mountains

Finding Community in Concord

· 5 min read ·

We were sitting on stools, bobbing to the string strokes and lyrics at “Celtic Night,” a monthly performance that celebrates English and Celtic tradition through live music, hosted by award-winning fiddlers Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki and Liz Faiella. The rows of chairs in front of us were nearly full and we found out (by a raise of hands) that most of the attendees were not here for their first time. I was taken aback by this growing group of Celtic music aficionados and the beautiful space that opened only last year. Indeed, The Bank of NH Stage was a long-vacant Concord Theatre up until July of 2018 when the Capitol Center for the Arts took it over.

Enjoying Celtic Night at The Bank of NH Stage in Concord
Enjoying Celtic Night at The Bank of NH Stage in Concord

I’ve been reflecting, as of late, on what it means to come back to a space I once knew. It’s one thing to travel to a new place, as we did across Western America and Europe this past year. It’s another to weave yourself back into the folds of your past community.

Up until I was two, my family lived in Allenstown, NH. We had a beautiful house that suffered from a very interesting neighbor situation: a man who raised pigeons. The pigeons, of course, didn’t know the property boundaries, so they frequently exercised their freedom to fly and make a mess. So my parents moved us 20 minutes away to Bow, New Hampshire. As I mentioned in my first post, “On Creative Living,” I’ve moved every year since high school, so Bow is the place that most aligns with the word “home.” Not only does the area encapsulate my most joyous and heartbreaking memories, it is also the birthplace of my most sustained relationships. Friends I met in elementary school are friends I text on a weekly (and even every-other-day) basis. One of my closest friends today is the same one that I tried to escape daycare with when we were 5. Therefore, I feel such gratefulness for this place… as well as the pigeons that helped us see the door out of Allenstown.

Easter in Allenstown, NH
Easter in Allenstown, NH

That said, ever since leaving for college in 2011, I haven’t been home in Bow for anything more than a few weeks. I came home on breaks, saw friends, hosted family parties, and maybe maybe ventured to downtown Concord for a special dinner out or to show relatives around. I have done very little in the way of experiencing or contributing to the greater community here — my role has been more akin to a seasonal tourist than an active resident.

When James and I arrived home from Europe at the end of August and decided to stay through Fall and the holidays (more on what’s after in a future post). I was excited about the prospect of more family (and pet!) time, less moving around and more alignment with my health, and finding out what the heck had become of my hometown area.

These days, Concord looks a little different than it did when I was growing up. Though most of the buildings in Concord went up in the second half of the 19th century (right after the railroad came to town), it’s recently seen a renaissance. In 2014, the City Council approved a 10 million dollar revamp of the historic downtown. As a result, Main Street boasts wider sidewalks, new lighting, public art, and gathering places. This once sleepy town now has a bustling shopping scene, long wait times for dinner on the weekend, a multitude of fitness options, and there’s always an event to catch — from concerts and political rallies to art showcases!

My dog Mango and my father enjoying the new roomy sidewalks of Concord
My dog Mango and my father enjoying the new roomy sidewalks of Concord

Since moving back to the area, I’ve taken a different approach to my community involvement and I have tried to be more of a contributing local. For one, I started teaching yoga at EVO Rock + Fitness, just a seven minute drive from my house. I remember getting my skis in high school from the S&W across the street, but EVO opened its doors the year after I went to college, in 2012. I also started taking barre classes at Pointe Barre Studio right on Hills Ave in Concord. This premiere studio looks like a place out of the South End of Boston or New York City. There’s even a separately owned, beautiful, spin studio called Strive on the floor below. I had the pleasure of training with the owner, Katie, for a few weeks this fall and will start teaching yoga classes at Pointe Barre in December (sign up here if you’re in the area!). Recently I attended a meeting for the “Bow Democrats” in the basement of the Bow Library. I remember when the basement of the library wasn’t even finished! Regardless of party, there is something special about gathering with your local community to discuss contemporary issues. Not to mention my cousin, Maura Sullivan, was our guest speaker! I also joined a Facebook group for Bow residents, which people use as a platform to ask questions or make announcements. Never did I ever expect that the community would use such a platform to connect with one another, and I think it’s totally awesome.

A photo from the Bow Democrats meeting, Maura is in the middle!
A photo from the Bow Democrats meeting, Maura is in the middle!

My high school self would not have guessed that an ideal Saturday would be to take a barre class, visit my favorite coffee shop (Revelstoke), shop for goods at the indoor winter farmer’s market, and hike in the Bow forest (thanks Bow Open Spaces!) Not only have I become a regular in Downtown Concord, I recognize the other regulars — from the guy with the two off-leash yellow labs, to the saxophone player that usually assumes his position near the corner of School St. and N Main St. I can barely recognize this version of Concord. Sure there are still notes of history and some of the same shops, but there’s a new buzz through the street, lines out the door for coffee, and dozens of vibrant sub communities to connect with.

She & Jim at Revelstoke in Concord
She & Jim at Revelstoke in Concord

I love to travel, to go somewhere unknown, to be unknown, to feel lost, and to discover new things about myself through new experiences. I also value community and the people that work so hard to make it so. It’s been such a gift to rediscover the area I grew up in and to contribute my own gifts to it. I’m grateful for this time to continue weaving myself into the fabric of this special place… before the next adventure!

Being home means more time to fawn over our pets, like my cat Quil
Being home means more time to fawn over our pets, like my cat Quil
Being home means I get to see my sister off to Pharmacy school!
Being home means I get to see my sister off to Pharmacy school!
Being home means coffee dates with one of my mom’s BFFs/ the mother of one of my oldest friends (yes the same one I tried to escape daycare with)
Being home means coffee dates with one of my mom’s BFFs/ the mother of one of my oldest friends (yes the same one I tried to escape daycare with)
Being home means we get to go to the market each weekend and take Mango on a field trip
Being home means we get to go to the market each weekend and take Mango on a field trip
Being home means being around for visits from family, like my cousin Sarah
Being home means being around for visits from family, like my cousin Sarah
Being home means sipping kombucha out of wine classes with my childhood friends on the weekends
Being home means sipping kombucha out of wine classes with my childhood friends on the weekends
It's us!

Adventure travel blog by James Simone & Sheila Murray. Travel along with them on their backpacking trip(s) as they actively explore the American West, Europe and beyond:

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