From the Editor // Savannah Nelson
Over the past few years, I’ve allowed parts of myself to seep into my editorial writing. Readers have seen the dimensions of my personal life as I’ve revealed bits and pieces; from my moments of inspiration to my weaknesses to my academic strides to my romantic life, I’ve created a window of observance. For all of these revelations and evaluations, there’s been a guiding factor through them all: growing up in a small town.
I wrote my first column in 2015 as Managing Editor of the Advocate, in a sacred space I titled “Altitude Adjustment.” I described the culture shock associated with my transition aptly: “my city size went from 5,000 to 2.9 million, my graduating class size increased from 72 to 10,000, and the elevation dropped from 7,703 to 5,280.” Here I am, a little less shook from the change, and a little more appreciative of my roots.
Small towns are something of an enigma. Experiences always vary, yet there’s still a dominant culture. For example, Leisure Editor Taylor Kirby reflects on her hometown experience as lousy, citing isolation and the breeding of intense bigotry. For former CU Denver student Alexis Bills, she looks back on her time in small-town of Fort Morgan, Colo. as eye-opening and family-oriented, with memories she’d never trade.
I can appreciate Gunnison for what it is: an incredibly small town with nothing to do and everything to keep outsiders away. Not only is there a constant “whose diesel truck is louder” in the Sonic Drive Thru, but there’s also a resistance to change that deflects even the slightest hint at growth. There’s an exclusivity that hangs over the surrounding mountains like a cloud. Amenities are a rare commodity—forget a movie theater, major shopping center (it’s 65 miles to the nearest Target), or more than one Starbucks. And yet, there’s a distinct charm, despite all of the pitfalls of living in a town that requires a treacherous mountain pass entry to get in and out.
From a geographical perspective, I’ve seen the glow of the sunrise from a mountaintop, and I’ve been inspired by the heart-stopping view of millions of stars lighting up an ebony sky. My backyard has been home to deer, elk, bears, and mountain lions, acting as a space that bridges the natural world and the human. Gunnison remains untouched by the cluttered arteries of urban living.
Socially, I grew up learning every intimate detail about my classmates, teachers, and people I only knew by association. I can tell you how well someone two grades above me works in a group on in a team setting—I probably worked on a project with them or played on the same basketball squad, and I still get updates from my dad on what they’re up to. On my last trip home, I saw my second grade teacher, who asked me how life at CU Denver was, if I still write, and if I was still riding around in that red sparkly jeep.
Gunnison will always hold a special place in my heart. My small town community is what makes that perilous, four-hour mountain drive worth the white-knuckles; that basin will always be home.