Summer Robbins-Sutter, 41, in her office at her studio

This story and my meeting Summer is kind of a dream come true in the timeline of this project. One of the things I hope is that people of this community will feel more connected to each other because of the stories they read here. Summer commented on the story of Brandon and then I reached out to her to ask her if she would like to participate. Despite this being her busy season, she made some time for our chat. During our interview, she talked about "that Backporch guy". She doesn't (or didn't) know him, but she continues to be influenced by his kindness a couple of times each week when she goes to get her coffee. Summer and I share a sensitivity to this world and its happenings and I thoroughly enjoyed my time at her studio with her and the ladies that work with her. 

Who are you?

My name is Summer. I am an event floral designer here in Bend. We only do weddings. 

Where do you come from?

I come from a lot of places, but most recently I come from New Jersey. I've lived here for two years. 

What brought you to Bend?

A new life and a new lifestyle. We had children who we wanted to give a good life to and we didn't want to give them that life where we were living because we felt like it was too expensive. We didn't want our kids to be raised in a place where it was so fast paced and where they had to have a certain type of car and go to a certain type of school. We didn't want them to experience those pressures, so we moved here. And they love it. And we love it. 

I always knew about Bend because I used to be an avid rock climber and Bend is, obviously, right next to Smith Rock. But I always worked too much so I was never able to get a chunk of time off to come out to Smith Rock to climb. So Bend was always kind of in my head, but I never really knew enough about it. And then my husband's a skier and he's a mountain biker, so you know Bend is like in every mountain bike magazine. We came out to Portland because I had a job opportunity a few years ago. We loved Portland but it was so grey. I knew that I couldn't live in that much grey - I had to have a little bit of sunshine. So, we went out as far as Hood River, and they were like, Why are you guys here? Basically, we go to a bike shop everywhere we go because my husband's a bike dude. So we went to this bike shop in Hood River and we were just chatting up the guys there and they were like No no no, this is not where you guys want to live. Hood River's great and everything, but you guys want to live in Bend. Bend is really where it's at. So then, you know, the name comes up again and we were leaving the next day, so we really couldn't drive down to Bend, but that was kind of the spark. By that point we had one child and right after that I got pregnant with our second child. So, we had a list of places we thought we might want to live and I started doing the research on Bend. On paper it seemed like the perfect place. 

So, we moved here and it was, I swear to god, immediate. It was like immediate community, immediate welcome, immediate people wanting to partner with me and collaborate with me and support me and refer me (because this is a business which you can advertise all you want but if people aren't referring you, forget it, you're not going to do very well). And that's one of the reasons I love Central Oregon because we support our own, you know. I'm the same way. If one of us does well, then all of us do well. If somebody comes to me and hires me for flowers, one of the first things I do is ask them, Do you have a make-up artist? Do you need me to give you some ideas of other vendors that you might like? Do you have a photographer? Do you have a planner yet? I want to be as helpful as possible. I want to make sure that they have the best day that they could possible have, but I also want to make sure that I get to work with all these amazing people who are here in Central Oregon. I believe in community and I was so lucky that these people believed in me, too, right away. Because my business has grown so much within the last... you know I've only been here for two years and we just got a huge award. I couldn't have gotten that award if it hadn't of been for the other vendors voting for me. We are Oregon Bride magazine's Best Florist: Outside Portland 2017. That's pretty awesome. It's not just me that wins; it's all of us.  

What does community mean to you?

Support. Supporting each other, lifting each other up. Helping out whenever somebody needs to be helped out. There's so many people like that here, too. Why are you paying somebody to paint your house? I'll come over and I'll paint your house for you. I'll be happy to do it. Just give me a beer. People like that. That's what community means to me. We came from a place where there was no community. We always felt so alone even though we shared walls with people. And even though we were literally never alone. Here that's not the case. So, yeah, support, is probably my definition of community. 

Why is community important to you?

I feel like it's important to what I want for my lifestyle and what I want my kids to have for their lifestyle and my husband - for us as a family. I didn't really like being an island back when we were living in New Jersey. You know, I worked in Manhattan and it's just not fun to always be alone. It's important to really get to know people. I think that's the best part of being a human is connecting with other people. 

What do you most look forward to here in Bend? 

The fresh air. I really love that. I really love how sweet the air is here. You get used to it, so you don't really notice in when you've been here for a little while. But then it will rain and then you'll smell it again. That's something that when we first moved here we noticed right away. I was in the Lowe's parking lot and I was like, Holy shit, it smells amazing! This is so great! And then we went back east to visit family in November. We were in Hoboken, which is where we used to live and where our first son was born and I just remember driving into Hoboken, rolling up the windows, and being like Oh my god, there's so much smog and it smells terrible and our kids are ingesting this! I can't believe we were there giving that air to our kids for so long, but we were just used to it. And now that we're here, it's just, you know, lichen grows here. It doesn't grow in a lot of places - it has to have clean air - and it grows here. And that's super cool. So, yeah, I don't take that for granted at all. That's my favorite part. 

What do you wish for the future?

The community, I want it to grow gracefully. Because it has to. It's not going to get smaller. It's an awesome place. People should come here. People should live here. It attracts a certain type of person and the people that live here are awesome. And the quality of life is awesome. It's important for all of us to understand that. There are a lot of people who are pushing against that growth and there's no reason to push against something that is already happening. That will just drive you crazy. I really want this town to grow gracefully. The other thing I love about Bend is that there is an urban growth boundary. So, there's wilderness outside of this. And we can access that so easily. As long as we continue to respect that and respect all the beauty and all the natural things that are given to us here - without us even thinking about it. I think that grace part really has to come in. I hope for its growth, I really do. 

Personally, the work/life balance thing is something that I'm working through. I don't come from a lifestyle that had a work/life balance. Here in Bend, that is the culture. You work to live and not live to work. Having my own business, you know, I'm super committed to what I'm doing and I'm super committed to the people who work with me and to our clients, so stepping away from that and also being able to focus on my family a little bit more is what I hope for myself. I also hope that we can actually start growing stuff out here (laughs) and all the rodents stop eating it. I'd like to be able to support my business a little bit more with things that we grow. That's all about being new and figuring out what this climate is. Figuring out the desert and growing things in the desert, which isn't supposed to happen.

Do you have thoughts regarding Bend's growth?

This town has always been growing. It's always been a boom town. Almost always. That's the thing that people, for some reason, don't realize or have short sight of. They're like, Well we've been here for so long and so we're the only ones that are authentic Bendites. This whole town, though, has always been new people moving in. It's always been like, Oh, Them and Us. It's always been like that. That's just the way this town is. I don't really encounter a lot of people that are like, Oh, you're new so we don't want anything to do with you. Everybody I meet is wonderful. Everybody I meet, I get that personal connection right away. That's one of the reasons I love this town is because of that personal connection. That's one of the reasons why we were drawn to this town. Because we came out here to look - to think this might be a great place for us to raise to kids; a much better place than where we came from. We wanted a better lifestyle. Go into the grocery store and people are talking to you. You're standing in line and they're striking up a conversation with you. And whether or not those people are from here or if they're tourists or whoever they are - it doesn't matter! It's like they're just really nice. And that's cool. And I work with a lot of tourists. Those are my customers. This town attracts a certain type of person and wherever they're from, they're just lovely people. It's that personal connection that I think this town really gives me. We moved here for that sense of community. For me it's been immediate. The community has been immediate. 

There are a lot of really smart people in Bend. We are going to have to figure it out. It's not going to be sustainable otherwise. My hope is that the right representatives get into City Hall and make the right decisions for the town. I feel like that's not happening right now. That's not a comment on I know how to do it better because I don't. I have to say I would never complain about the traffic because I come from places with real traffic. Even if I start to get a little perturbed about it being a little slower, I just look at the mountains and it's beautiful. This town is really special. I actually am really hopeful. I do think the infrastructure will improve. We're growing so quickly, it has to happen. When you come into town and you see that Welcome to Bend sign and it says 80,995 or something. I mean, that's not real. That's not a real number. The real number needs to be up there. And I think people need to come to terms with what that real number is, too. From the minute that we moved here I knew that was wrong. And that hasn't changed in the last two years and I meet people who have moved here yesterday, last week like every day. That number is swelling. We need to stop ignoring that. Sorry, I got on my soapbox a little bit (laughs).