Do we have the courage to live in this place? This is the question upon which Devin and I reflect often these days, as we anticipate moving to our farm. You wonder what I mean, dear reader, because the answer seems obvious. If we live on a farm in the country, of course we will live in that place, right?
To clarify this for you, I will unpack it in two parts, first, what I mean by “live in this place” and, second, why we need courage for that. Okay, come, Holy Spirit.
To Live In This Place
When we first decided to move to Georgetown, I assumed that we still largely live in Austin. I planned to visit friends in Austin, buy my groceries at my favorite HEB in Austin (oh, I am so very very glad to be back in HEB country), and eventually send Edmund to this amazingly fabulous home school co-op in Austin (aah, colloquium–the only thing better is the trivium).
I commenced with my plan as soon as we arrived a few weeks ago, and began to put miles on our car, picking up Austin life just where we left off a few years ago. Lots of driving. Too much driving. The proverbial wall hit me last week, and I Simply Could Not Spend Another Minute In The Car. That’s just how I said it to Devin, too, with each word a proper noun. And, I decided at that instant, as cholerics are wont to do, that I was going to live in the same place where I slept at night and stop living in my car.
Because, you see, dear reader, most of us Americans live in our cars, or rather, live in spurts punctuated by car trips. Our civic engagements, our religious worship, our social intercourse are all mediated by automobile travel, and our homes are the places where we sleep and hang out on the weekends. Wendell Berry makes this point (with rather more brevity and erudite brilliance than I) in “The Unsettling of America”, wherein he critiques the American habit of turning our homes into places of consumption, leisure, and the production of garbage. That’s not living. We don’t really live in our houses.
If Devin and I are to actually live where we sleep, we need to limit our car trips and reduce our options. That’s not so much the American way, is it? We will have to give up the arrogance of big city dwellers, who have innumerable options and who are pretty sure that there is not life outside the city, and confine ourselves to the one grocery store in this small town and the one Catholic parish and the one local non-chain coffee shop (how can there only be one coffee shop?). We will have to accept the people who live around us and invest our energies in this community here.
We want to live here, but we have fear. What if we don’t meet any good friends and drown in boredom out here in the sticks? We need the fortitude and temperance to modify our habits and settle into small-town life (and, really, y’all should laugh at me because Georgetown has upwards of 45,000 people; this is no “small” town).
Even as I write this, I laugh at myself because our immediate neighbors are a very hip young family who grow heritage seeds in their backyard garden and it turns out that there is a flourishing home school co-op here and, surprise!, people of intelligence and virtue and cosmopolitan good taste live in small towns, too.