As Jim and I cleaned out his office in preparation for his retirement, I spent the better part of two days sitting on his floor surrounded by newspaper clippings, meeting minutes, event flyers and even the former director’s diaries, all dating as far back as 1961. As I was sitting in the chaos, a thought began to form: Why am I here? Why did I take this job? Why do I do the conservation work that I do? Those pieces of paper held passion. Vision. A people moved.  What was my reason?

After sitting on that thought for a few weeks, here’s what came to me.

The very first friend I made in college was a girl named Cassie from Boulder, Colorado. She and I both had a hard time transitioning to the Northeast. In fact, we were miserable our first year. I clearly remember a conversation we had early on while sitting on her green floral bedspread. 

Cassie said, “I miss my mountains. The red clay. The rocks. This place feels foreign.”

Cassie ended up transferring home to University of Colorado at Boulder after that first year. She returned home not just because she was having a hard time making friends or adjusting to the difference in lifestyle. She went home because roots are about family and about place. I think I survived those first rough years at Smith College mostly due to the similarities in landscape and the huge emphasis Smith College puts on natural beauty as a nationally recognized arboretum. The Berkshires didn’t feel foreign. While they weren’t my mountains, the green, lush, humid hills resembled home. 

So, what am I getting at here?

I took this job at TRGT before I even realized my why. After meeting Sarah and Rick, it felt right. But when I prodded that “right” feeling, it had much more to do with my connection to this land than I realized. “Right” was about sitting on my Nana’s porch swing and seeing Walden Ridge. Being able to stand in my front yard in Dunlap and feel cradled by the Cumberland Plateau that forms the Sequatchie Valley. Driving everyday through the forest of Signal Mountain to get to Girls Preparatory School. 

My why is this place. I returned home to Chattanooga because I missed my family and I missed my mountains. I took this job to ensure that my daughter and her daughter will someday be able to say “my mountains.”


As this blog develops, I’ll have others post their whys. If you have a why you want to share, please send it to me at