to pronounce “Cloquet.” I arrived here with my car full of boxes (and a dog and cat) just in time for the late-October snow storm, proud to join the amazing team of staff and volunteers at the Duluth Area Family YMCA.
These days, I drive down into Duluth each morning and feel lucky to see the stunning vista of Lake Superior unfurl before me. I find myself an eager Midwesterner, one who has already told more than one person that the air “just feels cleaner here.” And one who has come to think of 30 degrees as relatively warm. I already have a favorite dish at a local restaurant, a preferred local coffee shop, and a set of snow tires. I have even managed to learn which city streets give me the best chance of making it safely downtown on the snowiest of days. But I have only been here for 115 days; Duluth still has much more to teach me.
In the months before I moved here, I was lucky enough to speak with a number of generous Duluthians who spoke of their city with such love and with such exuberant passion that I could not help but fall under its spell even before I had ever been here in person. Their stories varied—some of them had lived here their entire lives, some had grown up here and moved away only to come back, and some had found themselves here, initially for a year or two, but ultimately felt as though they never wanted to leave. Regardless of the details of their individual journeys to Duluth, each person claimed Duluth as their own and never wanted to leave.
I cannot claim Duluth as my birthright. In fact, I have called a number of cities home. What I can claim unequivocally is my joy in learning the nuances of a new city, in discovering the character in its local lore, in reveling in its holiday traditions. I am an eager student, and love each new fact and piece of locale lore I gather. With each passing day, the topography of Duluth’s stories and its history come more fully into view for me. My infatuation with Duluth’s smallest details is a bit like the heady, early days of falling in love, when even the most complex nuance seems charming and you find yourself rhapsodizing about all that makes your beloved so unique.
I’ve been collecting all the recommendations so generously showered on me. I am going to do my best to check out every scenic overlook, hike every trail, and visit every park; I am going to watch the big ships come in, turn out for the annual Christmas parade, and cheer for UMD hockey. I’m going to go ice fishing and maybe even eat some lutefisk. I am going to work as hard as I can to understand how I can be of service to Duluth, and how the YMCA can continue being a trusted and valuable resource for all members our community. Most of all, I am going to keep reaching out, asking questions, and admitting that yes, I am new here. And I have a lot to learn. But what a gift to ask and be answered. What a gift to have come so far and find myself at home.