I share a little small-town experience.
I am from a small town in middle America where everyone knows your name. Or at least, your last name. The gardener, the postmaster, church folk, and farmers. Teachers and doctors and townspeople. I head into the local coffee shop only to see my former junior year high school World Literature teacher (who is now retired and seems to love his moped). Last Friday, I went to the local wine sellers to hear my old high school friend's dad play guitar. (A fun tidbit: he used to teach me how to play that instrument.) Even the horse-shoeing guy that no longer is the horse-shoer instructor knows my parents. My dad was a student of his at his school.
Living in this rural, large small town for the summer, I have appreciated walking somewhat daily, and often, twice a day. Over the past couple of months, the local neighbors have realized this rhythm and even country folk. One slowed down in his red truck and said in a good-natured way, "You're going to wear out the road."
The other day, I picked up some photos from the local Wal-mart, and I heard from behind, "Are you the one who walks?" The small-town girl in me automatically turned around, knowing someone knew me, and started chatting, knowing what they were referring to.
"I am. I walk in the morning and evening after supper."
"We live on the corner."
After further inquiry, I realized what corner it was--after all, just a couple of nights ago, I had waved to them from the road as they were inside having dinner. I knew who they were though they didn't really know who I was. He was the man that was my father's horseshoeing instructor about forty years ago; I had known that he lived in that house. On that late summer evening in September, their kitchen light created a faint glow.
They lived on the corner in the country on the property I have loved since I was a little girl. This summer, their house had been my turn-around-point where I get the gorgeous views of the gentle Illinois hills rolling off into the distance before turning around and seeing my small town from afar: tilled fields melding into other ripe fields ready for harvest flowing into the local hospital where I was born and town square beyond.
The fields aren't really harvested, but I bet they will be by next week. On my walks, I have appreciated being a companion to the corn: seeing it grow, mature, dehydrate, and shrink. The vibrant summer green changing to an autumnal crisp gold. Likewise, on these walks, the corn and the different birds above--the hawks, doves, swallows, finches, sparrows, and one particular heron--and even the frogs and snakes below--have been witness to my own journey of change.
That afternoon, standing in the store, it was small town living: all three of us in conversation which ranged from me sharing who-I-was-and-how-I-knew-them to let-me-know-if-you-ever-sell-your-property to remind-your-parents-we-need-to-go-on-that-double-date to stop-over-on-your-next-walk. Upon knowing my maiden name, he grinned and simply pointed to an emblem in the upper right corner of his faded t-shirt which was a horseshoe with the name of the school and my hometown.