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All the Squirrels of Squirrel Hill

I left Pittsburgh long ago, have visited often, but never imagined moving back. REALLY never imagined moving back into the house I grew up in. All the “home is where the heart is” stuff served me well when imagining home in New York, in Santa Monica, in Boulder…but coming back to my roots is a very powerful garden to find myself replanted in.

I had an incredibly happy childhood. I was protected by a community of amazing families and friends who helped me dodge most of the emotional landmines. I grew up with such a powerful connection to love and joy that I never learned any other way. It may have been naive, but it is who I am. 

Wherever I go I am searching for that feeling I had growing up. Now bringing my whole adult life full circle is something completely different. I am now in a town with 5 different ways to get everywhere, and I know 4 of them before even looking at a map.

I did not move back to Pittsburgh to recreate my childhood.

I did not move back to be nostalgic or remember when. I was always afraid to spend much time looking back at what I did – but sometimes… it opens the door going forward.

I am learning that Pittsburgh commands a powerful boomerang force. It was important to have lots of wild adventures away from Pittsburgh. I am now returning with a gift for the town that raised me.

Note from Duane Micals earlier this year

It is funny reintroducing yourself to a place where you have both have changed in so many ways.  My goal is to share what I have learned out in the world. I want to say, “I have this gift to share”.  But how do I say that I am the gift?

When I told people who had never been to Pittsburgh I was moving back, they all told me that Pittsburgh is supposed to be amazing.  I would ask, “Why do you think that?”  No one had a really good answer…just a feeling.  Pittsburghers all agree it is a really great place to live.  I ask why.  I get lots of different answers – the new food scene, the Carnegie & Frick & Warhol museums, or all of Lawrenceville.  I got some bad stuff too – the racial divide, too much conservative thinking…no photo collectors.  What I missed were tales of the incredible soul the communities of this town are built around.  I feel there is an amazing story to be told here, and I want to be that storyteller.

When you make the really big decisions in life – your occupation, where you are going to live, getting married, having kids – it is all a huge leap of faith. How can you ever really predict how your future is going to unfold? My latest leap lands me here. I strive to explore what is beneath the surface of this place which I love.  My Pittsburgh project begins right now.

Photo of me by Francesca Woodman, from "The Woodmans" documentary, reflected in the hallway


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