RealSmallTowns.com is nearing its first anniversary as something “official”. I’m not exactly sure what that means, except that I have put something out there, and I stand behind my work. The website is focused on towns that percolate the intellect and ideas of much bigger cities with the spirit and soulfulness of a smaller community. For most -looking at it from the outside- the site simply profiles small, interesting towns.
But for me, what began as a project driven by interest and delight in vibrant small town life has revealed itself to be a timely and meaningful action. The more I am out there, experiencing firsthand, the purposeful intent living in places that those not-in-the-know might easily dismiss as quaint or bucolic, predictable, or even dull, the more inspired I become. My work no longer seems just interesting to me, it seems absolutely necessary.
As the enormous economic, environmental, and spiritual costs of big-business, global shipping, fossil-fuel dependence, money-driven politics, and human isolation become increasingly apparent, we are all engaged in a time of change whether we wish it or not. The towns that are represented on my site are leading the way in this change -each in their own notable way. These towns are proponents of local food and business. They champion community, dialogue, cooperatives and the myriad challenges that come with engaged relationship. In so doing, they provide a model of community that allows people to thrive in hard times.
Towns like these -that value sustainability and whose citizens seek creative solutions to the basic problems of food and shelter- are a small but leading-edge prototype of strong communities adapting to change while living in harmony with their environment. In each one, I have found energetic, smart and talented individuals who -through their work and their art, their music and their food, their integrity, their willingness to ponder and imagine, and their eagerness to create- together form a rich and vital place to live.
Such towns exist all across America, and they are growing in number -each one unique, with it's own flavor. But when brought together under the umbrella of this site, they become, in a sense, their own community- a growing network of small towns that offer a beacon of hope in compromised times. And as the number of towns on the site grows, what will begin to crystallize is a picture -a profile of a part of America that IS working- with people finding strength where strength is to be found- not through the power of corporate money supporting and spreading corporate ideals- but in each other and common ground; finding sustenance from a living planet that informs decisions and choices; finding richness in the creative work of sustainability and sustaining relationship.
This inspiration is why I love my work so much –it keeps me engaged, interested, inspired, and –on most days- hopeful.