Thursday, February 02, 2006

WALKING THE WORLD: a new survey


wondering between an unknown sky
Originally uploaded by ricardo tavares.

It's funny how things work: one day you put on your old sneakers to take a walk to the store, and find out you're living in the wrong house on the wrong street in the wrong town.

Remember my infamous walk down the "big road" with the speeding SUVs driving me toward the guard rails? There were no sidewalks, no crosswalk when I traversed the four lane highway. Even the shopping center was geared toward hulking vehicles looking for a good parking place. Well, that did it.

Not that I haven't been having this thought for a while, a growing realization I live in a place that is out of synch with my philosophy of community and conservation--and just how human beings most optimally live on this earth.

Don't get me wrong; I'm grateful for my house. It's sheltered my family, given us the space to come together and to go off and dream our separate thoughts. People I love have grown up here; three beloved dogs have guarded this little patch of earth faithfully, and each summer we've eaten tomatoes and swiss chard grown from our little garden in the back.

But there's something wrong with developments like the one where I live, and this is it: the only thing here is houses. No stores to buy your daily milk, your toothpaste or broccoli. No little cafes where my neighbors could gather to get to know one another.

In a lot of ways, this is a neighborhood built for cars, not people. Or no, that's unfair--it's a neighborhood built for people who use their cars to go everywhere. Anyone who wants to walk or ride a bike and actually GO SOME PLACE while doing it, had better live elsewhere.

And since I believe in walking, or more specifically purposeful walking to get to work or run an errand, to visit your cousin, or to stop for a beer somewhere and chat, I've come to the conclusion that I'm living in the wrong place. God, why does it take me so long to figure this stuff out?

I want to live in the city where I can go to concerts and plays and ethnic restaurants. Or maybe I want to live in the country and raise chickens and grow lavendar and pumpkins. Then again, I might like a small town where I would live in a narrow house with flowers spilling from my window boxes, and anytime I wanted to, I would walk to the center of town to get my mail or visit the library. Actually, I'm XX years old, and I don't even know where the hell I want to live! I only know that I no longer want to live in a "development".

So here's my survey. Where do you think the best place to live is?

a) city

b) country

c) small town

And please, if you live somewhere you completely love, or if you just know the
perfect place for humans to thrive, don't be afraid to be specific!

56 comments:

telfair said...

I'm not really sure what the perfect answer is, but I've always been a "small town" girl. Older residential neighborhoods, with actual sidewalks, corner stores, the occasional park.

All of your choices are good. We live in a city now, and do a lot more walking than we did when we lived in a smaller town. I've never lived in the country... but in general, I agree with you 100% -- new housing developments are being built for cars, not people walking!

donna said...

It depends on what you want, but I definitely believe in walkable neighborhoods. I've seen country roads you couldn't walk on for fear of being run over, and city streets where I could walk everywhere and felt perfectly safe. Right now, I'm in a suburban area and feeling a bit cramped, since I want a large ranch to raise golden retrievers, but the streets are definitely walkable and there are schools and stores nearby that I can walk to. It just all depends on what it is you want and need in your life.

Braidwood said...

Yes, yes, yes! It matters so much! So don't let this epiphany fade away. I sometimes realize a new thing that would make me happier, but then, not living it, I can rationalize the difference it will make in my life.

Frankly, all three sound absolutely fabulous to me. I like any of the above, as long as it is not a suburb. I hate living in the suburbs. I LOVE being able to walk places. I now live in a city which is a car city for the people who commute here, but if you live in the neighborhoods, it feels like a small town with the benefits of a big city. I also love small University towns for that reason- small town with cultural coolness. Personally, I also have to feel right with the land. There has to be some sense of wildness for me nearby. What land do you feel most comfortable on?

irina said...

Well, wouldn't it be great to have advantages of both countryside and city? I guess living somwhere in the outskirts of a city but not too far away from it, would do the trick... And I guess you need to find the right neighbourhood, because it does happen to get lonely in a crowded city...
At present, I live in a countryside town in the UK and I perfectly know what you mean: it's made for people with cars... I walk past very nice houses with at least two garages each, you get the picture. It takes me 30 minutes to get to the town centre, but it's ok because the landscape is nice...

Susan said...

Patry,

I think you should come live here in the town where I live: An old suburb--former home of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway--right on the edge of Chicago. So . . . it's got the yards and tall trees and streets for walking and biking plus it's very quick and easy to get into the city. Not much in the way of country (Chicago sprawls into suburbs and exurbs for miles and miles), but beautiful Lake Michigan (which looks as large as the ocean)makes for a beautiful, open eastern border.

Plus, we'd be neighbors.

Susan

mamalujo1 said...

I grew up in and now live out in the country, but not too far from a big enough city to shop, see movies, etc. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. However, in my younger days I have spent some time in NYC and in Copenhagen, and loved being able to walk out on the street to museums, cafes, Tivoli Gardens, and any number of other cultural events. Wherever I live, I'm happiest when there are things to do, whether it be sitting by the creek critter watching or sitting in the cafe people watching.

sky said...

I think one "perfect" place is a small city or bedroom community located in the outskirts of a larger city. Many offer a "community" atmosphere with meaningful connection among residents, and sidewalks leading to quaint shops, cafes, libraries, salons, yoga studios, etc. You also have access to the arts and fine dining in the larger city. Airport accessibility is important to me, also, as are freeways and interstate travel which bring other metropolitan areas within easy reach.

Another good idea is living in a college/university town which fosters the "community" feeling and brings the arts of the university into the community. Often universities host traveling exhibitions, concerts, theatrical and musical performances, and public lectures. Poetry readings in local coffee houses along with eclectic lifestyles are an interesting element of this life.

I have lived in both. I currently live in the Pacific NW and love this area - the natural resources, the splendid beauty in every direction, the presence of both the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, my first rain forest, the Pacific Ocean, and the availability of other bodies of water which join the larger Puget Sound. We have a small city life just minutes from Seattle. There are many small cities surrounding Seattle, bounded by Lake Washington and/or other fresh water bodies of water with public parks every few blocks for walking and picnics along the shore inside the city.

There is a wonderful state ferry system all over the Sound making travel by water to the islands easy, expedient, and affordable. Canada is a 2.5 hr. drive north, and access to OR and CA is a snap to the south. There is no state income tax in WA and no sales tax in OR.

Even though we have winter rains, they give permission for quiet time inside to write or snuggle with a good book. Except for this record breaking winter, the rains usually come and go without consistency or thrust enough to even merit the use of an umbrella. It is called an off and on winter drizzle. :)

The climate is moderate - no cold winters, 1 light snowfall of 1-3 inches and no hot summers. Mid to high 70s dominate summer days with a couple of weeks in the mid to high 80s. Summer nights are in the 60s and cool.

Gardening is lush, vegetation being fed by the rains and sheltered in the comfort of pleasant summer temps and mild winters. Asian and Mediterranean restaurants abound, the population is a fabulous mix of many cultures, Seattle is filled with the arts, coffee houses are on every block, people walk and bicycle everywhere in the Seattle and surrounding city areas with trails built just for that purpose all over the Sound! (Buses even have bike racks on the front.)Outdoor activities are the name of the game here, dress is always casual, and comfort is the focus.

Now was this a commercial or what?!! Sorry I went on so long. I say come join us! :)

Anna Piutti* said...

The beach...it relieves me from my allergies...

However, sinnce this choice is not available in your survey, I'd choose a city.

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Patry -- for me, a small city, like where I live in Portland Oregon. It's neighborhood-oriented so there are lots of little streets filled with shops and cafes where you're likely to know many of the people you see; but then just a few minutes away is an urban downtown with a ballet and symphony and one of the greatest bookstores in the US (Powells, swoon swoon), and though it's no New York, it feels like it's YOURS. I "use" the city much more than when I lived in the San Francisco area and had such parking and traffic and distance to contend with. Yes, in my opinion, it's the perfect small city. Bike-friendly, walk-friendly, the houses are all older and charming (the subdivisions are hidden from view in the far suburbs and you never have to look at them OR at Wallmarts or other superstores unless you seek them out) AND it's beautiful and has the largest wilderness area of any US city, just beyond the metropolitan area. And a river. And it's an hour to the beach OR skiiing. This sounds like a sales pitch, I guess. I'm a California transplant who has found the perfect place for me!
-Laini

Anna Piutti said...

Totally off subject...

Although I already have a photo blog, I decided to get a Flickr account as well:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/annap82

I've added you to my contacts, I hope you don't mind.

Alexandra S said...

Hi there1 I want to second Laini's post! And basically agree with everything she just wrote. (She being my best friend who recruited me for several years to move here finally, which I did last May!) I feel your lack of harmony with your surroundings. I grew up in a suburb like the one you are describing, and now in my 30s I longed for a place with a real sense of community, of coziness, of history, someplace that took me in like a warm blanket, and Portland is fantastic. Its like a mini-Seattle in some ways, and its green, with so many unique gardens, people sitting on their front porches in the summertime, plenty of local art, buiding murals, laid back, progressive. I think you should come visit so I am extending an invitation to you! Maybe take this year to take short trips as your time and $ allow and explore. There are no perfect places but there certainly can be one that genuinely feels like home to you in your heart and soul.

matt said...

the city, for sure. new york city, to be specific. i know, it's so tired, the whole "i love new york" bit, but i really do. too bad my wife will never let me live there. ha!

seriously, though. i've always wanted to live somewhere i didn't need a car. even here in buffalo, where the grocery, good restaurants and parks are a short drive away, they are still a short drive away!

i'd love to live where (when?)walking is the norm, where i wouldn't have had to drop three hundred bucks on new brakes this week, because my feet still start and stop fine, thank you.

that to say, my feeling is the best place for that is a city big enough to allow for walking as primary means of conveyance. oh, to dream...

MB said...

I live on the edge of a small city. From my house, I can walk into the hills, or walk downtown. There is a university here, which helps culturally.

But big cities can be good for walking, too. Small towns are tricky; sometimes they require more driving than you'd think.

For me, it depends on the unique place. Though I've lived in large cities, a small city tends to be a comfortable choice. I agree with much that Braidwood said. I can't be too far from the land and still be happy.

steve said...

I'm pretty much a city guy. I enjoyed living in Oak Park, IL, the town Susan recommends. Oak Park is more city than suburb. You can walk just about anyplace, and the Congress and Lake Street L trains are close. But I'm as much at home in a small city, like Elkhart, IN (where Ambrose Bierce, Kenneth Rexroth, and Charles Gordone used to live). I wouldn't want to live in the exurbs, where driving an SUV is amost required.

Lynn Hayes said...

I love living in the country, but it's only good if you love being at home. You have to drive everywhere, and it's not that easy to walk long distances, especially as development encroaches and you're surrounded by other people's land. We live near a neighborhood so I walk through the woods to be able to walk through a neighborhood and that works fine. I love living in the woods where you can't see another house - it feels so peaceful and serene and a real hideaway.

I've also loved living in town where you can walk to things. You feel more connected to your neighbors and the people around you too.

What's the perfect answer? Wouldn't it be great to have both! A home in the country and a pied a terre in town. :)

Diana said...

I don't know the answer, Patry, but I'll follow this closely. I'm in the same place, mentally at least, as you and very tired of there either being no sidewalks at all or little narrow ones immediately next to the busy street so that talking or thinking is impossible while walking.

rdl said...

d) all of the above. Depends on you and where you are at and what you are into. I've lived in all three. The city was great for the mulitude of things to do and cultures but the noise, dirt, cars and crowds did not appeal. Came from a small town and couldn't wait to escape it; tho I enjoyed the cheers like atmosphere of "where everybody knows your name" when I lived in them later in life. And the country so peaceful and serene and an added plus if you get to throw in the ocean, but then you're out in the "boonies" where you walk for walkings sake ( and to keep the pounds off and dogs happy.

Sherry said...

I live in major suburbia--with sidewalks, trees, and people who walk and bike. I could walk places, but I don't much. I like my suburb.
It sounds to me as if you're looking for Mitford.

kate said...

. . . if you figure it out, please let me know :) I need urban for the culture and diversity and access to things unique and expansive, but I need country for the nature and the stillness and the quiet, but small-medium towns are fabulous because you can walk around them and do your errands and be known and oh yeah . . . so let me know when you figure it out :)

chosha said...

I live in the suburbs of a quiet city. Before that I lived smack in the middle of the unbroken urban sprawl that spreads out between Osaka and Kyoto. When my plane landed in Tokyo I felt overwhelmed by its sheer size - two years later I could visit Tokyo and it felt normal. Sydney used to feel big, now it seems easy-paced. Canberra feels like an old folks home in comparison. I've discovered a big city girl inside me that I didn't know existed until I lived in Japan. Now I love it and I can't wait to be in a big city again.

Simply Coll said...

I love living in the city..but I do need easy and quick access to the country for get-a-ways. I love quiet streets with big old trees. I too am a walker and need to have accessible parks and walkways.
Live is too short not to follow your heart.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

I have always believed that place is an essential part of my life and my well-being. Having grown up in the West, I'm used to wide-open spaces and having to drive simply because of the scale of things here. It never bothered me until I moved to Arizona.

We lived in Mesa for 12 years, and during that time, the Valley of the Sun grew at a truly alarming read. The Phoenix area has one of the very worst cases of urban (and suburban) sprawl in the country, and it is truly depressing. Not only are there too many people for my taste, but every neighborhood looks the same. Every strip mall has a twin, and the big box retailers suck up the desert with identical building after identical building. The streets are on perfect one-mile grids which are not conducive to walking anywhere, and freeways bisect the cities in every direction. It is a soulless place.

By the time I was pregnant with my second child, I felt drained. I was losing my sense of self, my joy in living. I felt like my very soul was shrinking in the fog of exhaust and smog and constant motion to get anywhere. My husband arranged a transfer within his company and we moved to Oregon. I can't even express how much better life is here.

We live in a town just outside Portland, and even though this area is growing, Oregon is a leader in urban planning. Areas are zoned for a careful mix of residential, business, and industrial uses, which translates to a distinct lack of sprawl and a true feeling of neighborhoods where one can work, live, play, and shop in a well-defined area. The local light-rail has a stop at the edge of my neighborhood, which means many people don't have to drive to work, and a grocery store, coffee shop, restaurants, pet store, and other shopping, are just a ten minute walk from my front door. We have a stand-alone (i.e., not in a mall) major department store, as well as many other big name shops, within 3 miles of our house, yet the layout of our town is such that you'd never know it unless you drove past on that particular street.

I believe the only place I might be happer would be living in the country, and again, here in the Oregon that wouldn't be hard to do, as there is extensive farmland less than a ten minute drive from where I live. In fact, due to some strange school district boundaries, my daughter attends a school that is set smack in the middle of nothing but farms. It's a great place to live.

I hope that answers your question, and sorry for going on so long!

melman said...

You should consider incarceration. Life is much slower paced and there's lots of walking and very few SUV's.

Jessie said...

You're so right about being able to walk to the places you need to go. I moved to my current home 18 months ago. It's suburban, but less than a 5 minute walk to a shopping center which has a food market, pharmacy, postal station, and several other storefronts and eateries. Since moving here, I've been employed by two of the businesses there, so I've been able to 'commute' to and from my home even on a short break if I so desire. Two blocks in the other direction, there's a big park with woods, a lake, and plenty of wildlife, where I take a half-hour walk every day for exercise, fresh air, and occasional chats with others using the park. In a way, it may seem like this makes my life smaller, and I guess that's true in a geographical sense, but it's so much better in the experiential sense.

To do all these daily activities without wasting time or money on a commute is awesome! I treasure every moment of my personal time, and not having to waste it in traffic is wonderful. And to shop for milk or bread or a missing soup ingredient and be back in less than 10 minutes is so convenient! Even my dentist's office is close enough to walk to.

I found myself in this happy situation quite by accident at the age of 56. I've always been suburban, but the inconvenient way. In the future, this is exactly the kind of place I'll look for.

If all of that wasn't enough (which it is!), I also found a strong sense of community in my immediate neighborhood. I feel like I'm in the best of all possible worlds right now.

I do have less interest in city activities than I used to, but even when I did, the noise of living in the city didn't appeal to me. And, since I didn't intend to give up my car entirely, the cost and inconvenience of parking it in the city was a great deterrent for me. Anyway, there are plenty of places in the city which are every bit as inconvenient as the 'driving' suburbs.

I lived in a lovely little farm town for several years. I was able to ride my bike to do my errands there, which was nice, but I wasted 90 minutes a day (and how much money?) on commuting to my job. I wouldn't do that again.

Amishlaw said...

Patry, great post, as always, but I think you're suffering from "greener pastures" syndrome. I suffer from it too. I live in a university town, where it takes me 7 minutes to drive to work; we have a great fine arts center with an auditorium that has some of the best accoustics in the world, the world's great orchestras play here at one-third the cost of hearing them in Chicago or New York. Yet, I'm always dreaming of living in the Southwest, southern California, New York, New England, anyplace but here. Why is that?

elsie said...

Oh, yes, I had this epiphany, too. I'd been living in bedroom communities outside DC for many years, and it began to wear me down. I've always been a suburban girl, and always thought I was happy with it.

But my husband is a walker, like you, and it drove him nuts to have nowhere to go.

So we packed up and moved to Baltimore. We live in the city proper, but right at the northern edge, so we get a fantastic combination of city and suburban life. We can walk to almost anything, and when we want to *just walk* there are sidewalks and plenty of beautiful streets to explore.

We've found our heaven, in the place I least expected it.

Stephanie said...

I think there are always tradeoffs. I've lived in very rural communities and often there are hikes to take outside the door, but you still have to drive to get supplies.

In Goleta/Santa Barbara, where I grew up, there are lots of neighborhoods that are in the suburbs, but where you can still walk to a movie or Trader Joe's or whatever. Still...I couldn't afford to live there.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Those are tough choices, and they depend on what you want. You have to pick a place for more than walking, and once you add the other elements it could bring up a different choice. We chose the pacific northwest, rural, outside a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. The town is quite lovely and a draws tourists-- so it has nice cafes, art shops, and bookstores. Our "neighborhood" such that it is, is rural. Good for walking, and so is the little town. But, if I wanted a real night life, lots of shopping, or a job, I'd have to live somewhere else. The best compromise is a small town that has a university nearby.

zhoen said...

Madison, Wisconsin is supposed to be one of the most walkable cities. We were looking at a grad school there, once. We came to Boston instead, and are without a car. We walk everywhere, or take the T. It is a bit limiting, but not so we notice most of the time. Both of us have lost weight, and bought more good shoes than usual. Housing here is very expensive.

We once considered San Franciso, which has many of the same advantages, and problems.

I hated having to drive just for everyday everything. Salt Lake is a town where you need a car. Detroit, too.
Good luck, it is a noble endeavor.

Patry Francis said...

What fabulous suggestions! I may not move to all these places, but I've made a new list of places I plan to visit, and hope readers have done the same.

Thanks to all.

colleen said...

I live in the country by choice. The only thing I miss not having here is the ocean and my family being close. I moved here for the like-minded people (mostly transplants as well)and the fact that the town is a mecca for artists and muscians helps creat a nice balance. I like to live where I can walk and I can do that easily here (Blue Ridge Parkway of VA). When I lived in Mass. I walked too, but usually had cars pulling over, beeping and whatnot. I also love that I can't see my closest neighbors house...but I can drive to town and get a meal with capers in it and a pick up game of scrabble.

Anne Bauer said...

Definitely C. Everybody knows everybody. Your kid lips off to the grocer, and you know about it. Somebody nobody knows comes around the school yard and the police come check it out. You can walk where you need to go, you get to know people. People who live in small communities (at least where I'm from) tend to be more tolerant and polite, because we have to live with one another. The person you flip off in traffic today could be the person who serves your lunch tomorrow, or interviews you for a job.

Drawbacks are limited cultural, educational and career opportunities; politics' (being liberal can be a drawback at small town parties), and the fish bowl. Everybody knows everybody's business. When someone is ill or needs help, that's good. When somebody has to go to an AA meeting or a marriage counselor, not so good.

Jean said...

Je comprends mal la langue anglaise .
Mais j'aime beaucoup , beaucoup la photo de cette personne qui semble voler sur l'eau.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Patry: I skimmed lightly over this post at first, then came back to it just now and noticed, "And please, if you live somewhere you completely love, or if you just know the
perfect place for humans to thrive, don't be afraid to be specific!" So I have to tell you, it's Austin, Texas. For me and several people I know, anyway.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

PS: Zhoen's right that Madison's a fine place ( I lived there for 13 years.) Better than Austin for walking and bicycling. But nevertheless...

natalie said...

Patry, try London. Although I now would prefer to live somewhere semi-tropical, as far as cities go (and I've lived in quite a few in various countries) London has much to recommend it. Culturally, it has everything, right on hand. But there are also loads of wonderful, huge green spaces (like Hampstead Heath, for ex.) where you can walk for hours as if you were in the counryside. You don't need a car (in fact a car is more of a nuisance here) and many neighbourhoods only within a fifteen minute tube-ride to the centre, are like villages in themselves, with everything you need, shops, pubs, coffee bars etc. Okay, it's become very expensive to live here and that's a drawback and there are other minus points (as in every big city) but I still think it's got a lot going for it. Come and see, when your book is out and you're signing copies worldwide! Let's meet at my local pub?

Patry Francis said...

Jean: I can read your words; I only wish I were more comfortable attempting a response in French. In any case, I wanted you to know that this wonderful photograph was taken by Ricardo Tavares. If you click on it, you can view more of his work on Flickr.

Meanwhile, it's wonderful to know that so many of you have found places so congenial to your spirit.

And Natalie: I hope to take you up on that offer!

Dale said...

I will never ever ever live in a suburban development again. I loathe them from my heart.

How do you come to have so many Portlanders in your entourage? Anyway, I'll put another vote in for Portland, Oregon, a small city I love deeply, with a lively, liveable downtown, beautiful wild places not far off, and the highest book consumption per capita in the US. -- But not if dark rainy days depress you. In that case, maybe Austin :-)

dog1net said...

Patry,
You've touched on something that I've often wondered about myself. One of the things that struck me as I drove cross-country last summer, and then to Fort Benning, Georgia last month, were all the new housing developments featuring incredibly large houses that did not fit in with the surrounding environment. But what I've come to realize is that a housing project does not a neighborhood make. As you so well observe, you have to have local stores, places to eat and converse, places to sit and relax, places that invite a long afternoon or late evening walk.
Older cities and small towns were built with those kinds of things in mind. Newer developments crowd those things out, and prevent a real sense of community to take shape. Community? Hmmm. Maybe that's what it really comes down to. Maybe that's what too many of us have gotten away from, and need to get back to. Instead of more housing developments, build more communities where you can work, relax and commingle without ever needing a car to get out and about. Thanks for coming by and commenting.
Scot

liz elayne said...

you have captured this idea of the subdivisions and SUV's taking over the world. and it is good to be grateful for all that you home has given you and your family...but maybe it is starting to feel like a house instead of home...and you want something else now.

i love the idea of a neighborhood that has a small town feel within a bigger city (but not too big). you can walk to a cafe, gourmet grocery store, shops, restaurants. but it isn't so untouchably trendy that you can't afford to live in your own neighborhood.

Becca said...

This is one of the most interesting discussions. Forty years ago everyone was dying to live in the suburbs ... everyone! ... but not one person here recommends it. Times have really changed.

It sounds like Portland is the place to visit! Too bad we have established lives elsewhere.

(I live in a small town where I can walk to work, shops, Starbucks, dry cleaners, library, post office, church, bank and would literally never need to leave Mayberry but I head down into the city all the time!).

Patry Francis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Patry Francis said...

I have to agree--this discussion has turned out to be more interesting than I could have anticipated. Yes, people are changing where they want to live--and I think that's good. We want to live in a real community, one that's built for people, not just for their cars. But as Scot pointed out, the builders don't seem to be getting the message. They're still building disconnected developments of mini-mcmansions everywhere. Who will live in all these houses, I wonder sometimes. Where will they work? How will they get there if the cost of gas becomes prohibitive? But those are questions too large for my little blog--then again, given the quality of the commentary here, probably not. With all the good feedback for certain "livable" cities, especially Portland, but also several others mentioned here, why aren't city planners all over the place taking notice? Someone needs to write a book about this...

Fred Garber said...

Lots of good ideas and opinions. For me I need the following: a good place to by my morning double espresso in a porcelain cup and hang out with some other guys, a super Walmart so I can buy my stuff cheap, cable TV so I can watch the Sopranos, futbol, boxeo and my wife can watch her novellas, broadband internet, good Vietnamese food, good Mexican and El Salvadoranean food, al dente pasta, a pretty good bookstore, a Catholic church with Spanish mass, a casino nearby, some kind of nature place nearby so I can drive by and take a look once in awhile if I need a little bit of nature and I am tired of looking at the 100 or so blackbirds that are in the big tree by my apartment. Most of all I want someplace that feels right to me.

Jean said...

I first read this on Saturday, a couple of days after you wrote it and when there were already quite a lot of comments. I'd just returned from a daytrip to a small but lively English town that I might possibly move to (away from London, which I've personally had enough of, though many people love it for all the reasons Natalie mentions).

So I was delighted and riveted by this discussion. It focused my mind on the extent to which I experience the search for a place to live like a search for a lover, getting very emotional about it and looking for the thunderclap that will tell me 'this is it'. I think there IS indeed an intangible aspect and it's important to love a place in ways, for reasons, beyond rationalisation. But all the kinds of thing mentioned here are also very important. I didn't experience the thunderclap on Saturday, largely because it was a bitterly, bleakly cold day. But the town I visited, where I am interested in joining a co-housing development, has a long list of qualities in its favour: small enough for a sense of community and to live within walking distance of both town-centre and countryside; large enough to support a lively political, business and arts community; small and quiet enough to live very peacefully for long periods, but within an hour or two's easy travel of larger cities and airports. Just about everything I could list as 'things I want'. I do want to fall in love with the place too, but I'll be spending more time there and waiting to see if it grows - sometimes these things aren't instant, just like with a person; in fact I don't think it ever has been instant with the places I have loved, they got under my skin gradually.

I think maybe the only thing that gives me some unease in this contemplation of a congenial place to live is how privileged I'd be to move there - how real is an island of community, beauty, progressive politics and culture, in the midst of so many uncongenial, crazy places? I guess I think it's healthy to bear this in mind, but more worthwhile to opt for this than to suffer, not at all usefully, in a place that makes me miserable, if I don't have to.

How great to find you thinking about this just now! (and if I was American I think I'd be checking out Portland).

Peter said...

I live in a Virginia suburb designed to look like an old New England town. (Have you ever heard Virginians scream about how we had the first Thanksgiving? And then we do somthing like this.)

I like it here -- it looks nice and it's a three-minute bike ride to work. I get out in the country once a week in warmer months, and that's about all I'd have time for even if I lived in the country. Too much upkeep in the country; too many distractions in the city. All I want is a room somewhere...

leslee said...

I'm going to respond to your question, then go back and read all these responses!

I pretty much like the small town where I live, though other places sometimes tempt me. The good things here (Grafton): great walking where I can see horses and fields along with all the houses, can walk into town where we have a handful of shops, a common with a gazebo on it and town events, library, PO; quick driving access to a good grocery store close by or to all those big stores (from Target to Borders) not too far; easy access to the turnpike to get to cultural things in the city in ~40 minutes or so (actually 3 cities: Boston, Providence, Worcester). I'm in a condo complex and it's pleasant here and safe. I like having neighbors nearby. A lot of people walk here, or bicycle. It's really quite lovely.

maverick said...

Hello,
Without much luck, I was searching for blogs about Antiques when I happened across yours. It's a cool blog. Evidently you like telling it like it is! I have a really great ebay website that is easy to use that you may like. If you get a chance, check it out www.licensedbrandsclub.com.

tweety bird wedding supplies said...

Hi Blogger, I found your blog quite informative.
I just came across your blog and wanted to
drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with it.
I give you my best wishes for your future endeavors.
If you have a moment, please visit my tweety bird wedding supplies site.
Have a great week!

Anonymous said...

book border hours storehttp://www.bordersbookstore.infoIf practice makes perfect and no one is perfect, why practice?book border hours store

Bill Harrison said...

Hi Blogger, I found your blog quite informative.
I just came across your blog and wanted to
drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with it.
I give you my best wishes for your future endeavors.
If you have a moment, please visit my used cars spain site.
Have a great week!

Anonymous said...

borders book store indianapolishttp://www.bordersbookstore.infoIf practice makes perfect and no one is perfect, why practice?borders book store indianapolis

Meg Taylor said...

I was searching blogs,and I found yours.Please,
accept my congratulations for your excellent work!
If you have a moment, please visit my pet shop Delaware site.
Have a good day!

LifeIncome said...

You gave me an interesting idea. Thanks,Steve @Car Tips

Anonymous said...

borders book store locationhttp://www.bordersbookstore.infoEvery one is entitled to be stupid, it's just that some abuse the priviledge.borders book store location

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

徵信,徵信,徵信,徵信,徵信,徵信社,徵信社,徵信社,徵信社,徵信社,