I grew up on a dirt road in rural Virginia and couldn’t wait to escape my country corner of the world (despite a relatively idyllic boyhood playing in fields and streams). Fortunately for me, my grandparents lived in the Victorian township of Staunton, where there were some semblances of cultural life like a public library, a city park, and a movie theatre. Suffice it to say, I visited there as much as I could.
After recently reading the book titled Village: Where to Live and How to Live, I was reminded of these types of places I love to live. According to late author Peter Megargee Brown, the appeal of village life includes its human scale, historic architecture, and sense of history, the very qualities that have drawn me to towns and villages for as long as I can remember.
According to Brown, who was married to lifestyle guru Alexandra Stoddard, no personal decision is more important to body, spirit, and mind than where and how we live. Stoddard still makes her home in Stonington Village, Connecticut, the picturesque New England village that personifies the pastoral setting that Brown writes about, with its foremost quality being its walkability.
Another expert that Brown cites for his support of village living is the French philosopher Rene Dubos, who posited that people seem to function best in groups of fewer than a thousand persons and communities invariably decline as they expand. Of course, it helps if a village that small is located near a larger town with adequate amenities from which to fashion a life.
It has been our experience that the optimum size for a community is somewhat closer to ten thousand, as is the size of Celebration, Florida; Nantucket, Massachusetts; Franklin, Tennessee; and Rockport, Maine; all places we’ve called home since starting our minimalist journey a half dozen years ago. It may be cliché, but the key for Linda and me is a town that is “small enough to know you, but large enough to serve you.”