With our moving date settling in ever closer, I’ve been getting a little nostalgic. Even though we’re moving just a few blocks down (less than a mile away), the move is still causing me to reflect on the impact of our decision to stay in this exact apartment for the last three years.
While moving (and any novel activity, really) brings excitement and the stimulation from being surrounded by new things and people, there is a certain beauty to staying in one place for an extended amount of time. It’s a quiet beauty, yes, but it’s also a comforting, partially hidden, and stable beauty.
If you stay in one place for at least a couple years, allowing yourself to drink in the sights and smells and experiences that surround you, you become privy to certain truths about the area that would remain hidden to the casual observer.
When we first moved into this neighborhood three years and one month ago, I was driving to my new job working as the secretary of a concrete manufacturing plant, and I was dreadfully nervous. As I wound my car along the twisting lane leading me to Main Street, I gasped aloud as I saw the most breathtaking (but unexpected) sight almost hidden in the brush and trees lining the steep slope on my right—
A hillside that was positively filled with hundreds upon hundreds of orange poppies.
Since that first glimpse of the fiery field of poppies, I have since learned to not gasp aloud at what I see when I pass. But I also have studied that hillside each May from both the road and from behind my lens as I seek to capture it in new ways, and my heart thrills when I see the small dots of orange start to flare up because for me, the orange poppy hillside has become synonymous with summer and familiarity and just a little bit of surprise.
And that’s the beauty of staying in one place for a long time, really—you get these little glimpses of the secrets that only locals know, and you start to gain an intimacy with the land on which you live. You learn to anticipate the behaviors and sights of what surrounds you, and that anticipation brings both a sense of comfort and excitement as nature brings forth her traditions with each passing year.
Living in one place for a long time has other advantages, too—you gain somewhat of an expertise in the living patterns of your neighbors, the best places to eat in town, the roads to avoid at 5 PM, and what can only be referred to as “the local flavor.” Basically, putting down roots for awhile allows you to feel like part of the landscape rather than just an observer of it, and staying for longer still actually makes you an INFLUENCER of the landscape instead of just a casual passerby.
And as I’ve thought about how things will change when we move in a week, I know that some things will not change much–I know we will still pass the orange poppies and I’ll still do my runs on (mostly) the same paths as before, and we’ll see pretty much all the same people at church every Sunday. But in moving away, we will lose the familiarity we have gained here, in this particular place, and when we go back to this exact same apartment, it will never be the same. We won’t have the neighbor girl coming over nearly every day to borrow our phone or a screwdriver. I won’t hear the 7-year-old across the street calling out my name and yelling hi to me as I come into our home. I won’t sniff the air perfumed with the constant barbecue being grilled up by my neighbor across the way or see the puppies being trained across the cul-de-sac or be a stone’s throw away from the garden we planted last week.
Yes, these things will still exist, and yes, there will be other neighbors to lend things to and other children to say hi to me and other people grilling up corn and steaks on their barbecues.
But it won’t be the same as when it happened here.