The other evening a young couple, neighbors who live out here in the remote countryside, invited me over for dinner. It was very kind of them-- "neighborly" is the term used in these parts-- and we had a good meal and good conversation, far better than I would've had heating up a can of soup and eating alone in this big old rambling house of mine, as I often do for dinner.
But that's the way people are, out here in deep rural America. Neighborly: this young couple is nothing out of the ordinary in these parts. He's a diesel mechanic, and a damn good one; his parents are my nearest neighbors, down the gravel road from me a ways. When I first moved here twelve years ago, he was around junior high age. Now he and his fiancee will be getting married soon. Time does fly! And as the years pass by, the roots of our lives become interwoven, friend with friend, neighbor with neighbor.
People can sling bloodless abstractions around, talking about the wonders of "community" and whatnot-- generally people who themselves live in some urban neighborhood where they may not even know the names of many of their neighbors. Out here in flyover country it's not a bloodless abstraction. It's not just rhetoric. It's something solid and real. Neighbors. Just as solid and real as rambling conversation around a tiny table in a cramped little kitchen, eating carrots and baked potatoes and meatballs, with a glass of milk at one's elbow.
Twelve years ago I moved here, to a remote and unfrequented area far out into the countryside. Moved here from the big hectic noisy impersonal city. And time and again I find myself thinking that moving here is one of the best things I ever did in my life.