Once upon a time there was a village. Nestled among undulating hills that turned from brown to green to gold through the annual rhythm of planting and harvest seasons. There were many rhythms here. This small community of ten thousand people is also a university community that brought waves of fifteen thousand students each year. Waves that swelled each fall and receded each spring. Yet like great rocks on a beach, the village remained constant.
I grew up here. As a friend said about my return visit, “Welcome home.”
It was chilly this morning. As I got in the car to drive downtown for coffee I turned on the heater and was quickly reminded that in this village by the time the car heats up you have reached your destination. I walked past a cobbled corner plaza that had once been a historic hotel before the great fire. I remember that hotel. I glanced at the names carved in granite. Names of those who donated to this corner park. I graduated high school with four of them and knew many more.
This was a village where those who started grade school together graduated high school together. Daughters and sons and families of university professors, farmers, and business people we all knew each other. And we knew each other for decades. That was a time when people who came to this place came to stay in this place. That was a time when people had life-long careers with the university, not transitory jobs.
Things have changed in fifty years. Now there are twelve thousand residents and twenty thousand students. But the big changes aren’t reflected in the numbers. People don’t live here forever any more. There is a heart of this village that is fading as those like my parents move into assisted living and eventually to the cemetery.
I stood at my Dad’s window this morning looking at the view in the photo above. And I thought of Ireland. Perhaps it was growing up in this village that has created in me such a deep love for the villages of Ireland. And I thought about how those villages are also changing as the young people leave to find work and lives where they can. More waves. Fewer rocks.
Pullman. I love this village. Even though it’s more the village I remember than the village that exists today. Once upon a time there was a village. And that village still lives in me.
Judith – email@example.com