Last night, after an 80+ degree late summer day, which I spent mainly indoors packing, I decided to go to the new food cart lot for dinner. As soon as I arrived, I ran into my neighbors, the ones whose house I watched for a month this summer. I remember a time when I could go anywhere I wanted in this mountain town and not run into a single person I knew. This week marked my fifth year living here. The longest I’ve lived anywhere as an adult.
I’ve thought a bit about the reasons why I moved here. The appeal of a small town (population 80,000). The convenience of walking anywhere I really needed to go. The desire for a community to be a part of, not just a place to pass through. It took me a little while, but I found that community in my neighbors. The ones who throw a big block party every year.
That party happened this last Saturday. I could only stay for an hour, because I had a Cycle Pub tour to drive. But I managed to steer that pub right through the neighborhood for a quick drive by. Much cheering and shouting ensued. “We love Shelby!” I heard someone yell. And that’s what I love about my old neighborhood. They know me by name. They trust me to watch their homes, their cats, and their dogs. We can get together for a big party with everyone, or maybe we just run into each other at the neighborhood food cart. But we share a meal and we know each other. After five years, I can’t go out to dinner without running into someone who knows me. I am part of this community. This mountain town.
Over the years, I’ve learned that communities aren’t something that just happen. They are built. With hard work and dedication. They require everyone to show up. To join in. To bring a dish to the block party potluck. To lend a hand or a wrench when the car breaks down. To gather in the garage to watch the hops become a new brew. To taste the brew when it’s ready to tap.
Somewhere in an airport today I am going to be on the lookout for Caleb, the funeral director. Both our professions deal with the end of things, life and marriage, and I have a feeling we are going to get along. I can’t wait to meet all the California Girls and tell them about the time my sisters and I got an entire bar to sing along with us in Honolulu. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to find a bond with Roo as the only other girl not in the Golden State Club.
As I write, the speakers at the food cart park blares the White Stripes singing “I can tell that we are gonna be friends.”
The week ahead has a full itinerary, and I plan on showing up. On being a part of this new community. I can’t wait to make new friends in the other writers going along. (You should check them all out here.) To meet new friends in Guatemala. And especially to develop a new friendship with all of you following along, and introducing you to those I meet along the way.
I don’t know how to prepare for a week like this, but I thank you for joining me in this journey and for being a part of this community. I’ll be back every day with more stories to share. Be sure to follow along not only right here on the blog but also follow the entire trip over here. I hope by the end of the week, we will all know each other by name. And feel comfortable sharing a table if we ever run into each other at the food cart park.