on a more humane-sized daily life
We part-inherited my in-laws cottage and now fully own it after buying my sister-in-law’s half. I had a feeling I would love living in a village in Thomas Hardy country but the experience has surpassed expectations . There are a couple of Third Places in the village for me - a coffee shop and a pub. The pub is probably my real third space. I know that I can go in there and feel safe and welcome, and there is usually a friend to bump into. The best thing is that it’s a genuine meeting point of people from a whole range of backgrounds.
We live not far from downtown Knoxville but in a rural little spot. Nearly all of my neighbors are between the ages of 75-95. It can be difficult to get to know folks but we’ve tried to be intentional about sending Christmas cards, making cookies etc in an effort to have a “reason” to meet people. The first year we lived in our house I sent one particular neighbor a Christmas card because her home has a long private driveway and it seemed invasive to walk up to the door unannounced. She sent a thank you card and we just never stopped writing each other. For the past 2.5 years we’ve written letters back and forth monthly and it’s been the most unexpected treat and friendship. I never imagined I’d be penpals with a neighbor. My direct neighbors are each women in their 90s who live alone. One still mows, mulches, and weeds her multi acre yard herself. The other has lived on her little hill for her entire life- it feels invaluable to know the history of a place-to hear Ms Velma talking about jumping the fence and walking the 3 miles to her grandmothers house--before the interstate existed, when our road was called route 4, before the bridge across the river was built and you had to ferry across. Knowing my neighbors has given me the gift of a shared story and history.
I live in a magical close-in suburb of Philadelphia and have this beautiful community you describe. We live a block away from a popular park and have gotten to know our neighbors over the years on the playground, at kids' sporting events, at civic association gatherings, and through the public school and its very active PTO. I am grateful we have these roots now that I am transitioning to middle-school-aged kids and am generally out and about less with them. Thankfully, neighbors and I started a book club, go on weekly walks, and enjoy someone's porch as the regular adult hangout on Friday evenings.
When my dad passed away, we finally decided to move back close to home and bought an abandoned farm that was just completely trashed. We split it right down the middle with my dad's close friend, so he owns half and we own the other half. We went from neighborhood living with just backyard chickens to farm, where we cleaned up over 13 tons of trash, and now still have chickens (just a lot more), have a small herd of beef cows, milk a few Guernseys, and spend a lot of our time thinking about how to improve grasses and soil health. Our oldest has a market garden business. We've made friends with the ranchers down our dirt road. Our direct neighbors are both couples up there in age, one in his 90's. In fact, we're going up to his house to cut a couple trees he and his wife need cut, and we'll bring the wood home for our furnace in exchange. We've also been able to supply that neighbor with fresh eggs, and we've really formed a friendship with them. I think it gives them comfort to know there's someone close by in case of an emergency, as well. We're now starting to get involved with 4-H with our youngest, and our middle child is hoping to take his grandpa's old tractor (that he bought in a pretty bad state and has worked to fix up) to the old iron club/tractor pull this fall. This farming life is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes it's so idealized that it bothers me, but then I remember what it was like when we first moved here, and all the hopes and dreams we had. While it's idealized in many ways, it's also a real and very relevant dream. We still have other dreams, like the thought of moving to rural Maine, or the thought of traveling again... We used to travel a LOT with our rooftop tent and drive many a back road. While it's not totally feasible right now, we've found small ways to get away, like exploring back roads in our area and regionally, or meandering through antique stores looking for treasures. And sometimes we pile the kids in the car and head to a bigger town, where we can play mini golf or be a tourist again. While it's not always an easy life, and I do still dream of doing these other things, I can't say I'd trade this life, or go back. And I definitely wouldn't trade my neighbors for all the neighbors in the world.
We moved from a historic, walkable area of Atlanta to a newer, busier area two years ago, mostly for some extra space since we had added a second child to our family. It has been hard for me because I loved our old cottage, so I’ve been trying to get to know our new(ish) neighborhood well. I take walks, talk to our neighbors (older women on both sides who are more than eager to chat up the kids while we’re outside) and go to the library almost every day. It has become our third place, and now we know our children’s librarian by name and she knows my kids’ reading tastes. I’ve found that the best thing for us has been to zero in on what is hyper local to our neighborhood when it comes to we love most: bookstores, coffee shops, and libraries. That’s where life flourishes. The rest I try to just accept as part of the reality of living in a car-centric city.
Nothing is better for your local community than having friendly relationships with your literal neighbors. We have worked on this slowly over time and every time we make a stronger connection I ask myself why I didn't try with that particular house/person before. Yesterday my next door neighbors dropped their kids at our house for 20 minutes while they got their broken-down car to the mechanic. I was overjoyed. Because it means *they will also watch out for my kids.* Being friendly with your literal neighbors, no matter what differences there are between you (religious, political, etc.) means your children can be freer and safer and you can solve problems better face-to-face.
We live on a beautiful farmette - 7 acres - on a quiet country Lane only 10 minutes from town. It's very ideal in many ways and I wake up grateful everyday to live here. Our neighbors are lovely -- the other day I needed to borrow a forehead thermometer for a sick kid so I grabbed one from our neighbor (who has three kids) and then a couple days later took formerly sick toddler to return it, visiting with goats and ducks and dogs along the way. Many aspects of the "land living" I dreamed of are here.
And YET the price to upkeep our place grows every year. And the time needed to maintain gardens, care for animals etc. Is impossible if you are working so much to find the money to afford the very minimum maintenance care of the land (and the aging unique house -- I relate on the window struggles!!) We have a beautifully impractical mid century modern home that is very cold in winter and requires us to hang tapestries over cracked walls and windows. At least I can romanticize it and say we're living medieval style.
And yes our neighbors are so kind and nice BUT they are busy - as are we - they're out at work, doing school drop offs etc. There's hardly any time or energy to "pop in" for hellos or a cup of coffee.
So even in our beautiful Shire we struggle to not feel rushed, scrambling for funds or time or both, and in there wanting to also be giving back and volunteering and sharing this beauty with others. How? And two little ones, two and a half and 7 months, make time feel crunched in a whole new way.
So there's our situation. Some good, much that is very beautiful, but still such a struggle and only an echo of that deep longing Lewis wrote about so well.
Tag, you nearly brought tears to my eyes with what you wrote. My husband and I and our cat have a small condo in Cambridge, MA. My husband loves it -he would not move more than a
Above sent by mistake! A few blocks; I have always wanted to live in the country. We have both lived most of our adult lives here. I have horrible memories of law school here, friends who live far away, no car and decreasing transit, and Cambridge has become a politically divided and very angry place. Yet we are not about to move and I am stymied about how to make this feel like a home. I am sorry not to have any positive suggestions, but it is very comforting to feel that somehow has allowed me to express how I feel living here.
We have lived in Deep Ellum for 7 years. I have in the last 3 years tried to be intentional about getting involved with the things that bring life to our neighborhood. Deep Ellum is a entertainment/bar district so, there is a darker underbelly always present but, even our bustling neighborhood by day feels like a small town. I am on the board of our community association. This association runs an art market every Saturday, an annual Arts Fair, and the community center. We know many of the long term locals and are close with those that come to our neighborhood to work. We also try to be intentional with the unhoused in our neighborhood we try to carry items with us that could be useful to them. Our building is on a train station this means that typically on the weekends we rarely use our car unless we are taking kids to their activities or to mass (10 min drive). We are surrounded by third places. For us we go to a local bar, coffee shop and restaurants. I know we will not live here forever especially as rent rates skyrocket but, for now I know that I am focusing on treasuring our wonderful neighborhood.
This is such a tender sore spot right now. We dearly want land, and would be willing to get scrappy to have it. My husband is nothing if not inventive, but housing prices are insane. We’ve looked out of state but have no clear idea where we’d go. We’re very much in a “what now?” phase. And I have to remind myself pretty much every day: “what now” is what’s in front of you. We were putting offers on houses this spring and I debated planting a garden, because what if we move and don’t even harvest it? What if we do? I’ll still be better for having planted it (and I mean, we didn’t move bc CO is crazy).
But we had our neighbors over for lunch yesterday and it was great. A few weeks ago a dog got out and our (somewhat reclusive) neighbors on the other side still came to knock on our door bc they thought it was ours. I was able to text another neighbor and find the owner and put the giant, scary (friendly) dogs back in her backyard. She was so thankful and dropped off flowers that evening.
Those are the things that make me thankful, even though this isn’t where we want to be.
We just moved to the small town of Mill Run, PA. My husband is pastoring a church here and almost all of the people who attend live within 10 miles. And it’s multi-generational too. We have great-grandparents and grandparents and parents and children all living nearby and attending church together. It’s sounds like it should be magical, but I feel it lacks true community. Perhaps it is because I’m new and we haven’t broken through yet in knowing all the connections , but I see a lot of the fracturing of the community by people going further out to work at better paying jobs that what can be found locally and closed farms and businesses. I’m praying for direction in what kind of way to bring some new community that is refreshing and stimulating for this group of people that have all known each other forever. Pray for us as we learn and dig in to this place! ☺️
My wife and I are retired, and 18 months ago we decided that it was time to move out of California -- there’s too much story there to tell -- and we came to Dallas.
We have a “third place” where we have made our home -- our parish. We were welcomed there, met strangers who quickly became friends, and there is rarely a day that passes without some human contact with people we know, and work with, and party with -- and pray with -- who are members at our parish.
And how did this happen? After a service one evening, we struck up a conversation with someone who said, “Oh, are you new? Have you had dinner yet? We’re walking down the block for a bite at Lucky’s Cafe. Why don’t you join us?” And we did, and that’s the whole story.
If you don’t meet those people, BE those people.
We live in a big subdivision in small town turned suburbia so it’s definitely not perfect. We have made some real efforts to get to know our neighbors, to help someone shovel snow or ask them questions and really listen and follow up. Our dog was a big help and everyone knew the basset hound in the sub. We have also been planting and growing things in our yard since we moved in. That helps with the connection to nature and God.
I was reading in Jeremiah 29 this morning and God tells the exiled Israelites to build houses in Babylon, and start families and plant crops. He tells them to pray for Babylon because things go well for them then things will go well for the Israelites. It made me think of your piece. God calls us to live well in the land wherever we are.
Our living situations have varied widely as we—myself, my husband and our two tween/teen daughters—have made our way to our 12th and current home. In every stage, though, different as we are, our needs have been the same: a place and people. At times, we’ve had community gardens and been invited in, welcomed as strangers to people’s dinner tables and front porches. More often than not, though, we’ve had to be the initiators, creating what we want to experience. When our kids were little and we lived with my parents in the country for two years, we had acres of land, and their dogs and chickens and bees. I put up a flyer at the library and post office for a kid’s play date at the park every Friday morning. In other houses, Costco has been our farmer’s market and we’ve dropped potluck invitations into our yet unknown neighbors’ mailboxes and waited to see who showed up. We’ve also taken the coffee shop/pub/story time route and found friends among the other regulars. Sometimes it’s intimidating (I may or may not have been know to carry an index card with conversation starters in my back pocket), but it’s always paid off. Some people and places have felt like home quickly, others have blossomed in unexpected soil over time. Many have been for a season and others have outlasted multiple cross-country moves. Every place is different and every friendship unique, but I can say with complete confidence that within all are treasures we’re made to hold, worth every effort to find.
I'm a few days late to this, as ever, but I've been thinking about this still.
When I first read this, my thoughts were mostly on the side of "Why can't I have this? If I lived in that place or that one, then I'd be able to live in this humane-sized, local community focused way." We live in a very urban area of the City of St. Louis, and I'm often wishing to move from this spot. I want more green, more space, more beauty. I don't frequent the shops & restaurants within walking distance of my house, not even our walkable library as much anymore (as it's one that really pushes its political and moral agendas which don't jive with mine and I just get tired of bringing my kids into that sometimes). So, I don't have that familiarity with people around me who do work in and frequent such potential "third places".
But then it occurred to me that I do have this in other ways. It's through our school. For 10 years my children have attended a school within 2 miles of here, which takes 7 minutes to drive to and to which we could (hypothetically) ride our bikes. I've worked as art teacher there for 8 years. Its mission is to "be an intentionally accessible Christian school in the City of St. Louis", so many of the people connected to the school are in our neighborhood and surrounding ones. We see members of our school community out and about, we do soccer teams, birthday celebrations, and Meal Trains together. Many people there go to church together, and even though we're Catholic now (7 years on), we connect through our shared faith, too. In other words, I do actually have a bit of this humane sized living worked out in my and my family's life! If I do ever move out to a suburb or rural area and into a home with less work to do and more outdoor space, it is good to remember that there are good things I have here that I would loose. Maybe that's a trade off we'll make someday, but for now, I have more to be grateful for than I often acknowledge. Thanks for helping me think these things through and for inspiring gratitude, Tsh.