What is a neighborhood?
Is it a massive suburban subdivision with residents living under the same covenants? Is it a cluster of houses on large acreage in the country? Is it a single street? Is it residential, commercial and hospitality together in a given area? The dictionary definition is ‘A district, especially one forming a community within a town or city.’
I think that is the key word for an ideal neighborhood. I live in on a dead end road where there are 27 homes, but there is not a sense of community. Although we are there for each other when we need some help, I have no sense of being tied to any of them. There is no common ground among us.
My neighborhood now – not really a community
I live at the end of the road. As you drive down, the road makes a U shaped turn and comes back parallel to itself. I live at the end. On the final stretch, there are eight homes, four on each leg of the U. This is the original part of the neighborhood from over 60 years ago. The rest of the area was developed during the building boom from the last decade. I lived here before all that happened.
Most residents are retired. They take classes at the university, travel, do volunteer work, have part time jobs, and hang out with their grandchildren. Lives are separate. There are no children to play together and bring parents and families together. There is no opportunity for carpooling to jobs. There is no sitting on the porch and welcoming passers by. We are all isolated while being neighbors. The neighborhood lacks community.
Potential for real community is there
Our eight houses are tucked away at the end, away from the main road yet with easy access. It is very private. I always thought these eight families could be a true neighborhood with community. It was a fantasy, since there were some tensions between people who had been there a long time. Old neighbor feuds, I guess you could say. Still, I dreamed we could all work together to create community.
We all have different skills. We are health care practitioners, artists, carpenters, handymen/women, gardeners, mechanics, parents, fishermen/women and retirees. Between us, we probably have all the tools and land we needed to be self-sufficient. For each home to buy a circular saw was silly, so if there were one or two, they could be communally used. One household could grow apples while another grew tomatoes. Childcare could be built in. Chores, skills and time could be shared.
Community and communal living – a discussion to have
Because this is a rural area, my friends and I are spread out over the county, and some of my close friends are 30 minutes away on the other side of town. I once dreamed of my friends moving into those other seven homes in my neighborhood, and we could live close to each other yet have our own personal space. It would be like a commune, but people would have their own property.
I know. Communes of the ’60s failed, because there were no rules. The times dictated freedom, which was not effective when trying to get people to work cooperatively to be part of a group. Today a commune is referred to as an ‘intentional community’, which better describes the concept. People come together and share the chores and responsibilities of day-to-day life, but they agree to live within a certain structure. It’s kind of like a little town, a little neighborhood, a little community, if you will.
This, to me, is ideal – to be surrounded by people you know and trust who have the same values as you do and are willing to share in daily life and offer socialization in an isolated area. I’m sure it would have its problems, but ideally, they would be ironed out easily. Fantasy? Maybe. Maybe not.