When I was about 19 or so I wrote a song called “Heroes Proved.” I was knee deep in college and missing home, missing a slower paced life. Missing college. Missing a time when neighbors came over and sipped on coffee from a big mug and visited long enough to have a couple more refills.
It was a time I was certain all of the yard lights along the pink scoria road where I grew up were going to blink out one by one as stewards of the land grew old and moved to town, with no one in line to move in the old place, because there was nothing for them here.
I couldn’t be convinced then that just eleven years later I would be adding a yard light to the picture, staying up late building a life out here with plenty of prospects. Plenty to do.
And down the road and up the road, other families, other friends my age or younger are moving into old houses or building roads to new ones, putting up walls where they plan on raising their babies and having friends over for coffee or for a bon fire and drinks late into the night.
It’s a new world. It moved fast in those eleven or so years when I got my first cell phone and used it only for calls back home because it was cheaper than long distance.
I was in college before texting and leaving campus right as Facebook hit the scene. I was a child of a less digital age, an age when you asked your dad instead of Jeeves or Google. The world looked different without YouTube, three thousand channels on television and more information at our fingertips than we had in our parents’ set of 1993 Encycopedias on the shelf.
Now I’m not always nostalgic for a slower pace. In fact, I owe my career out here in the middle of the buttes to the accessibility that technology has allowed. I am able to have virtual coffee with all of you on a whim, share my music and photos from the ranch, get to know you through cyberspace. Write. Submit. Send emails. Get paid.
But some days I want to throw it all in the stock dam and go running wild into the trees, over to my friends’ house to pick chokecherries and make plans for a pie and a neighborhood party. Because a neighborhood party is more important than seventy billion followers on Twitter.
For all the connections we have to one another these days, Skype, Snapchat, Instagram, FaceTime, Facebook and who knows what else, some days I just miss my friends.
And some days I wonder if I’m the only one feeling this way as I use Snapchat, Instagram, FaceTime, Facebook and, *gasp* the telephone, to invite them all over, bring some drinks, bring some noodle salad and sit with us, tell us how you’ve been while we dish up some slush burgers on paper plates and tell stories while we talk with our hands, spill things and laugh about it all.
Because in all the ways we can connect with one another, I like this one the best.
Turns out I’m not the only one. Turns out the art of a good get together has not been lost, and some souls are spending time preserving the oldest traditions. I know this, because we’ve been invited, to sing so they sing along…
Down the road a couple hours a family has fixed up a barn specifically for dancing,
across the state communities have been celebrating centennials and milestones and summer with gatherings in parks and on the streets,
along the river in the big town a friend hosts a dinner at a farm…
And I sing on a horse drawn wagon…just because…
(Beth from Rhubarb and Venison hosts a dinner at Riverbound Farm near Mandan, ND)
Down my road my neighbor hosts a bonfire, in backyards and garages along neighborhood streets in town, people stop by to chat and have a beer…
In some of these cases social media, texting, Skype and telephone calls were all ways to get them there…in others, it was a whim, a neighbor missing a neighbor, a family hosting supper, an aunt needing to squeeze her niece, sisters needed to catch up, brothers off to site in their rifles or make plans for a bowhunting trip.
This week’s column is about these things we still hold on to, traditions, heartbeats, one another.
This week’s column is on sipping coffee from a big mug, talking and sticking around long enough for another cup…
Coming Home: Get to know your neighbors and strangers
by Jessie Veeder
Jessie’s column, Coming Home, can be found weekly in newspapers across the state, including the Fargo Forum (Sundays), Grand Forks Herald, Bismarck Tribune and the Dickinson Press.