Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Customs Of The Land

I have to admit, it's a real joy to be able to use the internet to keep in touch, quickly, with people around the world. Easier to appreciate that we are all interconnected in ways large and small.

Even so, when I think of the people who have become a large part of the fabric of my life, it is usually those who live nearby, especially neighbors. I am very fortunate. I live in an area where the houses are in all sorts of styles and sizes. Some are from the time when this was a poor rural area and the 1900's houses often had recycled timbers as part of the structure. Our old farmhouse had some roof trusses that had been made from timbers from some structure that has been partially burned. When you don't have the money for new timbers, you use what you can cobble together. Other houses are newer and really nice, although we don't have any McMansions nearby. Lots of mid-century and later ramblers and split-levels, too.

The neighbors are all sorts, too, from farmers, to winery owners, to county sheriffs, landscapers, firemen, auto repairmen  and pastors, to name a few. Some make cheese, counsel executives of large companies,  are graphic artists, caregivers, grocery checkers, office managers, teachers, school classroom aides and more.

The advantage of a broad spectrum of homes and occupations, is that there are exchanges of tools, books and recipes among neighbors who may have vastly different opinions on world events and politics, so those with differing ideas don't so easily become 'the Other'. So what if some are liberal, some conservative? Some are homeowners, some renters. It doesn't matter...we take care of each other, look after each other's pets and gardens and take in the mail when the neighbor is on vacation, bring chicken soup when someone is ill, and similar small kindnesses. We help with home repairs and picking things up at Costco for each other. It seems a rare and wonderful corner of the world, but the customs of our small area of land seem quaint somehow.

How many of you know most of the neighbors in the area around where you live? Do you interact with them in similar ways or do you barely nod as you pass...can you even identify their car if it passes you on the road near your house or apartment?

It takes time, effort and some persistence to establish and maintain neighborhood friendships. If a lot of spare time goes towards keeping up with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and emails, when is there enough time to get to know the actual people who live next door?

I was recently reading a book about the time after World War I. Often people of that era had been living on the same street for many years and when hard times came the neighbors looked out for each other, even if no one had a lot to spare. It was expected, normal, the custom of the land.

Later, after World War II, the suburbs were filled with families who had parents in the same age range and kids who played with each other, up and down the block, so everyone still knew each other and I suspect that my kind of neighborliness is similar to what was true in those times.

Now people often live in neighborhoods where everyone is of the same status, race, educational background, and occupation type. Still, with two working parents being the norm, and with children having endless classes, camps, and sports activities after school and on the weekends, it seems that even neighbors who should be compatible don't have time to get to know each other. If you also are struggling to make ends meet, that can mean two or even three jobs and even less time to spend with your own family, much less with neighbors.

So I'm going to treasure my fine and friendly neighbors and count my blessings. Heavy use of the internet has reduced the time spent interacting with neighbors. I hope that the advent of VR doesn't completely do away with the friendships that can be found with those living close by.

Tomorrow I'll be taking a nice cake to dinner at a neighbor's home. I'll post the recipe on Thursday. I know already that there will be good food, laughter, lively discussions, and fond feelings. What could be better?


  1. We do know our neighbors, but not in the same way that we all used to. I'll have to fix that. Lovely post.

  2. Easy to take our neighbors for granted; very hard to replace...can't really replace.