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City Girl, Country Girl

December 12, 2017

Another Way for week of December 1, 2017

City Girl, Country Girl

I hear the roar of a bus, a fire engine, feel the crisp autumn air. I walk past a coffee shop, a pizza shop, a newly opened Middle Eastern café; I go by a bike shop, walk past my two banks. I learn I need to watch for pigeon poop on the walk between the rows of cars in the parking deck, which button to push to make the light change, discover that I’ll need to allow at least 5-10 extra minutes to walk from my car to my new office.

Ginko trees beside my new downtown office. We went from fall to winter when the ginkos lost all their leaves in one windy day.

In mid-November my office sold the building I have worked in since 1975. I have spent more years in that space that any home I’ve lived in, including the house my family called home for 30 years. I was just 23 when I started working there. A lifetime ago. So it was a transition not without its moments of melancholy and nostalgia, but as I’ve told many, it was easier walking out of that long occupied space with 11 others, rather than by myself.

Now walking the downtown streets, I feel like I am back in the city of Barcelona, Spain, where I lived as a student for nearly a year. That year I discovered I really enjoyed city life in spite of having grown up on a farm, which I also adored.

At lunch I run an errand, and decide to try out a different (free) parking deck for the afternoon when I return to downtown, and then realize I have walked an extra block out of the way back to my new office. I don’t feel as safe on that particular street—not as many shops, it is mostly the back end of buildings, someone could easily corner me, pull my purse off, knock me down. I wonder about the man with the big coat slowly walking the street. He looks cold.

Leaving work when the clock is nearing 4:30, I whiff the delicious scent of fresh dough rising from the pizza shop, sniff sizzling burgers from the nearby fast food, walk past a ballet dance studio where children and parents are waiting in a lobby, a free clinic, inviting restaurants with fancy schmancy names, a bakery that also sells gelato and offers samples. Now I feel back in Italy!

When I get back to my afternoon parking deck, I discover this one—which is actually closer to everything—has fewer 10 hour parking spaces. It is now full.

Twenty years ago, our downtown was dead, killed by the local mall which had been built and welcomed so eagerly back in the late 70s. Now a revitalized and lively downtown attracts the young: students, young adults, young couples, a few with babies. The mall area is far less lively. Not dead as in some areas, but harder to walk to places. I am SO glad our office did not move to that pricey area which is all streets and few sidewalks, and not very walker-friendly.

The farm I lived on the first 17 years of my life near Middlebury, Ind.

As a farm child, I wished I could live in town like my friends who were able to walk home for lunch. Does anyone still do that these days? Or maybe I’m just imagining they walked home at lunch. At any rate, I envied them walking to and from school. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, I screwed up the courage and stamina to at least ride my bike to school, which was about four miles away. I felt almost like a town kid. Whee.

Downtown Middlebury, Ind. This Varns and Hoover hardware was there in the 50s when I went to school in Middlebury.

Now at the end of my work day, I am happy to drive out to the country for the restful atmosphere, the hills, and the bright bright stars at night.

I will miss this woods close to my former office where I enjoyed noon time walks for many years.

The going-home traffic is intense in places, in this formerly small town now a city edging 53,000 in population, (80,000 when the college students are in town) but it has nothing like the crazy traffic where my daughters live. Once one of my daughters observed that her normally shy and quiet college roommate became an aggressive type driver when she was back home in her metropolis. You have to, she said, to get anywhere.

The sixteen file drawers I got rid of. Purged most of it, sent some files to Mennonite Church USA archives.

I’m happy to make this adjustment to new space—greatly downsized where I had to reduce my “file imprint” from 16 drawers to two—knowing that just as I’ve gotten through the last several months of downsizing and change, I trust that my husband and I can manage more change as we get older.

My thank you gift to all readers this year is a small 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Request it by mail from Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850 or email me at

Me settled into my new space (on a Saturday).


Do you favor city or country living? Small town or suburb?

Mountains, plains, farmland, or oceans?

If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, what place/country would you like to try?

Comment here or by email!

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.





  1. You look positively jubilant in your new space, Melodie. And you definitely deserve a halo or crown on your head for curating 16 filing cabinets full of stuff.

    As to your questions, I’m perfectly happy living near a cul-de-sac in the suburbs, accessible to big city amenities. But I can easily go nostalgic remembering the days I walked to school in a village and returned home to almost-country life.

    My son-in-law just got back from Zurich on business. He brought glowing reports, but I’d choose more rural parts of Switzerland, land of my ancestry, perhaps somewhere in the canton of Bern, where we visited in the late 1990s.

    • My boss just yesterday said I deserved a medal for cleaning out those files. I don’t think he thought I could do it. 🙂

      So you indeed walked to school; I’m sure I’ve read that before, but had forgotten it. I like your description of your suburb as “accessible to big city amenities” and your choice of Switzerland as a place to live. One of our authors, Donald Clymer, just spent a year there with his wife’s family and he posted the most amazing photos of that year, making me wish for the same!

      Thanks for jumping in here!

      • The first day I walked to school with a neighbor and maybe a few others times if I stayed at Grandma’s house, but mostly I rode the bus. I hope 🤞 you got a raise for all that sorting – ha!

  2. I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which is excellent, but I think I would have liked to live in town a long time ago. It is not possible now, and culturally, it is not what it used to be. San Jose is a lot of fun, but it is also not what it used to be. I think all lifestyles have advantages, but I will just stay here out of town.
    As I said, the mountains are great. I love the desert too. I think they all have advantages as well. I just think that I would not want to live too near the beach. My Pa lived in Montara, and the sound of the ocean kept me up at night.
    If I could live anywhere for a year, it would be right here. I would like to visit all sorts of areas, but not for a year. Eventually, I want to go to Vermont, Kansas (and Oklahoma) and Vietnam.

    • Methinks your last mention of Vietnam as a place you want to visit means someone in your family had history there?? My brother-in-law served there in the 60s and I know he would love to see the Vietnam of today.

      Thanks for weighing in, Tony! The Santa Cruz mountains sound like an amazing place to live. I got to go to a convention in San Jose 10 years ago and certainly enjoyed the countryside and the setting. And yes, it is good that many of us are partial to the advantages of wherever we live–and grow to love them over time! At least usually. It is sad to think of so many people living in areas recently devastated by fires, floods, hurricanes, and, of course, war and ongoing brutality. Hard to take in. Thanks for your thoughts!

      • I went to high school in Saratoga, west of San Jose, where Vietnamese American culture is somewhat prominent. Like all big cities, we have a lot of cultural diversity. Yet, Vietnamese culture by nature assimilates very quickly. That makes it more intriguing. You have to catch it before it becomes too diluted. I learned a bit about Vietnamese horticulture from the father of one of my best friends from high school.

  3. Very interesting, Tony, I didn’t know that Vietnamese culture assimilates very quickly. Thx.

  4. Lucinda J permalink

    If I could live anywhere in the world for a year…that’s a hard question! What place wouldn’t I like to try for a year? Morocco, Kurdistan, the mountains of rural China, by the Mediterranean Sea in Greece. Every place has its allure.

  5. Athanasia permalink

    Actually, technically, 80,000 is a large town. City is 100,000 +.

    • Wikipedia puts it much lower but I’m sure it differs also by country or where you live. I like their definition saying it has to have a transportation system and other infrastructure. We do have a bus system but not some of the other things Wikipedia lists here: “Cities serve as administrative, commercial, religious, and cultural hubs for their larger surrounding areas.” Thanks for widening the conversation, Athanasia!

      • Athanasia permalink

        …and actually my whole county is only about 70,000 so your big town has us beat. My small town (we live outside of) is about 28,000 and the state university adds about another 10,000.

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