Neighbors – Campfires, Marshmallows, Wine and Cheese

In choosing where to live next, I put on my wish list "a neighborhood, with neighbors I would greet and meet". I wanted to know there was life out there and to no longer be hidden in the woods. I've gotten over the idea that the "best life" is the life where one never sees a neighbor or a neighboring property. I've spent a lot of time searching out and creating these kinds of environments.

Recently I had the idea to write my housing history as a way to suggest to others that this history gives clues to how we like to live and how we'd like never to live again. I grew up in the country living on a lake and then moved to the historic district of a City (well, Kalamazoo is a city). There were lots of neighbors, street life, noise and an ever-changing landscape. Our streets had three fraternities affiliated with the nearby university. Later living in New York City choosing to escape to the country mean hiding from all the noise and "those people". Well, I'm over that.

In this new phase, I consciously choose to get out of the woods. I wanted to know there was life out there. Now excluded and living solo, I'm sure engendered this. So my wish list went like this:

1. A small house, cottage-like

2. A neighborly neighborhood

3. Walking distance to a village

4. A manageable space

5. An at home studio

6. A yard to dig in, easy to maintain

For the easy to maintain piece, I forgot to add 'without moles or chipmunks' and probably no grubs would have been a good thing to add. The moles and the chipmunks have moved in big time. I'm not the only one complaining. Is it just our neighborhood or is it a nature phenomenon? The world wide underground web is now connected through the yard and flower beds. Ripping up most of the front lawn has only solved the watering problem. I am considering a backyard grass makeover and for the [http: //www…..tune] in next spring. Do moles and chipmunks swim?

I'm now perched on a corner that allows me to see the world as it passes by and welcomes drop-ins for a hello. It's funny because soon on sitting in my garden, or looking out the kitchen window or from the porch I'd see people walk by and wonder who they were. I created my stories about who there must be. Now they have names and real life stories.

As we approach the upcoming holiday season, I'm reminded how much anxiety and ambivalence this creates within me. With little family, the question always arises: what will I do this year? I've made and appealed hundreds of trip plans for the holiday period. The truth I came to is, I dislike traveling at this season. It creates an even greater sense of loneliness. So each year is a new opportunity for this year's tradition. Having joined this neighborhood, I've been welcomed to a neighborhood Christmas Eve party just across the street. We all bring food, there's music by the kids and no ceremony or have-to's attached. It's just about getting together. It's just perfect.

The neighborhood has given way to other seasonal get-togethers. Someone will invite for a summer outdoor gathering. Or in the dead of winter a gathering happening on a Sunday afternoon for no reason except the good reason to see each other.

I have recently written about thoroughly enjoying my neighbors . I decided to celebrate them with a late summer, call it Fall, (we totally missed the summer) campfire with smores, wine, cheese and other offerings of food. I was not sure how to "create" this evening; meaning how to set it up in an interesting and functional way. This is actually the part of entertaining I love – setting the stage, the interactive zones and of the food and people of the party.

For years, I held onto a magazine clipping showing a garage turned into a backyard 'play' house. I recently tossed the clipping. But the idea obviously stayed with me and came around when I thought to do exactly that with my studio. I opened the back doors to the stone patio and fire pit. I took the opportunity to do a long overdue studio cleaning and cleared the work tables for food and beverages.

We had long overdue news to share. One woman had just returned from Paris and Dubai. Another had horse stories to share; another a celebration of her web site completion; another a retirement; another shared angst about a child off to college, and on and on it went around the campfire. The food offerings were delicious and ever so generous. I was happy to be making smores like Girl Scout days gone by.

The interior lights shed their glow onto the under lite patio along with the fire, candles and camp lantern. The evening was cold and crisp. We were warmed by a roaring fire (and possibly some wine) well into the night. It was neighborly and magical …. another wish from my wish list come true.