Sunday, June 03, 2007

sunday scribblings: town & country

Until recently, I've never lived in a town with a population fewer than 100,000. Chattanooga, Green Bay, Columbus, the Twin Cities. I was used to the comfort of large communities--the ease with which to find exactly what you were looking for (yarn, camera accessories, vegetarian alternatives are among some of the few I immediately miss). I never thought I'd live somewhere so small.

Our move from Chattanooga to the Midwest was surprising enough. We lived in Green Bay for my high school years, and though I miss some of the people there, I do not miss the city itself. It was like a lopsided suburb--so much infested with chains and the community in what struck me as a racist uproar, wanting English to become its official language. And the obsession with the Packers.

When I met K, I knew he enjoyed growing up in a small town just outside of Green Bay. I didn't know what it was like to live in a community without a post office, where farm and cows stretch for miles. I could imagine what it might be like to mail order so much of what you wanted, unless you felt like a long Sunday drive, and it wasn't entirely appealing. I needed buildings to crane up at, unique markets, a bevy of people moving about on the sidewalks.

I suppose that's what makes this place a compromise. We live on a corner just a dozen blocks from the Mississippi, maybe nine blocks from downtown, and in the winter, we need to act quickly with the clearing of our sidewalks or the footprints from traffic will lead us to long hours scraping away at ice. I can walk to my favorite places: the library, the post office, the organic market, the florist, the framing gallery, our regular pub, several sandwich and coffee shops, the bookstore, the baker, the theatre (I can keep going, but I will stop at that). Our population is just over 16,000, which marks this as the smallest town in which I've ever lived, and K protests: "This is a CITY." Technically, yes, but I can't help but call it a small town. I'm not used to planting corn in my summer garden. I'm used to containers on my porch, miniature eggplant and green peppers for my salads.

When Emily and I went to the poetry reading on Thursday, we touched briefly on the idea of duality: there is a part of us that is thrilled with the house with the fenced in yard, the dogs romping about, the future husband to cook with, to curl up in our multiple bedroomed houses with our bookcases and dining rooms and dens and this picture of domesticity that has room for gardens and bikes and a two car garage. There is another part of us that has a fantasy: pack it all up, just the essentials (books, some clothing, a futon, and a laptop) and have a tiny one bedroom apartment in Uptown Minneapolis, go to coffeeshops, write poetry on napkins, shop used bookstores long after the sun has gone down, buy tiny pieces of expensive local art for the crowded bathroom walls. We admitted this little fantasy self, the kind of life we could smoothly fit into, could see ourselves doing, would be impossible with our fiances. We'd have to be that single girl with many adventures ahead of us. For me, this is because K hates the city, would not move to the Twin Cities even if I begged for long periods of time, which saddens me because I always wanted to stay in the city.

But I find myself falling in love with here. This small town, with its own paintings for our moderately sized (and still very quirky) bathrooms, may do the trick. It feels a little more lonely here, but next year, I'll have a job six minutes from this building we are learning to call home.

And (thankfully) the city is only an hour away.


Clockworkchris said...

0 comments? Either you didn't comment around or people are lacking the recipcical spirit. That sucks. I am getting fed up with comments on this post because it's so old but I digress...You are lucky to have moved to a place you enjoy so much. It sounds like your town would be a lot of fun but not quite small enough to know everyone. That would scare me a bit. Nice to hear you have a future husband as well. I am a newly wed ( last Oct ) and it's a great feeling. We just got our first house. Okay, well this was very interesting and thanks for your comment at my blog. I always write back and I will add you to my link list, for what that is worth. Have a great week!

Matthew said...

A very sweet and touching post. The draws of both are huge, it seems like you have already experienced the joys of both city and country.

I loved the flow of words and pictures--perhaps you can occasionally escape to the city to appreciate what you have left behind and to accentuate where you now live.

Betty C. said...

I love reading about people "changing places." Interesting post and thanks for stopping by mine.

tricia stirling said...

this is lovely! i have a similar fantasy, but it's nice to find comfort in the now.

Tammy said...

Hi Molly! Nice to me you :) I was enjoying your dog play date before I arrived here. Congrats on you wedding coming up and I hope you both enjoy where you put your roots down. Home is where your heart is.

BTW we are huge Packer fans. LOL

Enjoy camping, it can be very romantic :)

Kerstin said...

I can certainly relate to this! And your new place really doesn't sound so bad at all, if you can reach all those places on foot. Our small town doesn't even have a decent coffee shop and I really miss that. Like you I live in a big house (for the first time in my life and I am 44!) and could easily and happily go back into a city apartment. Mind you, I like the quiet at night, I sleep better for it.

Hope you have a wonderful wedding! :)berlin22

strauss said...

Moving to smaller communities seems to be a bit lonely at first, but the longer you stay and the more involved you get in the community the less lonely you get, it is the same as the city, but I think perhaps the process just takes a little longer. I haev lived in our little town for 2 years, and am only now starting to get to know people, our first winter here was VERY lonely.

Anonymous said...

Hi, there! Thanks for stopping by; I agree that most of us enjoy both the city and the country. I love that your profile says that you love "precise words." Me, too!

- RA

Crafty Green Poet said...

small cities are the best! But then we're luck to live in a small city with lots of art galleries, quirky shops and a summer full of art festivals! I enjoyed your post.