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West Linn has shaped me in numerous big and small ways. I cannot imagine growing up anywhere else

TIDINGS FILE PHOTO - Anisha Arcot West Linn has shaped me in numerous big and small ways. I cannot imagine growing up anywhere else.

As I reflect on my experiences in this wonderful little town, I know that the person I am today has been defined by this caring, kind and generous community.

I cannot thank this city and its residents enough for the wonderful memories that I have amassed through everyday interactions with people in parks, grocery stores, coffee houses, my school and much more.

Truth be told, nothing miraculous happened. There was no crisis that required community support. There is no single wonderful, life-altering story that I can tell to illustrate the kindness of my town. However, I can tell a million small stories of people who did the little things every day that made another person's day special.

I feel connected to this town, this community and the very land itself. I will be physically leaving West Linn and heading to college this August but I will carry the giving and caring spirit of this town with me wherever I go.

One of my college essays asked me to reflect on a location that has been meaningful to me and as I did, I wrote the following piece about my life as a little girl in the Petes Mountain area of West Linn.

Nate (name changed to protect privacy) and I lie with Zippy at our feet. The ground feels soft, almost like a velvet blanket beneath us. It is a bit moist and we seem to sink into it. The earth feels alive and full of promise. The branches of the oak above sway gently in the breeze and the sun plays hide and seek with us.

We roll around in the dirt, giggling as we try to hide from the golden light. We have lost our shoes and dirt covers every part of us. Zippy looks more like a black lab than a golden retriever. He is taking his cue from us and rolling around in dirt after running in the creek.

Our fingernails are black and broken. We have been digging with our hands and with broken old branches. We are exhausted. Digging our way to China is not easy.

Despite months of work we are no closer to seeing anyone remotely Chinese. Progress has been slow but the hole is a few feet deep thanks to the soft earth. We have even dropped some candy down the hole in the hopes of encouraging the Chinese kids on the other side to dig harder. We know we can't do it alone.

We don't make it to China. Nate figures out that 7-year-old boys don't have girls for best friends and we drift apart.

I return diligently to work at the dig site for a few months but eventually I give up. I write a letter to our future Chinese friends who might still be digging and drop it in the hole. I drop in a note for Nate, too. He needs to know I am abandoning ship. I place some branches on top to hide the hole.

Living in the country lends itself to adventures that stick with you and shape you. For years I have done my homework under the oak tree with Zippy by my side. I drop many letters down that hole — letters about friendship, heartbreak and my Christmas wish list, followed by my thank you note to Santa. I fold the notes into the tiniest size I can and down the hole they go.

Zippy gets tired of waiting for the Chinese dog. He passes away and I am alone. I scatter his ashes beneath the oak tree and she hears me weep.

I write a letter to Zippy and tie a rock to it before dropping it down the hole. I want to make sure that it makes its way to all the other letters.

I return the next day. I tell the tree that I miss Zippy and she whispers "tell him." I move the branches that cover the hole and lay down once more on the soft wet earth. I roll around in the dirt. Zippy would be proud. I roll over onto my tummy and put my face close to the hole. I whisper all my secrets into the hole. They will find Zippy.

I sit up and kick off my shoes. I lean against the rough comforting bark of the tree and breathe in the cold fall air. Here I feel free and safe.

Anisha Arcot is a senior at West Linn High School.

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