Sunday, July 3, 2016

Biking for oral histories (and fun)

Like a lot of people, I've changed a lot since I came to college. One of the things that has always been constant is how I feel about being outside. I love it; it's rejuvenating and beautiful and humbling. It reminds me that I'm so much smaller than I think I am. More recently, I have also fallen in love with community building, but more on that later.

This summer, I'm working on collecting oral histories of the lake, which means I get to have a lot of conversations with lots of people who have lived in the Red Cedar Watershed about how they've seen it change, as well as how that affects the surrounding community. It also means attending and observing various meetings that relate to the people of the Red Cedar Watershed. This weekend, there was one such meeting for the Kirby Lake District. The meeting is a little over an hour away by car, and I was originally planning on catching a ride from someone. But, the stars aligned and I couldn't get a ride; it took less than a minute to convince myself that biking there would be so much more fun.

Pleasant surprise: the view of the sunrise from a hilltop.
Besides being a fun adventure, it also meant that I got to spend even more time becoming acquainted with the land. After my eyes adjusted to the dark/the sun eventually came up, I saw deer, greeted a few cows, listened to bird songs, and passed many, many farm fields. I also saw lots of other people about enjoying the day: runners, bikers (shout out to the folks that happily greeted me with their bell - that was so nice around mile 45), walkers, as well as people pulling boat trailers on their way to enjoy the day.

So how does this connect to the research I'm doing? Based on seeing others who enjoy being outside and near the water, witnessing the concern that the members of the Kirby Lake District showed during their meeting yesterday, and talking with the people of the Red Cedar Watershed so far, it's clear that there is a community of people here who care about the lakes. It's home, it supports their businesses, it's a place to play, it's a place to be with the people they care about. Being a part of this research project brings together two of my favorite things in a new way: understanding the communities in the Red Cedar Watershed, and witnessing the care that so many have for the outdoors: for home (and, you know, if I can work a bike ride in there somewhere, I'm down for that too).

Shocked (and a little loopy) because I arrived at the meeting with time to spare, in spite of there being so many roads without signs....