Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Getting to Arden

Arden Welcome Sign
Roughly thirteen months ago, my family and I moved to Arden, DE, from Lancaster County, PA, where, with the exception of my college years, I have lived my whole life. It was a big change for all of us. My daughter, who turned sixteen shortly after we moved to Arden, had never lived anywhere but the home we had just sold. While our son was getting ready to leave for college, she had to contend with a new school.  We chose to come here, in part, because my husband’s job landed us closer to Philadelphia, and this move would cut his commute in half.  But why did we specifically choose to come to Arden? To begin to answer that question, I enter into evidence, a blog entry I wrote five years ago in June of 2009.

A few weeks ago, Mark and I were invited to stay in the community of Arden, Delaware for the weekend. This is a community that was set up as a stab at Utopia under the heading of the single tax. In the years since its founding, it attracted many artists, free thinkers, and civically minded people. How can we describe the visit beyond saying that we both looked online at real estate following our weekend there?
The weekend didn’t start out too well. Mark was supposed to get off work at 12. He told me to meet him at his workplace because he was already halfway to Arden. I met him, but he didn’t actually get out of work until 1:45. I was not a happy camper and neither was he, so we started out our weekend a little on the aggravated side. But we did hit Chaddsford winery on the way down and got a few sample pours to help smooth the edges before arriving at friend Cynthia’s place. The cottage where we were to stay and her property in general were adorable. Something out of a fairy tale–Snow White, but with a better design sense. After visiting with Cynthia in her garden over drinks and snacks, she called up all these artists who lived in the community—spur of the moment—and asked them to let us see their studios, which they did with an abundance of hospitality. We also took in a play. Footloose. Mark and I felt a bit guilty about going to a play that didn’t feature our daughter or any of her acting chums. It felt wrong to go to get tickets where we know nobody. Turns out the guy playing the Reverend in Footloose played Max with Maren in Sound of Music. We stalked him after the show. Even more funny—he was the roast beef carver for the dinner theater. We didn’t recognize him when he was carving our meat.
The next night we went to a community dinner. They have them every Saturday night. BYOB. Community announcements. Their community is so charming. So walkable. We explored every niche, and just about every trail. We took our picnic to a rock in the stream in the woods. We had subs from Capriotti who did some of Biden’s Inaugural feast. Thanksgiving on a bun: Turkey, mayo, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Our other sub was hot pastrami, cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and coleslaw. We washed it all down with wine. I hope we can take the kids there to see Shakespeare in their dear little 100 year old 100 seat outdoor theater. Jonah is getting his first taste of Shakespeare this year and he LOVES it. And you already know of my little theater girl. We also went on a home and garden tour on Sunday.
All of this left me questioning what it was I want in community. Arden, Delaware is a heck of a place to start that conversation.

I have to admit, that after living here a year I am deeply embarrassed at some of my adjectives. Dear. Charming. Adorable. I suppose I can forgive myself knowing how enchanted I was and how different it seemed from the experience I was having back in Pennsylvania. So here I present the fairy tale. The dream. And in living here, I find many complexities that cannot be summed up in a sentence or even a blog entry. My hope with this blog is not to demystify Arden so much as to share what it is like to have a daily life and creative practice here so that others may find ways to bring bits of Utopia (whatever that means to you) into your own life. It exists, if not always in the way you think it does.