I said, “Girl, everybody hates their city in winter.”
It’s weird because some data from Robert Putnam suggests that levels of social capital are higher the farther north you go. The theory is that in the kinds of places that are periodically afflicted with polar vortexes, community members rely on each other more for emotional and physical support. (Witness the good news stories about teenagers shoveling out a neighbor who needs dialysis.)
These are Little House on the Prairie places where winter was historically wiled away with visits and shared meals. That heritage of taking care of others seemingly passes down through a community’s DNA, despite our world of central heating and remote-start vehicles.
Nevertheless, I find myself withdrawing in winter. Like the Pandapas Pond frogs that disappear into the muck come December, I burrow. All my place attachment behaviors recede. I never want to leave my house. (IT’S COLD.) So I see friends less, walk less, skip community events, and don’t volunteer. By March I’ve forgotten what it means to act like someone who loves their place.
Spring is my time to hit the reset button. Here in Blacksburg, we’ve had a string of 50-degree days, not exactly midsummer but we’ll take it. Last night, while my girls were off at church activities, I took a walk to the library. After five minutes of wrestling with wonky earbuds, I unplugged. I listened. To my own breathing, to a couple women urging on their reluctant dog, to robins and cardinals building nests in the trees. The full moon was rising. The light on the daffodils seemed pale and silvery. I thought, “How impossibly beautiful it is here.”
It’s easier to love your town in nice weather. It just is. So if you’ve hibernated this winter like I have, let’s remind ourselves how to like where we live. We’ll sit outside in the sunshine, work in the garden, and say hello to neighbors. If it’s not springy quite yet where you live, it’s coming, I promise.
I’m traveling a lot for work these days. I leave for Michigan in a couple hours. But I’ll be back on Friday, and I think that this weekend I’ll go to the farmers’ market. At long last.
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7 items of interest
1. 61 ways you don’t need permission to make your town better.
2. Has faith helped you make a moving decision? Or feel better about moving altogether? (My friend Rachel wrote this one.)
3. How to build communities designed for happiness and well-being.
4. Do you keep seeing the same stranger everywhere? It’s a thing. Read a few more adorable stories here.
5. More anchor institutions should buy local.
6. Reason to throw a party: “Every time people gather, they are being brought into the opportunity to help one another, to do what they couldn’t do or think up or heal alone.”
7. Why community development and decision-making is like making biscuits from scratch, not popping the Pillsbury can. (BTW, these girls are awesome.)
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