Neighborhood. Just the word stirs up an array of iconic and nostalgic images of living side by side: porch swings, stray cats, driveways, shrubberies, abandoned cars, gables and eaves, metal trash cans… Our neighborhood of Bouldin Creek in South Austin has a particularly unique array of homes and yards, all nestled together, each an expression of personal style working in harmony and juxtaposition with the other. Ryan, Sadie (our dog), and I walked for an hour just the other evening through our ‘hood, dreaming of lives other than our own. We cherish our life together, of course, but a peek into other people’s lives offers new ideas and fresh perspectives about where we’re going and where we’ve come.
These walks offer an experience of simultaneous nostalgia and future dreams, like a film reel floating through my psyche as I walk past yards and houses. A butterfly lands on a flowery vine, a cat basks on a front stoop with her three kittens blinking at us as we pass, and a young couple gathers with friends on their cozy front porch for Friday evening drinks as the hazy sun comes to rest on the tree line. I am reminded of visits with family friends, enjoying the chance to be at their home and eat their food. Or of the potlucks my roommate and I used to host in our ranch-house apartment in Moscow, Idaho – hours of communal eating and drinking as the sun sank behind the trees and the moon joined our revelry. I yearn to be likewise sitting with friends again, like many times before.
I also look to the future as Ryan and I talk of our plans to one day own a home. We discuss certain things we like about some houses and other things we aren’t so fond of. For instance, we love front porches and green building, but are miffed by the modern homes that spring up between the little cottages, towering overhead like a behemoth: too pretentious! Sometimes, we love things about a yard or house we can’t quite explain; it is simply its ambiance that draws us to appreciate it. The owners may share similar ideologies about life, or they express something we admire in a creative way. We love to talk about what we will do when we own a house one day: entertain, garden, decorate, and tinker in the shed. These moments of looking ahead and dreaming of what we want provide nourishment for our spirits and our relationship. We have enjoyed thinking and talking about the future since we started dating 7 years ago.
Mostly, though, our walk is the convergence of the past and future in the present. My experience is the result of who I am and what I choose to notice and think about. Our experience together is the result of our personalities feeding off of and inspiring the other. Simply enjoying a quiet stroll through our neighborhood, one step at a time, purposefully taking our time to zigzag through the streets – we love our lives knowing others love theirs. Then we may return to our delightful little apartment and charmed lives, rejoicing in the fact that we don’t need anything but what we already have.