On My Own Two Feet.

There are things that are challenging about living in a town of 6,000 people, obviously. I’m sure we’ll get to those later. But you know what I do love about it? All the walking.

At this time of year, I can get through five or six days a week without getting in the car at all. Within roughly a mile of our house, I can walk to several restaurants, a couple of bars, a movie theater, a bookstore, a library, a diner, John’s day care, John’s almost elementary school, Middlebury College (and its arts facilities and athletic fields), a coffee shop, a market (with ice cream), my eye doctor, a playground, a hospital, the farmers market, and a bunch of downtown shops. There’s even a parade at the end of the street every Memorial Day.

When we moved to Middlebury, we looked at a cute little house in Cornwall, which is just south of town. As much as we loved it, you have to pass a “tractor crossing” sign to get there, and we just weren’t ready for that. We thought that living right in Middlebury might be country enough for us, especially since we were coming from the very dense, very walkable neighborhood of Old Town in Alexandria, VA. We waited to find a house in town, and that has turned out to be a very good decision for us.

Living on a street with sidewalks, neighbors and immediate access to everything that’s going on in Middlebury has defined my time here in many ways. We only have one car, for one thing. But on a less concrete level, being able to walk gives me a sense of ownership and community in this town that I’m not sure I’d feel otherwise. I see the details more clearly when I’m walking, noticing the big and small changes. There are a lot of friends around and also familiar strangers, people who I don’t know or don’t know well, but see often enough for a nod and mutual recognition. It’s comforting.

Of course, winter does sometimes put a damper on all this tramping around. It’s pretty cold and as I’ve said, I have a complicated relationship with sidewalks. I don’t need layers of snow and ice to further trip me up. But over the years I’ve found myself modifying my definition of reasonable walking weather, and now I’ll head into town on foot in weather that would have turned me into a shut-in ten years ago.

It’s funny to think that walkability is one thing a tiny town has in common with a major urban center. Maybe one of the few things. But also one of my favorites.

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