I wasn’t born in a small town.

(If you’re interested, I was born in San Francisco.)  But I am always intrigued to visit small towns (well, any town) and try to get a sense of how life is lived there. My husband’s family spends a lot of time in the Adirondacks (there’s 6 million acres of them, you might know) and as we drive up from Boston past Albany and through the abandoned-factory town of Amsterdam, NY, onto Rte 30 and wind our way up into the woods, we pass through towns that seem to be merely handfuls of houses punctuated by a gas station. Or houses completely off on their own. Some of the towns retain a certain sense of a grand past; others seem run down and populated by For Sale signs, and give me a sad feeling inside. Worse still is the sense of a grand past invaded by a giant Walmart or a KFC– but let’s not go there.

When in the Adirondacks we generally “reside” in Speculator, NY, but this past weekend I went with a few relatives up about a half hour further north to the town of Indian Lake, which had advertised a craft fair in the local paper. (Also, how cool is it that this map is interactive.)

As you can see, Indian Lake basically occurs at the T juncture of Routes 30 and 28. As we drove up to the T, there was a man in the road with a jar collecting donations for the local ambulance squad. We asked if he knew where the craft fair was, and somewhat confused (perhaps we should have donated to the ambulance fund first) he replied, “Well, it’s right in town.”  That solved that…  So since the town is more or less clustered around that intersection, we decided to park at the grocery store and just wander the main street.

I can’t get over the simple charm a town like Indian Lake has, although you get the sense that economically things could be better and I don’t want to just romanticize the image they project for the cityfolk. Tourism is a huge factor there, with lakefront cabin rentals all summer and nearby ski access in the winter.  The town website has plenty of listings for cabin rentals and B&Bs that I would have no trouble passing a restful week in.  It also announces that the town celebrated its sesquicentennial this year– I had seen a banner to that effect but only now was I able to confirm it means 150th anniversary.

The “craft fair” was, more accurately, a townwide yard sale with a pig roast afterward. I did buy a pair of earrings from a local artist, but overall there were more paperbacks and coffeepots than pottery and paintings. But the yardsale-ing was fine. Furniture in particular was priced to move, and my sister-in-law got a great, sturdy wooden stool for $5–just the right height for my 11-month niece to pull herself up on and whack with her hands. Interspersed were tables of locally pickled vegetables, handmade kitchen towels, and some of the most potent candles I have ever smelled, handmade by an older man who took great joy in getting us to sniff all the different scents.  (I bought Adirondack Pine and Mulled Cider because I am a sucker for fall smells, especially when I’m in the Adirondacks wondering how I can bring the fresh air home with me.) People were friendly to us and to each other (and I think many of them went home with their neighbors’ used goods, further enhancing town amicability).  Up and down the street were antique stores and the town hardware store/gift shop. Across the way at the firehouse was the pit where three man-sized pigs were being slowly roasted, dripping grease into the fire.

I’ve never lived in a small town, and I’m not sure what it would be like to live all year round in Indian Lake.  Contemplative, probably. Quiet.  Fresh-smelling. Nature-oriented.  I think it would depend  a lot on how you felt about your neighbors and whomever you lived with.  I think I might go a little nuts.  I’d like to try it for one year, to experience the seasons and see what the pace of life is like. For now, though, a weekend breath of that small-town mountain air is just right.




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2 responses to “I wasn’t born in a small town.

  1. Scott

    I’ve lived in small towns and big cities. They each have their appeal as far as visiting, but for living year-round, the choice is more difficult. Of course there are personality types that will always gravitate towards one or the other, but I think people are pretty much like plants; they start out best in a ‘greenhouse’ protected from crowding, competition and bugs. Once they’ve established themselves they can be transplanted.

    I see small towns as greenhouses for raising kids. Taking advantage of the time, space, woods, farms, fields and people of small towns can provide lessons in how life works. If I didn’t have kids, I’d still live in the city.

    • unquiettime

      Thanks Scott… I think that’s a really thoughtful image-analogy, the greenhouse. I like it. I was a city kid, then a crowded-suburbs kid, then a city adult… so I’ve yet to experience the other end of the spectrum.

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