Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Love Letter to Raleigh

In the last days of 2009 Kirk and I moved from Oakland California, where we had lived for ten years, to Raleigh North Carolina. Though we had made a trip out to check out the area in July, we essentially knew nothing about our new home. I got a lot of warnings from well-intentioned friends and family about how conservative it would be, so much less diverse than the Bay Area, how much I would dislike the hot & sticky summers, that the infamous southern politeness would be a barrier to deep friendships.

Lake Merritt, Oakland

Raleigh as it turns out is a great city, diverse partly because of the five universities, which draw students and faculty from around the country and the world. And though it is a city, with plenty of interesting cultural events and food, there’s also a sense of a blurry division between it and the surrounding farmlands and wild areas. For someone who was born and raised in the city it feels like a minor miracle to step outside my door in the morning with the dogs and hear the swell of birdsong and insistent staccato insect calls.  With the heat, humidity, summer rain and teeming animal life (ugh, those cockroaches!) it feels seductively semi-tropical which catches my heart in a way dry, mediterranean California never did.

Our front yard in Spring, summer morning visitor

It’s also a great city for artists and small business, because Raleigh loves to support local. I’ve met an astonishing number of folks like myself, making their livings as creative entrepreneurs in a wider community which is also astonishingly supportive. Plus they are great folks to hang out with. At the risk of getting link happy, here are just a few:

The lovely Kelly Smith-Tilly of Tiny Peepers

Multitalented Michelle Scouten Smith

Liz Esser of Haden Designs, I’m lucky enough to have some of her jewelry

The best hairdresser ever and my yoga buddy Christie Killette Taylor

Debbi (she makes those birdhouses!) and Paige, fellow dog lovers and the pair that matched us up with our new puppy Stella

Picture of said Stella, just ’cause I can’t help myself:

Fellow seamstress Bliss Alexander-Smith

Painter, soap maker and textile designer Eileen Chavalier

Sisters and shop owners Cheryl, Katie and Leeann

Bakers Tanya and Matt of Yellow Dog Bread

See?? And I could go on!

My landlords, my neighbors, my customers are all welcoming, generous, warm, interesting and fun people. Sure, I get the occasional sideways glance from someone because of my tattoos, but just as often I get complimented on them. Here’s where the tradition of politeness comes in handy – looks are really all you are going to get. No sanctimonious commentary ala the Bay Area (now I love the Bay too, but you know it’s true). And sure, my yoga teacher at the YMCA often ends our classes with a reading from the bible rather than closing with the kirtan I had come to adore at Loka but I don’t really mind (it is the YMCA after all). Even if I did I would hope to take a page out of my adopted city’s book and be too polite to say so.

This week the aforementioned Michelle emailed me and asked me to share a booth with her at Raleigh Wide Open , an annual day-long celebration of the city that takes place downtown and draws tens of thousands of residents. We didn’t make much money, but we had a lot of fun and spent most of the day laughing. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday!

Our booth

Our booth (insert sound of crickets here) and the booth next door, where the weather man from WRAL was signing autographs.
We had a front row seat for the parade, and the breakdancing competition:

The temperature was a balmy 77 degrees, though it did drizzle off and on (which, as Liz pointed out, the WRAL weather man got wrong!).

I took waaayy too many photos to post here, but they are up on my Flickr site.

Even though Kirk and I have only been here for six months, it really does feel like home.

10 Responses to “Love Letter to Raleigh”

  1. Norman Ross Powers

    Since we were just talking about your Raleigh post, Oami, I’ll add your remark to me that, “It’s the first place I’ve lived where it rains more in the summer than in the winter!” You were refering to the frequent thunderstorms which roll through, uninvited. The phenom sounds exotic and refreshing to me (here in CA) and a dream for those with gardens….no watering!

  2. oami powers

    Not too much! The bane of K’s life is the lawn, which you can almost see growing….plus I love the drama of the thunder storms.

  3. kelly smith-tilly

    I loved reading your Love Letter to Raleigh. I’m glad you like it here because I want you to stay put–I’m so glad we are friends.

  4. Jacquelyn Marie

    Oami, I am so happy that you have made such good, creative, lovely friends there. I checked out all their websites and love their creations.

    Still miss you though but will make a trip there sometime this coming year.

  5. oami powers

    Kelly & Michelle – me too!!
    Jacquelyn – I miss you too, that’s the bitter sweet part, all the friends and family back on the west coast….

  6. modaspia

    it makes me so happy to hear you say all this ’cause of course i hoped you’d love it there. i dig that picture of your yard and that beautiful moth. stella is so cute and sly looking, the little paper shredder who won your heart recently. i want to come out there too – me n’jeremy (sans the brats). i was born in NC !

  7. ruchapowers

    Of course you’ve found the cool design folks to connect with!! Thanks for sharing their links, I especially liked Little Peepers, and lord knows I could use some new dish towels. I’m so glad you are getting settled in and are making lady-friends.. I love you, and despite the fact that they confiscated my dread wax at the airport, I love Raleigh!

  8. Meg

    Look forward to hearing from you in regards to my order and it is our fortune to have you in Raleigh. Our gain for sure.


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