Searching for Mayberry

Maybe we’re chasing an illusion, but I don’t think so. As I write this, my wife and I are trying to decide whether or not to stay here in the Nashville area or to continue “searching for Mayberry.” I originally wouldn't have thought of our journey in such terms but upon closer reflection I must admit that we are indeed on a quest for the type of community depicted in the popular television program.

The other day I read that a local author likened where we live here in Franklin to Mayberry and I had to agree that it comes as close as anywhere we’ve lived to date, and we’ve lived in some pretty cool places by anyone’s account. Whenever we mention living in such places as Savannah, Georgia and Celebration, Florida and Nantucket, Massachusetts and Franklin, Tennessee people act incredulous.

And we’ve not only lived in cool places but in cool spaces within those cool places, right in the heart of the historic districts of each. Suffice it to say that a sense of place is very important to us and we love living within walking distance of cafes and other so-called “third places” apart from work and home. But it is other people that we most desire to connect with and that part has been somewhat wanting in our experience.

While my wife is typically more sociable than I am we are both pretty outgoing and even though we have no trouble meeting and making friends it seems that people are often too busy to maintain friendships nowadays. And while we can’t necessarily turn back the clock to bygone days of yesteryear we are striving to live counterclockwise on our journey toward a kinder and gentler pace of living. We crave community and connection.

Of Church Bells and Community

As I sit here at the Five Points Starbucks in Historic Franklin, cornering a table and watching people as I write, I am reminded of the strong sense of community here and how it is something that I crave wherever I live. Churches are one of the pillars of community and just this morning I passed the church between home and here that serenades us with the peal of hymns each hour, not an everyday occurrence elsewhere.

Yet as I thought about it, I realized that everywhere my wife and I have lived for the better part of our more than two decades together has been within earshot of church bells, a fact that had never dawned on me before. Whether the Methodist church here in Franklin, the Congregational church in Nantucket, the Presbyterian church in Celebration, the Presbyterian church in Mount Dora or the Methodist church in Savannah, we have been blessed to live near these pillars of community.

Another recurring theme at the places we’ve called home is our proximity to each town’s other community outposts such as the post office, public library, city hall and local bank. It is no small pleasure to be able to take care of life’s business within walking distance of home and it is not a convenience that I take for granted. My wife and I have made it a point to live in various versions of “Mayberry” and we cherish the sense of community.

The Beauty of Grey

Okay, I confess: I like the color grey. And yes, I prefer the old English spelling of it also. Actually, I came to the realization the other day that it is my favorite color of all. I guess I was in some kind of denial about it until I had to acknowledge that my car is grey, my scooter is grey, my computer is grey, my house I sold was grey, my wardrobe is very grey and what is left of my hair is becoming ever more grey.

While I consider myself a very black-and-white kind of person when it comes to principles, I cannot help liking the color grey and its many hues, from light grey, or heather, to dark grey, or charcoal, and all that is in between. I suppose I am particularly enamored with the sleek minimalism of grey and the understated elegance that it reflects. Besides that, I am not sure what it says about me other than that I simply treasure the beauty of grey.

So suffice it to say that I love living on the island of Nantucket, which is called “The Grey Lady” partially due to its fog-laden location and partly due to the abundance of grey-colored houses here. Whereas the fog is weather-related the architecture is man-made, largely the result of the island’s Quaker settlers who believed in an egalitarian unanimity. As a matter of fact, a running joke on Nantucket is “meet me by the grey house with the white shutters.”

Another appealing aspect of Nantucket’s grey-scale landscape is the total absence of billboards or even chain establishments on island. Other than a Ralph Lauren store that apparently got grandfathered under the guidelines, there are no national brands represented here and the result is a community vibe reminiscent of kinder, gentler times and places in America. Coming from the commercialism capital of Central Florida to the offshore oasis of Nantucket has been a welcome respite, grey days and all.

Thinking of Abundance

I share my thinking on this blog for the creative fun of it and the simple satisfaction that comes from communicating with readers about what’s on my mind. With that said, like any other blogger, or creative artist of any stripe, it always feels good to be validated in one’s thinking and that is the prompt for this posting.

As a longtime subscriber to Fast Company, I am regularly treated to a cornucopia of innovative and interesting ideas so suffice it to say that I was particularly pleased to read a recent article about the business success of Panera Bread [which I had written about in my 06/15/09 posting titled “Mobile Avenue”].

As I mentioned in my post, Panera’s “unlimited Internet access is the drawing card for countless professional nomads like myself who are looking for a cool, cozy place to conduct business.” My point was, and continues to be, that businesses with an abundance mindset will trump those with a scarcity mentality.

As the aforementioned article states, “Mention Panera Bread and fans are as likely to praise the free Wi-Fi as they are to gush about the Asiago cheese bagels. And that, execs at the restaurant chain say, is the point. While its competitors scale back on upscale ingredients, trim portion sizes, and create value menus, Panera is selling fresh food and warm bread at full price, and encouraging customers to linger. That recipe is succeeding.”

The article also points out that while others aim to limit laptop-lugging patrons, Panera has realized that fostering community contributes to cash flow: “And the company has combined that menu with an unpretentious atmosphere—there’s no table service, but also no time limit. As a result, it has become as much community gathering space as a bustling lunch spot. ‘In many ways, we’re renting space to people and the food is the price of admission,’ says CEO Ron Shaich.”