Wednesday, July 2, 2008


We head out for Barnesville today, our house being carefully watched by our neighbor Vashti. Our van is loaded with winter items: wool sweaters, space heaters, Christmas ornaments, sleds ... We will store these in the basement of our new house.

As we head out to Barnesville, I think about ... subdivisions. One of the remarkable things about Barnesville is the lack of any neighborhoods of tract housing. Or so I think. I can't quite get my mind wrapped around this, as I can't get my mind wrapped around so much about this move, such as no Thai food. I keep thinking that around the next corner or far enough down some two-lane street, I will come to entranceway of ... Barnesville Estates or Quaker Heights executive homes. But so far, no. It truly appears there is nary a subdivision in Barnesville.

This makes Barnesville somewhat like a movie set to me. It's a largely late-nineteeth-early 20th-century town architecturally, its streets lined with Victorians and Queen Annes, it's downtown core surrounded by farmland.

There are some streets with newer houses interspersed amongst the old--brick ranchers and split foyers. And as we drove around downtown Barnesville during Memorial Day, we saw several grand old Victorians in a row and next to them, a couple of trailers. For me, who has spend most of her life in tightly zoned and regulated housing environments, the trailers in what would here be a "historic district" were somewhat jarring. My first thoughts were a sputtering, wait a minute, what's going on here, we need to have zoning, this can't be ... but then I remembered all the articles I've written about the problems of affordable housing in my area, where most of the trailer parks have been closed, forcing people into high-priced apartments. I thought, OK, Barnesville's zoning (or lack thereof) puts all people on an equal footing, rather than marginalizing the poor.

I take comfort in the trailers, the brick ranchers ... they're reminders that Barnesville is Real World and not a Hollywood set. Otherwise, I might think I'd truly lost it and was fantasizing this whole episode.

Roger and Sophie went driving the back roads the last time we were in Barnesville. They found no subdivisions.

Actually, Barnesville reminds of Addison and its environs in downeast Maine, where we rented a house on the beach from Quakers for several summers. That place too was, in some ways, a step back in a time, a land, almost in Canada, that was simply beyond the "tree line" of fast food and subdivisions. (Barnesville does have fast food.) We saw nary a housing development around Addison, though, traveling the back roads one day, we did see rural poverty.

Nick scared me the last time we visited Barnesville. We were in the car, rounding a corner when he screamed, "Mom, mom, there's a horse and buggy on the road!" in total alarm. I nearly had a heart attack. Actually, I didn't nearly have a heart attack, but my heart did do a little clutch because of the shriek in his voice. We'd turned the corner before I saw the horse and buggy, but I thought it was the Amish we are told live nearby.

I realized then that we had never taken our kids to Lancaster to see the Amish. Roger and I were both brought there by our respective parents as children, but these days sensibilities and sensitivities dictate that we don't go and gawk at the "plain people" as if they were a zoo exhibit. So Nick had probably never seen a horse and buggy on a road.

This move is going to be an interesting and growing experience. I'll let you know if I find a subdivision ...

As an aside, Roger gave me a book called Amish Secrets, about an Amish family who are part of a very conservative group, the Schwartzentruber Amish of Northern Ohio. I am reading it now and finding it most interesting.

1 comment:

Regina said...

Oh, I grew up across the river from the Lancaster County, PA Amish- I think I was always fascinated by their lifestyle and beliefs and perhaps that is what led me to Quakerism today!
The last time I visited Amish country, we took a buggy tour and lo and behold, some of the Amish are starting to use cell phones- for business only they say.
Ah, everything changes...
I hope you have a good trip to Barnesville and a Happy 4th!