The Garden Party

At the beginning of the Pocket Neighborhood book there is a story about a garden party I attended last summer. It was hosted by a friend in her orchard overlooking a broad valley — 20 guests at a long table dappled with late afternoon August sunlight. It was a beautiful scene. We all knew our host, but many of us did not know one another. At one point during the gathering, she asked that we take turns introducing ourselves and saying a few words. When my turn came, I said my name and that I was just finishing writing a book about pocket neighborhoods. Of course, the response was, “What is a pocket neighborhood?” After pausing for a moment, I said “This table is like a city block within a neighborhood. Look where our conversations have been happening before our introductions — one at each end, and one in the middle. These are like three pocket neighborhoods along our block.”  I pointed out how conversations happen spontaneously in smaller groups, while a conversation with the larger group requires organization. Then I asked them to imagine themselves as a house — each with a formal façade adorned with a bay window, two-story arched entry, and two garage doors. “Now, turn around. If we were a typical neighborhood, your stiff facades would be facing the street, while the life of your house would be oriented toward your backyard BBQ, kitchen and family room. The street out front would be empty, except for cars. If we were at a dinner party,” I continued, “there would be no conversation! We each have all the privacy in the world, yet no community.” I called them back to face the table.  “In a pocket neighborhood, active living spaces of houses face toward a common area shared with nearby neighbors, while quieter, more private spaces are farther back. Living in such a neighborhood, like friends around a dinner table, conversation is effortless.”

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2 Responses to The Garden Party

  1. Ahna Lich says:

    I remember living in an apt. in a three story apt. bldg. where we knew our neighbors. Yes, you could smell what someone was cooking (and that might mean a dinner together) and you could hear an argument or two (o.k. that’s life) and people would ask one another if they were needing anything at the store. We’ve lived in Ashland, OR for 6 years and we still walk down quiet streets without people around in the neighborhood. Owning a dog is always a good beginning. But, about those good small clusters of conversation…..where?

  2. Mary Casey says:

    I am very excited about this whole concept. Would love to hear more as i approach the time when I am ready to check out of the big city. Have always love porches even as a small child. Mother lived one hour past Pittsburgh .

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