When I packed up a U-Haul truck and moved from Broadway in NYC to my newly-purchased farm in Old DeKalb near the Canadian border, I left an apartment building in which I barely knew the faces of other tenants and was friends with none of them. Arriving in the North Country, the first bit of culture shock was the loss of anonymity and then the discovery that everyone seemed to know or know of everyone else, and could tell you maiden names, first cousins, in-laws and great uncles for all of them.
I found this familiarity with others a bit disconcerting at first. Now, I treasure it as one of the positive qualities of living in an area where people know their small town neighbors or all the other families on their rural road.
Apparently, city and suburban dwellers are yearning for that community connection, too. A new website helps people living in the same neighborhood connect with each other. Funny, as I read the article, it reminded me of something… oh, yes, www.ncpr.org…and, of course, the on-the-ground neighborliness and sense of connectedness that is part of our daily lives in the North Country. On the other hand, I do think there’s a real movement afoot in many cities–to find community, through shared rooftop or vacant lot gardens, through food coops and neighborhood clean up efforts, and other shared activities.
One other note–on the rural/urban difference: on Saturday’s edition of American Routes, country singer Marty Stuart said, paraphrasing here, “It’s harder to grow up in a city and adapt to and master what you need to know to live in the country than it is to grow up in the country and learn what you need to know to live in a city.” I grew up in NYC, and I agree. It took a long time to acquire skills that North Country natives take for granted–from gardening and canning, to getting around in bad weather conditions, to maintaining a house (vs. living in an apartment) and using tools. Heck, I didn’t even learn how to drive a car until I was 25.
But, you may disagree. Weigh in here. Easier to adapt to the country or city–if you were raised in the other environment?