Unlike earlier home searches in our lives, the search for this place evolved mostly around geography and characteristics of the land. We were beyond worrying about school districts and we didn’t think much about neighborhood concerns. So this weekend as we hiked through the woods on a bright sunny and snowy day I found myself surprised to be thinking about neighborhoods.
In suburbia, land boundaries seemed very important. They represent where you stop mowing, where your dog is allowed to walk … where you, in fact, can walk. Flowers don’t get picked where you haven’t planted them yourself. People tend to get grumpy if you don’t stay on the sidewalk or if the kids forge a shortcut through a yard to get to school. It is not uncommon to share walls with someone in your townhouse neighborhood and never learn their name.
Up here it isn’t that the borders aren’t clearly marked. Yellow no-trespassing signs clearly define territories with the owner’s name in bold marker. But in practice, boundaries seem to be suggestions when it comes to some things. Most families around us have lived here for multiple generations and the land is shared for hunting, hiking and snowmobiling. Deer trails and people trails snake through the woods on the whole mountain. Our neighbor’s cows and sometimes his horses rotate their way around his neighbors’ fields (ours and others). The combine, baler and tractor in our pole barn belong to two other families and I’m invited to swim in my neighbor’s pool if I feel like it. Needless to say the dogs go wherever they want. For the most part the system seems to work well and we all benefit from the shared resources. A newcomer can occasionally throw a wrench in things by attempting to keep “his deer” on his property to himself. But for us the neighborhood has come to mean a great deal. In addition to sharing space and sky, our neighbors are now our builders and advisors as we learn to create our new house. We are lucky to be welcomed into their culture.