Neighbors and being neighborly is not in vogue these days. My condo association is set up to keep this status quo: our garages are in front, our entry ways are in a courtyard, but we can’t sit there and jaw a spell, as the entryways are only large enough to have you walk in or exit easily. They are not set up to socialize. We can sit on our balconies, though, and relax. The balconies are in the back and staggered, so you don’t see or bother your neighbors. Everything screams isolation.
Small town, Iowa, is a welcome escape and retreat.
The town of about 3,000 has multiple businesses: shops, cars, bars, restaurants, etc. No parking meters, stay as long as you want. People stop in to purchase, to browse or simply, to chat. There are stop signs, but no stop lights. The flow is easy and straight. The Mississippi River forms a smooth, blue border on the left of the main street through town, and south of town is a bluff that hosts a small state park. Trees are every where and the back roads west behind the town eventually lead through the local hollow (sometimes pronounced “holler”).It is a visual delight with a calming effect.
At the edge of town where I was visiting, the houses are well built and generously spaced. The lawns spread out like lush, green picnic blankets for giants. Trees – oak, maple, pine, ash – pepper the entire neighborhood, shading you at various times throughout the day.
At night the sky sparkles with stars. Living in a large city, I often forget just how many stars dot the sky. The streets are quiet and past 10:00 PM, vehicles seem to turn themselves in for the night, too. It is like being rocked in a hammock on a desert island under the moonlight.
In the morning the doves coo, the crows caw, and the turkey vultures soar high and gracefully above the trees on the ridge. A bald eagle flies by once in a while, but the little dogs that can be their prey are still safely inside their homes. Pieces of gravel pop beneath the sneakers of a jogger as she trots down the side road at the edge of the neighborhood’s paved street. A motor sputters and a pick up meanders past with bundles of rolled up hay in its truck bed. The town is stretching itself awake.
You wake up just as slowly and gloriously, too, sipping good coffee on a patio in the quiet neighborhood where people are still neighbors.
You hope you can still remember how to be one, too; at least, while you are there.
— ( c ) St. John 2010