Sunday, July 13, 2008

In my little town...

When I first dated Nicolas, fifteen years ago, I had mostly lived in big northern cities. Except for college, and some time in the near-to-Boston suburb of Newton, I'd lived in Boston and NY. When I moved to Atlanta I didn't have a car, or air-conditioning, in a city where both are pretty necessary for survival. Atlanta was supposed to be a pit stop on my way to Seattle and graduate school......

This, I fear, is about to turn into a major digression - about meeting and falling in love with my Belgian farmer. I'll save that for another night.

I'll just skip to the point (that I would have spent paragraphs of your time, those who were still here, getting to. ) The point is that I was a big-city girl with ignorant ideas about small town life. Even when I had already moved here, I still hung on to my big-city ways. I would farm during the day and then commute in to Atlanta to direct plays at night. I got my hair cut in Atlanta. I frequented the Atlanta thrift stores and bars and movie theaters. After having kids, I brought them into the city to hang out with my city friends' kids and felt the need to do city things. Just this past spring, I still drove Jesse an hour away to take a homeschool class he wanted to do, once a week. But over time, it has gotten less appealing to drive so far, not to mention the point that gas has started to become a luxury item.

I am becoming even more aware of and grateful for the people and resources out here. Actually, there are a lot. I can go weeks now without going into Atlanta. I think it may have been a month since my last visit. That's got to be a record.

This weekend was a great example of how much we can do out here within a ten-mile radius. On Saturday morning, we met local friends at the 6,400 acre Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center for a butterfly talk and walk. Charlie Elliot, only ten minutes down the road, sponsors several free workshops about nature and animals (plus camps, bird competitions, volunteer opportunities). The southern gentleman talking yesterday was filled with information about the butterflies that we could hope to find in our area. When the talk ended and we left the conference room to find the cool butterflies that we'd seen in his slides, I was very excited to finally be able to give one a name. Gillen, maintaining his cool on the very hot day, was eager to check them off on our butterfly list.

But the butterflies must have heard that we were coming (or they were all hanging out in Claudia or Gillen's gardens). We only found one.

We did see a bunch of dragonflies:I am looking forward to going to the dragonfly talk at Charlie Elliott in August.

The boys were just happy to find good temporary walking sticks:Later that day, we went to another nearby small town - Rutledge, where our kids (except for Jesse, who had been sick) had taken part in an art camp all week. The camp culminated in a celebration on Sat. afternoon and evening that included a blow up water slide, hot dogs and corn for the camp members, a short version of High School Musical (that they had put together in four days!) and all of their art work displayed in Rutledge's center of town square.

This should hold them off for a while on any need for a far-away water park:The following are three pictures from their High School Musical production, which was so sweet.
Some communal food art that the camp created- our more overgrown okra made an appearance here:
They created several of these sculptures, all with recycled materials. This one is from Gillen's group. The reason that we have cool opportunities like this, locally, is because of amazing people like these below. Ed and Molly are the couple that sponsored this camp. They live in Rutledge now, where they have an art studio and a sandwich/ice cream shop (housed in a train caboose that they moved there - this shouldn't just be parenthetical - it is so cool). They used to live right here, where I now sit, under this tin roof. While living here, Ed created this house's side porch, back deck, and the entire second floor and staircase, with his own hands, and his increasingly aching back. Their businesses pulled them to Rutledge. I drove by this house, eleven years ago, and was enchanted by the landscaping, and by the flowers that were painted on the windows. I never dreamed that we could live here. It turned out that not a lot of other people appreciated this old house, or even gave it a chance once they found out it didn't have air-conditioning. Ed and Molly let us rent it until we could buy it. They too are from Mass. Plus, I think they saw how much we appreciated their hundred year old, well loved home. And they are just good people.
Below is Eva, who put up the camp. She also works on our farm and teaches yoga in all of the surrounding towns. Yet another example of a talented, community-minded, generous local. I am appreciating our life out here, this moment. It would be nice to have a movie theater more nearby, or a bigger group of very local, like-minded home schoolers. But I will bide my time. I remember the years when I wondered if we'd have air conditioning. We got the air several years ago so I will wait optimistically on the rest.


kelli said...

What a wonderful post Madeline. It really strikes a chord with me right now as I've been driving so much to different places. I want to find places closer to us too. I suppose it'll happen with time, it might take more than 5 days to accomplish that.. yeah, I'm impatient with the whole settling in *g*.

I also loved reading about the couple who lived in your house before you. And your impressions of your house before living there. Wonderful :)

Angie said...

What a great post, Madeline. Being in such close proximity to the Twin Cities, I used to think we had to drive in to the cities to find 'cool' things to do. It didn't take long for me to realize how many things there were to do right here.

We live on the St. Croix River, we have the oldest State Park in the State of Wisconsin (over 100 years old), a local theater that puts on acting classes and plays for kids, a movie theater, an old time local drug store that has ANYTHING you could need, not to mention the bazillion lakes around every corner.

It's great to be able to appreciate the place you live - thanks for the motivation!

I would love to see pictures of your house - it sounds so great.

Kat said...

With the price of gas...doing things locally just make sense. And even with being in the 'burbs...I can find unique things for us to do and see., you *must* post your story about you and your husband. I love reading stories like this. Probably because mine is sooo boring :-)

Alecto said...

Madeline, I don't think you're going to have to wait very long.

And I second the request for the husband story and take your time with the the telling of it. I don't recall ever wanting you to just get to the point.

Madeline said...

Kelli, I am pretty impatient with the settling in thing as well - the unpacking especially! I'm thinking of you. I'm glad that you appreciated the Ed and Molly story. I will have to post pictures of the flowers she painted on the bathroom windows and of their ice cream caboose.

Angie, it sounds like you live in a great place! Lakes, a movie theater, a good local theater. Wow. That is wonderful. It sounds like another era with that drug store. We have bits of that feel as well.

Kat and Alecto, I will write about Nicolas and I meeting sometime soon. But then, I'd love to hear yours' as well.

Kimba said...

Whenever I have the urge to move back into the country (I spent some cool years in Woolsey and near Pine Mountain long before either place got too bougie ) -- it is always your place that inspires me. I love your home (especially upstairs) and the farm.

I so want to visit all of you down there, but gas has gotten ridiculous (in case you haven't noticed ;).

Loved the post!

Rachel said...

Oh, I have to comment on this post too because it is just so beautiful. I love all the images in it, and I never feel like I want you to rush through any story, your writing is so wonderful, you can take as long as you like to tell me anything! The beauty is always in the details.

I love the idea of a small town, and having spent the last 15 years in Chicago, I wonder how I would do if we lived in the country. I know I would miss so many things, but I also think that it would be a wonderful thing. I've been really contemplating a shift like this, so your post is inspiring. Thank you so much for writing it! And I'm so glad you are finding so much joy withing a 10 mile radius. ;)