Humans of Hillsborough: Bruce Nelson

How long have you been in Hillsborough?

Bruce: “That’s a good question. Probably 19 years.”

What brought you here? Have you always lived in North Carolina?

Bruce: “No, I lived out in Washington state for a while, went to undergraduate school at the University of Washington, so my first, maybe 15 years here, I thought I was moving to Seattle, truly. I kept thinking, I’m just organizing to go, and some years ago I worked at South Elementary School in Person County and I was commuting from Chatham. I would drive through Hillsborough. I kept trying to find different ways to go that were more interesting than the interstate. I kept experimenting and eventually Ikept coming through Hillsborough and I thought, ‘Gosh, this is a cool place.’ It just felt right. That was probably the mid 90s. I just liked, as my daughter would say, the ‘vibe.’ I just liked the people, the literary aspects and the nature – you can get out and about.”

So you did undergrad in Washington, then did you move to North Carolina?

Bruce: “No, no. I’m a therapist and I’ve gone back and forth a bunch. My parents have land up in the mountains, and my dad had taught at Appalachian State when he retired. Dad taught in the business department and then I did a did a Master’s in clinical psych up there. Then I worked in rural mental health back in the days when it first was under these big grants, so it was really supported.”

“I ended up getting this job in the school working with traumatized kids, and time means everything, because then I got accepted at Carolina and had to quit the job that I tried so hard to get,” he laughed. “But I wanted to do clinical social work, so I quit that job and still thinking when I got that degree I would kind of head out somewhere. But one thing I like about this town is just people are constantly going or coming back from somewhere. It has a feel, to me anyway, the feel of the west. The only thing missing in this town, in my opinion, are snow covered mountains, the geography, just something more Colorado-esque, or more recently, I’m obsessed with Iceland.”

Why Iceland? 

Bruce: “I took my daughter over there for her graduation present…The light over there is just magical, of course, it didn’t get dark the whole time we were there…I was actually in Cup-A-Joe one day talking about Iceland and I kept yakking about it and finally I thought, ‘Ah man, I need to go.’ I’m obsessed with it again. But now I’m trying to get over there in the darkness to see the northern lights.”

Have you seen them before?

Bruce:  “I’ve only seen them once and it was on Mount Rainier [in Washington]. A bunch of us were climbing it and it was the most amazing of all things experienced.”

What is one of the coolest things you’ve experienced in Iceland?

Bruce: “There were so many, it’s hard to say. But climbing a glacier. There were maybe eight people, as diverse as I could imagine.The leader was real energetic. We got up to a segment near this blue ice, and it was so beautiful and he kept sort of pushing the group, it wasn’t as physically rigorous, but you know, we were up in serious glaciers with all kinds of beautiful colors of ice, and looking out, it never got dark the whole time, it was just magical…We were there almost a month, just two summers ago.”

“The two most magical things to me were darkness and quiet, and to me [that’s one of the] vanishing things on the planet, it’s really hard to find, particularly in the states, real quiet. And there, there is deep quiet.”

“We went out and were hiking probably 11 o’clock at night, and we got to this place, just like you’d see in the Hobbit or something. All these pools of water with water coming through rocks and it just looked unlimited, like we’re on another planet, there was nobody. It was still light, and my daughter fell asleep as we were driving back to the room. I looked over and one of the cones there, from an inactive volcano, had clouds at the top and the sun had just angled low enough behind the clouds that driving, it looked like it was a volcano active. And I kept looking at that and kep thinking, ‘oh my God.’ You know, the magical stuff just goes on and on and on.”

You seem very active, what do you do for physical activity around Hillsborough?

Bruce: “The newest thing for me is this big tennis group…and I’m kind of an Eno River person, but I don’t like to go to the crowded places, so I hike a lot and we don’t get it a lot, but last year we got that snow, and I brought my cross country skis down and had my headlamp and skied all around, up to Occoneechee Mountain."

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