Saturday, October 10, 2009

Neighborhood Stress or Spice of Life?

Growing up in the Southwest involved a lot of traipsing around through ancient Native American ruins and climbing up and down canyon walls to visit ceremonial 'kivas' or to gain a vantage point which allowed a birds eye view of the Anasazi's primitive neighborhood layout. I can vividly remember pacing off what remained of their tiny square rooms and thinking that it must've been awful to live practically on top of your neighbor. 

While wheeling my trashcans out to the curb this past week it struck me that most modern people live out the same close quartered existence as our ancient ancestors. In fact, if you fly into almost any American airport during daylight hours you can see the same neighborhood layouts today that many ancient communities exhibited hundreds or thousands of years ago. 

So given all of the irritations of living out our lives in close quarters, whether they be laid out in the subdivided form of urban neighborhoods or stacked like blocks in apartment complexes, condos or trendy lofts, why do we do it? 

I must admit to being someone who almost daily professes to harbor the desire to sell my tiny piece of subdivision and retreat to the seclusion of the country. I long for wide open spaces, neighbors who live too far away to voice an opinion on my children's behavior, the position of my pets in my household or the color of my mailbox, and a sky where I can see the stars. Yet beneath all of the chaffing that goes with sharing my property lines with various families who have kids, pets and mailboxes of their own, is the realization that I would miss them if they weren't there. 

A great many country dwellers find that they desire a return to urban or city life. They miss the action, the diversity, the drama, the conveniences, the shopping and the extensive choice of pizza places that deliver. The truth is that human beings were made to be parts of a community. So perhaps instead of grumbling about so-and-so's ugly landscaping or choice in yard ornaments, combine resources with your other neighbors and buy so-and-so a gift certificate for new landscaping. Then sit back and enjoy the results while knowing they're likely to be even worse than before. Or instead of freaking out when that dog owner down the street lets her beloved pet poop in your yard, just pick it up and deposit it in her yard for her. 

My point is that we should enjoy the little dramas that make life interesting instead of letting them stress us out. After all, most good books had their start in some real life drama which played out in front of a particularly observant author...

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