Keeping it neighborly
Last updated 12/27/2022 at Noon
2023 will mark 30 years that my wife Marilyn and I have lived in Sisters.
Newly-married in 1993, we were California refugees, getting out of a state that had gone rotten with riot and congestion. We grew up on the fringes of the great concrete jungle, so we were oriented toward mountains and ponderosa pines, and we found what we were looking for in Sisters.
We chose the place because Marilyn had a job offer from Phil Arends, who operated a thriving travel agency called Desert Wings Travel. Times they were a-changin’ though. The advent of the Internet and the hammer blow of 9/11 revolutionized the travel industry, and now, except for boutique outfits, travel agencies are a relic of an earlier age. Phil Arends reinvented his career, and is a successful real estate agent; Marilyn moved into the medical field and now works for an ear-nose-and-throat clinic in Bend and Redmond.
Change is inevitable, and we adapt and overcome.
Over three decades, we’ve seen a lot of changes in Sisters.
When we got here and moved into a double-wide trailer right across the street from Sisters Elementary School, there were fewer than 700 people living within the city limits of Sisters.
And those city limits were smaller than they are now.
The downtown retail zone was a cluster of mom-and-pop operations, and the Industrial Park was really just getting started.
There was no sewer system, so there were significant limits on what a person could do with their property.
Sisters Middle/High School was just a year old, located at what is now just the middle school — and people were thrilled to have high school students back in town for the first time in decades.
A lot of the change and growth in the subsequent decades has been beneficial. Sisters always punched well above its weight in creating cultural events, and now we’re internationally renowned for our Rodeo, our arts and music events, our business innovators. Not without struggles and hard times, we’ve created schools that have helped launch our children out into a challenging and rapidly changing world.
A diverse cadre of people has made Sisters their home; some have built thriving businesses and careers in everything from engineering to building world-class musical instruments. Many of them have volunteered in roles from building trails to mentoring children.
When you work for a small-town newspaper, you get an up-close view of community conflicts, and Sisters has had its share. Some of them have gotten pretty mean-spirited. But most of the time, even in the midst of turmoil, Sisters has been a neighborly place, where people pitch in and help each other, lift their community up, and take on sometimes daunting challenges in a spirit of working for a common good.
Folks who have been here for a while sense that Sisters is at another crossroads —maybe a tipping point —where our identity as a community is at risk. There’s a paradox that every good place faces, when you hit a point where what is good in your community and environment attracts so many people to enjoy it that you risk losing the very qualities that brought the multitudes to your doorstep.
For many folks, it feels like Sisters is there.
Marilyn and I have been blessed to live here for the past 30 years, and we’ve tried to contribute to the manifest good of this place. We have cherished memories here, and treasured friendships.
Honestly, we weren’t drawn here so much for the attractions of small-town life.
We wanted woods and mountains, and we got ’em.
But you can’t be in a place like this for long without finding your place in the warp and weft of community.
What I have come to prize most about Sisters is a seemingly small quality — but I firmly believe that everything good flows from it.
Taking a minute to stop and talk to someone you haven’t seen for a while.
A wave and a howdy from across the street — to someone you’ve never seen before.
Two trucks stopping on Main Avenue, the drivers shooting the breeze, with traffic just moving around, with nobody thinking to honk their horn.
That kind of neighborliness is hard to maintain when there are thousands of people around, with a lot on their mind and their agenda. But it’s a critical element of who we are, and who I, at least, hope we can remain. That takes mindfulness — but we’re pretty good at that around here. So, here’s my New Year’s resolution: Let’s keep Sisters neighborly.
Editor in Chief