Notes From My Knapsack 1-28-16
Here In a Small Town
What does it mean to live in the village of Granville?
Having now passed the decade mark as a resident, I should be feeling even more a part of this historic community. I'm woven into the local landscape through the schools and Scouting and churchly involvements (and more than one congregation at that), have told some of our two century and ten millennia old stories in print and to the public, all of which should make me feel a part of this place.
It's long been true, though, that "Granville native" is not a title someone like me is likely to receive, even after two more decades pass (if I'm so blessed). Some would say that not only will the likes of me won't ever be really "from here," neither will my child (true, we neglected to give birth to him in Ohio). My wife and I are entangled, deeply, with the "fair college on the hill," but that hill sets apart much; not just the university but the staff & students thereon from the village below.
What would it take for me to be "a true Granvillian"? I'm not sure. If lighting luminaries for the walking tour in December and and shoveling horse droppings for the July Fourth parade doesn't qualify one, maybe it's just not possible. Perhaps there's a late night, closed-door meeting where these things are decided, in which I'm not yet approved. It comes up in the darndest moments, the observation of "you're not from here," and those saying so are rarely the older multi-generation residents as they are the ones just a bit older than I am, but with a few more years to their credit.
I do know that I like being from a small town, yet Granville has never quite reconciled itself to being one. We began with New England aspirations in our DNA, and the Averys and Roses and Bancrofts and their ilk all hoped to bring business and industry to these valleys. Periander Taylor, whose Tan Y Bryn home is now in use by the Granville (Township) Fire Department, was a man of strong words and vehement exhortations: he challenged God to rain properly, and was not abashed by record floods on Raccoon Creek in response. Ahab Jinks knew what architecture worked for him, even if building it meant he no longer worked for the leading church in town. Granville has long had cosmopolitan and in truth global aspirations, even if circumstances have kept us focused on the local, the regional, the particular.
Where I most feel at home is with my fellow local residents who are not "from here," but have claimed a place here as their place to stand, a place to pitch their tents, a place to rest. People who have not only come from but made a way for themselves in the big city, the big leagues, in a big way, but are looking for something smaller . . . not even smaller, but more intimate.
Today's modern urban usage is to sneak through life anonymously, not being noticed by no one, expecting nothing from nobody. We're to be part of nothing and not attached to anything because no one's going to stick around. Everyone around you is transient, which gives you a place to be on your own.
Cities do not tend to create community. That may not be what they're for, but what they do create is an ideal place to hide. If you fear commitment, rootedness, connectedness and accountability, a city is the place for you.
You can avoid all those things in a village, too, but here you have to work harder to do so. And why would you want to work that hard?
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County, and a discreetly lazy resident of Granville. Tell him where you pick and choose your labors at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.