Writer's Block: No place like home
I'm done my articles for the day, and it's still three hours before I can expect Bobby home from swords practice, so before I get back to eviscerating my to-do list, dangit, this question appealed to me (probably because I've been talking so much about Manchester in my other posts), so I'm going to answer it. Officially. For the first time. *scary eyes*
Firstly, I live in Manchester, Maryland, which is an incorporated town in the rural Carroll County. We are the third house over the town line so we just barely count as official town residents. Carroll is the first county in Western Maryland. We can see the Blue Ridge Mountains from our street, and we live five minutes from the Pennsylvania line.
Five Things I Love
- Things are slower here. I have spent most of my life on the outskirts of Baltimore City, and so that was normal life for me. Now, when I go into Baltimore--especially when I drive on the Beltway--I notice how much faster life is everywhere else. People are always in a big hurry and rarely take the time to show even basic courtesy. That is not to say that life in the country is all idyllic. There are jerks here too.
On the roads, most of them down from Pennsylvania.But as a sociable introvert--someone who isn't shy or reticent but doesn't do well with constant sensory stimulation--I find the pace of life here a much better fit for me.
- I like living in a small town. There are downsides to that, of course--I'm sure I'll become especially familiar with them once I'm teaching here--but I like, for example, going into a restaurant and knowing the owner and all of the servers, when people remember you and are glad to see you rather than the feeling that you're just one in a constant march of faces. When we first moved here from Ellicott City, we found it really surprising that people would always strike up conversations at the gas station with us. People interact differently here. And, yes, to invoke that classic measure of small-townness, there are some people in Manchester who don't lock their doors. ;)
- Carroll County is beautiful. I keep meaning to take the camera with me on an outing so that I can back up my frequent assertion with pictures! The quintessential farmland that, in most places, has been plowed under for endless monoculture still exists here: rolling hills with patchwork fields, red barns and black-and-white dairy cows grazing beside oxbow streams. And, as I mentioned, we are in view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We are about a two-minute walk from the highest point in the county, and we climb the hill often to watch the sun set on the mountains. It's gorgeous.
- This is a rural, agricultural area (although that is changing somewhat--more on that in the next section!) As I think most of my flist knows, Bobby and I are quite passionate about environmental sustainability, and we moved here, in part, because of the opportunity to grow/raise more of our own food and because of the easy access to farms that could provide what we couldn't do on our own. We have numerous farmers' markets within a fifteen-minute drive of Manchester. We have numerous local farms that have CSAs and sell just about every imaginable agricultural product, from pasture-raised meat to homemade cheese to honey to--if we smuggle some across the PA border from the Amish--raw milk. As avid locavores and cooks, we have found endless resources and inspiration here.
- It's peaceful here. Bobby and I spend most fair weekend nights sitting in our maple grove, which we have surrounded by glass lanterns, sometimes with a fire in our firebowl (which is awesome-looking and the first thing we purchased when we got this house, perhaps showing where our priorities lay when we moved here! :D) We're far enough outside of the town proper that we can't here traffic except, of course, when it passes down our road. I grew up in a neighborhood a lot like this one and, when I used to stay with Bobby's family in the Baltimore suburbs or even when we lived in Ellicott City, I found the inescapable noise of civilization really stressful. Right now, aside from the music on my iPod (Celtic Legend), I hear birds and cicadas and feel a cool breeze through the window. Oh, there goes the guy with the redneck truck that sounds like a schoolbus, dammit! ;) But, otherwise, it is very peaceful.
Five Things I Don't Like
- Politically and ideologically, I am a square peg in a round hole here. Carroll is one of--if not the--most conservative counties in Maryland. And anyone who knows me for more than five minutes knows that I ain't conservative. ;) Once while I was at the skating rink, some fool vandalized all of my liberal bumperstickers (and also peeled off part of my "I Brake for Elves" sticker, so s/he [probably he] clearly disliked social justice, progress, and Elves! Grr!) Lots of Carroll liberals drive around with "Courage = Being a Democrat in Carroll County" bumperstickers. The county is crawling with mouthbreathing teabag morons who haven't cracked a book besides the Bible (and probably not even that) since they barely graduated high school. While I disagree with conservatism, I can respect the views of informed people who see the world differently than I do. What I can't stand is ignorance, and especially the celebration of willful ignorance that has come to dominate the conservative movement in the U.S. And there is, sadly, a lot of that around here.
- Religiously, I have no peg to put in any hole. Do I need to even state that Carroll County is largely Christian? There is a cross down on Rt-27 that is ten stories high if it is one, just in case there was any doubt. Again, I have no problem with Christians and Christianity; I do have a problem with people of any religious stripe who attempt to force their beliefs on me and who want to inject religion into public life and policy. Those policies have been very damaging to my family and people I care about. And there is, sadly, a lot of that around here too.
- The county is becoming developed. When I was researching the local school system for one of my projects last year, I frequently encountered the description that Carroll County was a rural community but is now a "bedroom community." Which is not exciting like it sounds. It means that people who are tired of the city suburbs are moving here, which is fine. That's what we did, although I suspect our motives are very different from those moving into McMansion developments. The problem is that the county is being overdeveloped with little consideration of our resources. For example, Manchester provides its own water but, because so many housing developments have been built in recent years, is in danger of running out of water and having to buy water from Pennsylvania. When we first moved here, we experienced power outages every time the wind blew too hard because, when they built the hideous "Bob Ward Homes" down the hill from us, they didn't take into account the power supply and were trying to stretch too few resources between too many homes. And it's not like the homes being built are considerate of the environment or aesthetics of the area. Nope, the developers buy up a farm, level the ground, cut down all the trees, and build row after row of identical (all ugly) houses so close to each other that you can probably hear your neighbor fart if he does it loud enough. One snowy day, before I had my car, my mentor insisted on driving me home from my classroom observations, and as we went through the Bob Ward homes, I volunteered, "I don't live here, just so you know! We can't afford to live here! *lolz*" and she replied, in a slightly aghast voice, "I was just observing the complete lack of trees!" Yep. The only trees I can think of through the Bob Ward Homes--aside from those poor little things that seem perpetually tethered to stakes and never seem to grow above eight feet--are dead.
- One of the disadvantages of living in the country is that you are, by definition, far from the city, which is usually good (in my opinion), but it also means you're far from cultural events. Bobby sometimes brings home the City Paper for me to look through, and I just sort of look wistfully at all of the shows, presentations, and exhibits going on in Baltimore. DC? That's now a day trip where, in Ellicott City, we'd head down many evenings on the Metro to catch a Caps game. (Now that the Caps are actually good, though, we couldn't afford tickets even if we lived close enough! Those salad days of $5 tickets are long gone!) However, the Carroll County 4H/FFA Fair is right around the corner and Lady Antebellum's coming to the York County Fair! ;)
- To end on a lighter note, one encounters a lot of farming equipment on the road around here. Driving to my laurel's house--he also lives in Carroll County--I was once nearly flattened by a pair of combines speeding in the opposite direction, taking up both lanes over a blind hill! We've been stuck in traffic before only to discover that it was because a farmer was driving his tractor to a new field. Once, on Rt-27, there was even a guy driving his lawnmower in traffic! I think he was kind of a wannabe, though.