Friday, May 4, 2012

Reflections on a Small Town


When I was growing up, I always wanted to live in a larger city.  Being from Michigan and thus a Midwesterner, the obvious close places were Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis.  I loved scouring maps when I was a kid looking at the "big yellow" sprawls of various metropolises.  This desire continued when I was in college.  I visited Denver and liked it.  I visited Salt Lake City and liked it.  I went abroad to London, Paris, Rome, Athens, and loved them all.  And the constant in all that was that I loved the energy that a big city has.  Seems like there is always movement, and like the larger city is its own living, breathing organism filled to the brim with activity.

Thus, there may seem to be a small bit of irony that I now live in a town of approximately 3,000 people, and the closest "city" has only 30,000 people.  And its in the heart of Northern Indiana Amish country.  Things are quiet. People are scarce.  Its quite the opposite to those things I desired in a living place when I was young and in college.

The reason I am reflecting on this is that last week I was in Indianapolis for a seminar.  I arrived right around 5pm, so of course everything was bustling.  There was noisy construction on the north side when I arrived.  As such, traffic was even more packed and jammed than usual at that time of the day.  Once downtown, the traffic was just as packed, but included tons of people out walking to parking garages, to restaurants, to bus stops, etc.  That night, walking out to dinner, it seemed like every place had plenty of business, and the air seemed like it was filled with constant noises of civilization - chattering, honking, yelling, and just that hum of activity.  All night in the hotel room, you could still hear the activity, that energy, emanating from the streets below.

Such a contrast in so many ways.  At night at home, it truly is quiet.  Often, later, you can hear the clickety-clack of the horses pulling buggies.  You hear the wind, instead of just feeling it.  You can hear a dog bark from several houses away, and it competes with nothing to make noise.  You can see the full night sky, not blocked at all by city lights and/or pollution.

I never thought I would end up in such a small town.  And the truth is now, I have hard time imagining living anywhere else.  Every night I take the dog out late, I look forward to the task so I can gaze on such a wonderful night sky and contemplate on the age and size of the Universe.  I've come to believe that there's something spiritual about being able to hear wind, not just feel it.  Where I once found quiet to be unnerving, I now find the solitude of it peaceful.

And I think I've come to see that the energy I so loved about big cities, and still do, is still present in my small town setting.  Instead of taking the form of noise and fast-paced activity, it reside in the moments of quiet reflection I experience, and the awe I continually have most nights when gazing upon our wondrous canopy of stars.

Both places are filled with life, and I've grown to love that life I get from the small town.