Leave it to a kid, born and bred in Callicoon, to school me on the fine points of what it means upstate to be truly ‘local’. “There are different types of locals: the ones who have been here for generations, the ones who were born here but their parents were from somewhere else, the ones who moved here and have lived here most of their lives, and then there are the recent locals, the ones who have lived here for one or two decades…but, they’re not really local.” So far so good, but then came the remark that got to me: “The crazy thing is, they don’t like each other!”

Why? We’re all here for the same reasons. It’s beautiful. It’s close enough to the city—if that matters—and it’s affordable. And yet, there seemed to be a distinct stratification of ‘localness’ in every town. Is it because we look different? Is it because we have different political views? Is it about money? Or simply, is it because we are averse to change?

As a recent convert, I’ve encountered some resistance, mostly subtle, some of it maybe just in my head. When I first moved here, I swore everyone seemed unfriendly. “They don’t like me,” I would grumble to my husband every time I came home from the local market. “They’re nice to me,” was his reply. “You just have to smile more.” I shrugged off his comment and told him he didn’t understand.

But then one day, something happened. The checkout lady at the market smiled at me. The next time I shopped there, she smiled again and we talked about the weather. Not long after, my interaction with everyone at the market became friendlier. Amidst breaking tensions, I realized it was my own insecurity of being a new local that made me uneasy. It wasn’t that the checkout lady had something against me; she just didn’t know me—and the feeling went both ways.

Whether you’re a born and bred local or a more recent transplant what we all have in common is that we just want to be acknowledged for who we are, what we do, or how we contribute to our community. That’s what this issue is about. It’s about getting to know and recognizing those who’ve spent decades here, those who have circled back to their place of birth, and those who are newer to discover the richness of rural living. We’re all motivated by the same desire to make this region a better place.

This issue is about celebrating locals. Producing it introduced me to wonderful, productive characters who are enhancing, in ways big and small, their communities and expanding my understanding of what it means to be a local. Perhaps one of the oldest residents in Sullivan County, NY said it best: “If you live here, you’re a local.” Wise words from a generous soul.

Nhi Mundy