When I try to figure out the appeal of Facebook and Twitter, it seems to me it’s about creating a community. We’re all reaching across the world trying to connect with other people, trying to find our place and our “people.” At the cabin, I was finding a community, too, although these were the type of contacts you ran into while walking down the road.
When I give people directions to the cabin, I inevitably get to the part where I have to tell them to turn on the road that has the signs posted on the trees (right), because there is no street name. On the trees are the names of the people who have cabins down that road — a literal rather than virtual community. Aside from two main roads that criss-cross Meeker Park, the network of dirt, often one-lane roads that lead to a smattering of cabins have no names, although sometimes people will choose a name they like, such as Blue Jay Lane. I like that kind of informality. No straight and narrow streets or signs but a loose network of roads and cabins. And a community that is just as haphazard but connected in many ways.
When I started looking for someone to replace the roofs on the cabin and garage, I started to get a glimpse of that network. First, I started making the rounds of my neighbors to ask them for recommendations. My immediate neighbors Claudia and Tom sent me to the Stewarts, a multi-generational family from Iowa, who had just replaced the roof on their cabin. Their roofer wasn’t an option, but while talking to one of the Stewarts, I met the woman who lived across the road from them. This woman, who wrote children’s books, gave me the name of a local handyman, Chip, and when I called him, it turned out he had replaced the last roof on my cabin, which he calculated was more than 20 years ago. Although Chip didn’t do that kind of work anymore, he sent me to his friend Rich, who did a fine job.
I could see that the Meeker Park and Allenspark community consisted of different social strata: the people who lived here all year round, who were the minority; and people who only visited in the warm months (summer, mainly but into the fall), which ranged from those who came for the whole summer to the infrequent visitors who came only on occasional weekends or holidays. But among the varied strata of residents, even those who opened up their cabin only for the July Fourth weekend, everyone seemed to know everyone else and their stories: who had cancer, who was having a new septic system put in, where people had spent the winters. Many of the cabins have been in the family for several generations, so cabin owners may not see their neighbors much but know their family histories, remember their grandparents, remember playing with each other as children, know where they come from.
In that way, this place reminds me of the cabin in Wisconsin where my family spent summers, where the great-grandchildren of my grandparents, who originally bought the first cabin, now hang out with the great-grandchildren of my grandparents’ neighbors and friends on the lake—people they would fish with or play pinochle with. In this mobile society, it’s hard to sustain that kind of continuity. It feels like a treasure, like something rich.
If there is a core to the Meeker Park community, it’s the retired couples, in their 60s and 70s, who know each other, keep tabs on each other and help each other out. As far as I know, no one on Twitter or Facebook has ever delivered a casserole to a sick neighbor.