A Good Year

June 6, 2008 at 10:44 am Leave a comment

Here’s an unexpected benefit of my traveling life.

A) In order to combat boredom during long drives, I began the practice of listening to books on CD in the car.

B) I enjoyed this so much, that I continued listening to the books even when I was just driving to and from work here in the piedmont.

C) I obtained my CDs from my very, very small local library. So, instead of searching for specific books I just browse for anything at all that looks interesting.

By this method I just yesterday finished a really charming book called A Good Year by Peter Mayle. This is the first time ever that I even remotely had any interest in visiting Europe. And I didn’t want to visit. I wanted to move there….immediately.

But what led me to mention the book in this post was a comment that Mayle made in the author interview that followed the presentation of the book. He said, paraphrasing, that it was his opinion that people [in the West] were divided on the line of whether they were European or American. And by that he was not making an obvious geographic comment. Instead he was indicating a difference in approach to life, to work, to food, to friendships.

The life that Mayle described in small-town France was centered on the connections between the people. Everyone in town connected with everyone else in town every single day — just as a consequence of going about the normal routine of life. I’m not sure what the verbal opposite to alienation is, but that was the description. Maybe….connected.

I know that when I go to the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and I stop by the table at Wild Hare Farm and find something I have to have that’s a bit of the same thing. The produce is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but my primary reason for shopping that table is that I like the farmer. We have a relationship or are developing one.

But American culture as I see it is trying as hard as possible to eliminate those interactions and relationships. Our small shops are replaced by big stores. And in those stores, we’re as likely to do our own check-out as to wait in line and perhaps exchange a remark about the weather with the grocery cashier. And this is as likely to be true — or perhaps even more likely to be true — in the rural parts of our country as the cities.

So, is this about cars and all we need to do to change it is get out and walk? Is it about consumerism and all we need to do to change it is to stop being seduced into being all about the latest gee-gaw? Is it about waste and all we need to do to change it is to repent of our spendthrift use of resources? Or is it perhaps something more essential to our nature as Americans?


Entry filed under: Piedmont.

Carrboro Farmer’s Market Fishing Rodeo

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