I’ve been a little quiet around here – we took a long family trip down to our favorite place: Black Mountain, NC (about 20 minutes outside of Asheville). We love it down there and always ask ourselves why we don’t just move down there already basically the entire time we’re down there. It is becoming even more fun to take the kids as they get older – J did so well hiking all by himself, and M is a good sport checking out everything in the hiking backpack Grant wears. But Indiana is home, so we haven’t moved…yet.
After this trip, we’ve tried to figure out how we can incorporate a bit more Black Mountain life into our lives at home. On the long trip home (lots of traffic), we came up with our top three most attractive things about Black Mountain:
- Creation. God’s beauty and abundance are all around. There is something about the Smoky Mountains that call to me even more than the higher ranges like the Rockies or Sierras, though they are beautiful as well.
- The culture. There is something different about the Asheville area. I joke that, up in Indiana, we come off a little weird: we eat locally and seasonally, preserve our food, try to avoid chains, compost all of our food (and keep worms in our basement), make decisions based on their environmental impact, try to avoid consumerism, etc. In Black Mountain, our way of life is just normal, or even better, we would be challenged to do more in those areas versus often explaining ourselves up here.
- The pace. It’s the South, and it’s obvious. The pace is slower. People have more margin for making new friends at coffee shops, restaurants, on the trail, at the brewery.
So we’ve been trying to figure out ways to incorporate a bit more of “BMtn,” as we call it, into central Indiana life. Some of our ideas include:
- More picnics. Picnics are so easy, and the kids especially love them. It makes an inexpensive lunch or dinner into something special.
More creek hopping and hiking. We live close to Cool Creek Park and Flowing Well Park, so we thought those would be easy additions (in addition to exploring some state parks on non-work/school days). There aren’t mountains in the background or any waterfalls like in NC, but they’ll do since they’re only a bike ride away.
- Speaking of our bikes, we need more rides in our life. We actually did a great job last year of incorporating more bike riding during the summer months. We have a little tandem bike that we got off Craigslist for J, and M sits in a bike seat on my bike (I’m hoping she’s still under the weight limit this summer!). One silly thing that we did that made a surprisingly big difference was to leave my car in the driveway for the summer. That way, we left the bikes all suited up in my garage spot, which made it much easier just to hop on the bikes and go instead of having to get everything hooked up and then disassembled and put away when we returned home.
- Throw our whole family into the Project Eden Gardens. Wendell says to build community right where we are, so, rather than daydreaming about our imagined community in Black Mountain, we need to pour ourselves more into our community right here. An easy way to do that this summer will be to spend lots of time with new and old friends out at the garden.
- Be disciplined about Sabbath. The Sleeths argue that there is no better means of caring for creation than to recover the fourth commandment. Lately, I have been convinced of this, as well. One thing we love about being in Black Mountain is the slower pace. Obviously, we’re only regular visitors, but it seems like many of the people down there don’t wear “busy-ness” as a badge of honor like we tend to do here in the Midwest. They seem to have more margin for a long afternoon at a coffee shop or a weeknight at the brewery to listen to some local music. I’m obviously romanticizing things a bit, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t try to recapture some of that for ourselves, our family, and our community. The simplest (not easiest, but simplest) way to do that is to be more disciplined about our Sabbath day. We’re also going to try not to plan so many social things, so that it leaves margin if we’re feeling worn down or just want to invite some friends over at the last minute.
- Practice more gratitude. I was convicted, after daydreaming the whole way home about somewhere else, how much I have to be thankful for in our own backyard. Henri Nouwen, upon return from living with a poor community in South America, writes (I read it in Christine Pohl’s highly recommended and very necessary, Living into Community):
What I claim as a right, my friends . . . received as a gift; what is obvious to me was a joyful surprise to them; what I take for granted, they celebrate in thanksgiving; what for me goes by unnoticed became for them a new occasion to say thanks. And slowly I learned. I learned what I must have forgotten somewhere in my busy, well-planned, and very “useful” life. I learned that everything that is, is freely given by the God of love. All is grace. Light and water, shelter and food, work and free time, children, parents and grandparents, birth and death — it is all given to us. Why? So that we can say gracias, thanks: thanks to God, thanks to each other, thanks to all and everyone.
After looking at our list, I realized that all of those things are easy to incorporate here at home, none of them really cost any money, and all of them build into the community we’ve already established here. It also feels like, by incorporating these small things, we’ll be more content, be better neighbors – and be better stewards of creation because, when the more you care about a place, the better you take care of it.
What do you think? What ways are you taking care of your place? Do you have any “daydream” places that you wish you lived?