Where We Are

The subdivision where I live is the perfect American metaphor:  It’s unfinished.

Leaving my front door, the stone faced ranch houses  and mostly immaculate yards would make for nice brochure pictures–despite the naked trees–as long as no one framed the shots around the white PVC tubes spitting water into the gutter, leaving mineral deposit fans, and crumbling the sidewalks.

A left at the corner will take you to “The largest liquor store in the World!” (at least according to their website), Home Depot, and Sears. There are three banks to choose from, but if you want gas or groceries, you’ll have to pay for a Costco membership. In this neighborhood, the Christmas decorations go up two days before Halloween

A right turn leads you deeper into the commercially landscaped facade  lined with the  autumn corpses of summer’s manicured herbs: yarrow, lavender, and echinacea; but I go straight.

Nine foot pillars and redwood  planks obscure the scrub and weeds that are retaking the unfinished job site.  However, in one section, the pillars give way to flimsy orange fencing. Neighborhood kids have thoughtfully trampled it. 

Our cultural mythology instructs us that our love of a place, like our love of a person, should depend on perfection. No one loves suburbia.  It’s not sexy like the city or romantic like the country.  It’s neither virgin nor pristine. It does not take our breath away.

But we’re supposed to breathe, and love, it  grows best out of discovery, finding a place to wander when we feel lost.  Ironic, isolated, hydrants;  failed asphalt devoured by grass; dreamed of empires that had to die, define the difference between this place and the idea of place.

Familiarity breeds compassion. The contempt only comes when we stop seeing where we are, where our feet could take us, where we could get to from here.

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