Visiting as a Villager

It’s Spring Break. I’m in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I’m a college professor on break from school and Spring Break for me, now that I’m older, is a time to visit family and friends.

This and several Spring Break weeks before, I’m in Yellow Springs with my partner Madeleine Reber, visiting Madeleine’s mother Dimi. We arrived at Dimi’s house late Saturday evening, so that we could beat the then approaching winter storm.

We have been in town for a couple of days, visiting and enjoying each other’s company, walking to town, enjoying coffee with friends (new and old), with Madeleine, as always, running into an old school friend or former teacher or two. We visit the public library, Tom’s grocery store; we read, discuss ideas, and play board games.

When I’m at Dimi’s house, I’m relatively disconnected — there is no WIFI and I do not have a smartphone. In my daily life I’m always connected to my computer (and work) so these “forced” breaks away are really appreciated, and needed. I enjoy my visits to Yellow Springs.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m in Yellow Springs is to read as much Yellow Springs News as I can find.

Luckily, this is not hard. Dimi keeps at least the last two month’s papers around – the current and prior week’s papers are placed on the table or on the kitchen island, and the older papers are neatly stacked near her livingroom sofa.

Reading and talking about what I read in the Yellow Springs News is more than learning about what pawpaws are, or what a passive house is, and a yurt, and learning about the upcoming music, dance, lecture or arts events, and about the unruly teenagers from the village police report. I get a sense of the town through the articles, advertisements, classifieds, and business directories. I scan the pictures, doubtful that I will recognize or know anyone. I have visited Yellow Springs a half dozen times or more over the past five years, so this week, I recognized someone – Patti Dallas – a Tom’s Market shopper. I also recognized Suzanne Oldham who is selling the bed and breakfast, and Jill Becker’s name, who is teaching a dance class for persons with Parkinson’s disease.

Although I enjoy learning about the people through the Yellow Springs News, this current trip and readings have made me more reflective about place. Perhaps this is because I’m currently reading a new book “Body Geographic,” by my DePaul University colleague and friend Barrie Jean Borich, or because as a nurse and human scientist/researcher, I study space and place (related to care for persons with mental illness or emotional distress), yet perhaps it is more personal – thinking about the meanings of home and family.

Regardless of why, this visit to Yellow Springs, and my readings of the Yellow Springs News, has absorbed me with thoughts about the dichotomies of home and not home, family and stranger, alike and different. For me, although I’m a visitor to Yellow Springs, I’m somewhere in the in-between. Not a bad place to be.

This post was originally published on March 28, 2013 in the Yellow Springs News.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not those of the author’s employer.

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