Updated: Feb 15
As we spend time thinking about our neighborhoods, it is natural to focus on our neighbors. Afterall, we believe that our neighbors are infinitely valuable gifts who possess incredible gifts to share. That’s worthy of our attention.
But there’s more to a neighborhood than the people. Farmer and essayist, Wendell Berry, reminds us of this:
“Community, then, is an indispensable term in any discussion of the connection between people and land. A healthy community is a form that includes all the local things that are connected by the larger, ultimately mysterious form of the Creation. In speaking of community, then, we are speaking of a complex connection not only among human beings or between humans and their homeland but also between human economy and nature, between forest or prairie and field or orchard, and between troublesome creatures and pleasant ones. All neighbors are included.” (Wendell Berry in “Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays” ©1993, Pantheon)
When I look around my own neighborhood, I mostly notice my neighbors. And I notice their houses and cars. These are the most obvious parts of the neighborhood. But Berry’s words make me look again. I notice not just the lawns, but the trees, the bushes, the flowers. I notice the birds flying overhead and the squirrels sprinting between and up and down trees. When I slow down and breathe deeply I notice the air that is all around us, though rarely noticed. Berry makes me look at my own neighborhood differently.
Next time you talk a walk through your own neighborhood see what other parts of “the larger, ultimately mysterious form of the Creation” are right there near you.