I didn't love my original hometown, the one I grew up in, but now in my late adulthood I have begun to see that it had, and continues to have, many loveable qualities. It's the sort of town one could love.
The town I have lived in for 16 years, I do not love. It's considered a small town (though it dwarfs the one I grew up in) and though it's perched in the suburbs between Baltimore and Washington, it's a real town, with history and character and problems.
There are some things about it I love. I'm quite fond of our library. I like our main street, which never fails to make me think of Richard Scarry's Busy Town. I like the fact that you can know merchants; I like the fact that my kid always hugs the owner of the Indian restaurant, that the people at the Korean buffet make him little treats. I like that I know people who work at other churches, and we can occasionally 'talk shop' in the bagel line. People here are very kind to us.
But - maybe because of geography, or perhaps bad (dated) planning, it lacks a central focus, a walkable 'third place' for meeting and living in public. And, maybe as a result, I don't feel the same sort of 'sense of place' that I feel in places I really love, like Fells Point in Baltimore or Philadelphia's Queen City.
We have cheap ethnic restaurants, a farmer's market, a little theatre or two, writers groups, even a yarn shop for heaven's sake. I sure would like it if we had a Trader Joes, but that's not it....For some reason I can't put my finger on, this town just doesn't 'come to life' for me.
Maybe it's me, or us. I suspect that I'm wishing it were something it's not - either urban/funky or upscale/yuppie - instead of appreciating it for what it is and really digging in. Really - how would I know if the houses around me were full of hilarious bloggers, jazz musicians, world travelers, beat poets? I haven't really tried to find out.
Anyway, tonight I saw this gorgeous site, linked by Jen. (And, just as an aside, if Jen lived in your neighborhood, you'd be set for life, a full schedule of little adventures and porch parties and philosophical conversations during coaster bike rides to the art supply store. I know this because I actually know Jen in person. You should too.)
Anyway, the photographer of this beautiful site, Kathleen Connelly, describes it this way:
On January 3, 2003, I began this photoblog to visually document the residents, visitors, plants, animals, architecture, landscapes and farm life of Durham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania (where I live), and nearby areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Unless noted, all photos are taken within a ten-mile radius of my home.
Now, I love a photo safari - so much that I still occasionally take one, with toddler in tow. I'm forever nipping out to Baltimore, to SOMEPLACE INTERESTING, to take pictures. (and I've been to Bucks County, and it is noted for it's natural beauty and historic archetechure. And I bet they have a Trader Joe's.)
Still, I wonder - would looking through my camera make my town look better? More interesting?