By Mary Ellen Garner, Phase II Fellow
Two questions that I frequently get asked in and around town are, “How do you like living in Monterey?” and “You’re not from around here, are you?” They seem juxtaposed with one another; one recognizing and questioning the choice that I’ve made to be here, and the other delicately characterizing me into the “not-from-here” category. The funny thing is that these are questions that are so simple and so universal. They are an integral part of so many human interactions, regardless of where we are originally “from.”
Regardless, I think that these questions do speak to our human curiosity to know our neighbors. And for many, knowing our neighbors means knowing a bit about each other and our histories, which these questions are trying to tap into.
When I go out of Monterey, these two questions change. Outside of town, I frequently get asked, “What’re you doing in Monterey?” and “What is there to do in Monterey?” People that aren’t accustomed to living in a small town often conclude that it must be lonely or isolating living here. To me, it feels quite the contrary. There may be fewer “things” happening at any one given time, but that usually turns out to be a benefit, not a detriment! There is always some “thing” to do that is absolutely unique.
I find myself a part of a very tight-knit, yet welcoming community here on so many fronts! I have my AMI community, of course, which extends from the farm/mountain at AMI to McDowell and beyond. These bonds are strong and have been indelible in providing stability and a sense of place and purpose for me here. I also have my “sports” and people-who-like-to-do-fun-stuff community, which has expanded from last year to include ultimate frisbee, basketball, workout classes, and softball. This community is so important to me, as physical activities have always been a part of my social arena. In Monterey, more than anywhere else, I find that there is almost always a team-oriented sport on offer.
One of the most charming things about living in town is knowing the majority of my neighbors. Even though I grew up in a pretty small town, this has never been the case ever before! Living in Monterey feels like going back in time a bit, to a time when no one locks their doors, everyone knows each other and helps one another, and the pace of life is a bit slower. There is a palpable difference in how people approach and live life that is so very refreshing. This outlook values craftsmanship and preservation of history. Many people around here still grow and can food, sew and mend, make soap/pottery/knitted items/lace/baskets, and the list goes on!
For all of these things and more, I am thankful to be living here in this time and place. And even though my time here has an expiration date, I am so happy to be here now and for the people in this community that have welcomed me in.