Hello, one and all! This is Brian LeBlanc, the new Social Media and Technology Assistant with the CommUnity Zone, writing to you. I'm excited to be here, and excited to be part of things, and excited to be returning our blog to you folks! We're hoping that this will be a great space to let you all know what's new in the Susquehanna Valley, and for all of us to get to know each other a little better through what might be the best medium for it: storytelling.
I may be new to the CommUnity Zone and my direct involvement with Lewisburg, but I'm certainly no stranger to the area. I was born in Rhode Island, and spent my first 10 years in New England, mostly in western Massachusetts. But in 2006, my father was looking for a new job, and ended up finding a position in Pennsylvania, working for a college. He moved down to begin working while the rest of our family started packing and preparing to sell our house; I was the last to move because of commitments and opportunities with my schooling. By the end of the year, though, we were more or less set to move, and in January of 2007 we moved to a temporary home with my grandparents while we looked for a house to buy in proximity to Bucknell University.
Things ended up shaking out so I didn't move directly to Lewisburg - an older relative with property across the way from my grandparents' house ended up selling their house not long after we moved, and by the summer we were moving to that house up near Williamsport. That's where I lived all through the rest of middle and high school, but much of the entire Susquehanna Valley became familiar to me with time. My father worked in Lewisburg for Bucknell; I attended a summer camp in Mifflinburg; our church's synod assemblies, of which I was frequently a youth member, took place at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove. When I was looking for a college to attend myself, I visited schools up and down the East Coast, but ultimately the place that felt most at home was Susquehanna University, and so I spent four more of my most formative years in this wonderful area. And after a brief stint in Virginia, working at a few teaching jobs, I've found my way back to Williamsport and Lewisburg once more.
And what is it that's so drawing, so compelling, so simply beautiful about the Susquehanna Valley? I've explored it in the Creative Writing program at college, where a number of other students - locals and those from far away - felt the need to do the same. It may be one of those intangible feelings that eludes words. But there is something about this place that captivates and delights the people who spend any length of time here.
In part it must be the environment. The hills and forests and mountains that surround and occasionally punch through our valley lend a sense of hominess, a closeness and an enfolding security, as though the land itself wraps around us like loving arms. The fields and gulleys stretch for miles, green pastures that seem comforting under rain and sun alike. And, of course, the rivers: winding, burbling, constant things, the very heart and soul of the region, with the valley's namesake earning that distinction years after year. Water and rivers have always been the wellsprings of life, and all it takes is one morning or afternoon at the riverbank to realize how little that's changed in all our human years.
But more so than just a beautiful landscape, I think we boast, in our little Valley, a beautiful people. We have our struggles, to be sure, but it seems to me - having grown up in New England, and spent two years in Virginia - that the community of this region fits that word the best of any place I've lived. This is a place where people greet one another, where people know one another, where connections flourish. In the few weeks I've spent at the CommUnity Zone, it seems that every other day I meet someone new who's stopping by, often just to say hello.
This is a community: a place of neighbors and friends and families, a place of potluck dinners and local live music, a place of mornings and afternoons and evenings spent in backyards and at locally owned restaurants and down by the riverbanks.
This is home.