hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Saturday, April 5, 2008

We're All in It Together, Sort Of

It is hard to know how to speak about Pt. Roberts as an existential phenomenon. It isn’t a small town; it isn’t a village; it isn’t a little resort community. I am pretty much unable to come up with a word or two that captures that particular aspect of a place where people live. It’s maybe a small community. If that is what it is, then presumably a commitment to community values or even communitarian values might be demonstrated by the residents.

Of course, that is not entirely true of the residents here, or it is true, perhaps, but not in the same way. There are some people who have an historical connection with the place: they, their parents, maybe their grandparents were born here. For them, their sense of the Point is bound up with the geography and their families’ involvement in shaping the place. Everybody knows them or at least their names, and they are participants in the community in a special way.

Others, especially Canadian cottagers, have been spending vacations here with family members for generations, and it is that family history that is important to them, rather than a commitment to the larger community, although they may have some more traditional sense of community with a particular area of the Point (e.g., one of the neighborhoods, like Maple Beach, or Freeman Beach, or Bells’ Grove). If their permanent Canadian residence is nearby, they might have a toe in community activities.

There’s an odd lot (odd not because strange but because as individuals they don’t seem similar enough to fit in a single category) of residents who often have young children and don’t fit in any of the categories above. They seem to me to be people who have chosen to come here in considerable part because they wanted to try to live in a place like this. It’s not because of a job, or family connections, or family history, or a need for someplace to keep a boat, or general enthusiasm for living at the beach or in the woods. If this were 1967-70, I would recognize this group more clearly. But they are a younger lot and they are mysterious to me. If they have children, they are deeply interested in school issues, of course. But they are also likely to be involved in groups/issues that stress the nature of the community, or try to influence it in some way.

A big chunk of the permanent residents are, like me, recent arrivals from some city or another where community was not a big feature, or indeed any feature. I lived on a street in the L.A. suburbs for years without knowing the people around me. Indeed with no noticeable desire to know any of them. This group may find the idea of community appealing, but not be anxious to get involved with people they do not know. They may well be a little leery or unsure of what community requires of them. I feel that way a lot. What is my responsibility to belong to community groups? To attend community events? To bring community to the community? I’m totally unclear on this.

This came to my attention today because it was the first spring-like weekend of the year and, at the grocery store, the Garden Club and the Dollars for Scholars Group had both set up card tables outdoors to urge us to, I guess, be community participants. The Garden Club was selling bulbs and the Dollars for Scholars Group was selling tickets for a fund-raising dinner. The Garden Club is part social group but it also runs a Garden Tour Project in the summer and last fall carried out extensive bulb plantings on the easement of the main road. The Dollars group ensures that every high school graduate from the Point who goes on to college gets a cash grant.

These are good things. In fact, I belong to the Garden Club (which is to say I pay my dues), but I have never been to a meeting. However, I don’t really need any bulbs. Also low on my preferences is going to a dinner that will require me to eat with strangers in a large room with dubious acoustics so that I will not be able to hear what they say. In Los Angeles, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment on this question. But I live in a community now and thus everything is or might be different. I think. In any case, one day soon, I will be the owner of a half dozen pricey lily bulbs that have a high probability of never blooming in my very shady garden. Furthermore, I would have been going to that dinner until I realized that I could just give them the price of admission but promise I wouldn’t come. Alas, neither solution quite satisfactory. If only the Volunteer Fire Department had had a table soliciting new members. I’m pretty sure that they wouldn't have wanted me to become a volunteer fireman.

No comments: