Three summers ago, when we were packing to leave our beloved Northern home and move 5 hours south, one question kept bugging me. I knew I was giving up a lot of beautiful nature, but I also knew that beautiful nature abounds in the area to which we were relocating. No wolves and bears in Southern Wisconsin, but plenty of nearly everything else—including deer, raccoons, ground hogs, muskrats, and (something we did not have in the North) possums.
As I packed, I realized I was giving up quick access to water, but hey! I knew we’d be surrounded by water in our new locale—from lakes and rivers down to the picturesque pond with a fountain just a few yards from our door.
My concern was not for the loss of nature and water. What bugged me was the fact that, after nearly 30 years of living in the midst of acres with no close human neighbors, we were suddenly to be transported to a community where we’d see people—perhaps lots of them—every day of our lives.
That sounds anti-social. It sounds like I don’t like my own species, but nothing could be further from the truth. I do and always have loved most people: family members, friends, and people in general—so long as the “people in general” were not crowding around me, or a part of my everyday experience. So I packed and prayed, and we moved.
Now, nearly three years later, I can’t begin to express how much both Joe and I enjoy living in a community. We do see “people in general” every day, but guess what?! They are not just “people in general” after all. Each one is a special person. I realize that there are many places in the world where neighbors are not sweet and pleasant, but we have been blessed. We are surrounded by sweet and pleasant people. What a joy to pause in our comings and goings, and chat with a neighbor.
In the beginning it was hard to get acquainted with fellow dog walkers because our Dylan was so ridiculously impossible around other dogs—straining at the leash and barking as if he wanted to kill. Now even Dylan has changed. He still strains a little, but the barking has mainly been replaced by a deep inner rumble. Now we can sometimes visit with the other dog people.
Along with my original concern about living near “people in general” was my question about living around the noise that people inevitably make, as I’m a lifelong lover of quiet. The first noticeable difference in the noise level around our new home was the presence of happy sounds—children playing in our front yard park, softball games, soccer games, picnics in the pavillion, etc. These sounds were, for me, love at first hearing. The cacophony created by people having fun outdoors is truly wonderful.
Not quite so wonderful was the ongoing hum of the air conditioners, positioned outside our bedroom window. Every condo here has an air conditioner along with the gas furnace, and nearly everyone along our side of the garage row uses their artificial air at night. We don’t. We are “open door and window freaks”, aided by a ceiling fan in each room of our new home. We simply fling our windows open as wide as we can—night and day—and pull the strings on our ceiling fans.
We moved here in the September heat of 2009, and those humming air conditioners were a considerable issue for me at first. I truly wondered, “Am I going to be able to live with this?”
But after those first few warm weeks, the air thingies outside never bothered me again. If I’m conscious of hearing them, I simply think “How great that people can be comfortable—even with closed windows!”
We have a neighbor across the lane, who drives a snazzy new car and goes in and out with his car radio blasting country tunes. We always know when Mike is coming and going—and we love him. He is going on 93 years old, a WW2 veteran, and one great guy. He goes out nearly every morning to play golf. Mike’s country tunes assure me that he is thriving, and I thank God for such a fine neighbor.
One of the constant sounds of civilization is the racket made by mowers and blowers involved in park and condo community maintenance. Like the air conditioners, these annoyed me at first. But my whole attitude has changed. The area is kept beautifully groomed, and we appreciate that! The workers are always pleasant and considerate; they are careful to not to clip or mow into our gardens. When I see the maintenance crew at work, I thank God that these people have jobs.
Throughout that 2009 summer of packing, I knew of one sound at our new locale which would be absolutely thrilling to me: the sound of trains. If I have blogged about any subject more consistently than potato chip scarves, that subject is undoubtedly trains. I can’t say enough about them: the lumbering, chugging freights, and the whooshing AmTrak—mentally transporting me to Colorado or New Mexico. At the risk of being entirely silly I could run around and sing, “The tracks are alive with the sound of music!”
All of this causes me to muse about how people can change! Who would every think that this lover of quiet solitude could rejoice in the sounds of music, condo style? Perhaps the proverbial “bottom line” is this: we can carry our peace and quiet inside ourselves—right in the midst of wherever God has placed us. I praise Him for that!