October 11: Neighborhoods are human ecosystems

I’ve led a pretty nomadic existence since my college graduation in 1997. In just under 15 years I’ve lived in 10 places––spending three months at the shortest stop, Eugene, and four years in the most permanent, Boston, where I still managed to bunk down in five different neighborhoods.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, true enough, but it’s hard to grow an orchid without moss. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve liked the idea of settling down somewhere.  You can think about settling down in lots of ways. But basically, you end up where you stay put for specific reasons. It’s not love, your job, the place, the house, the time in your life. It’s all of those together and weird little things too, like your shower or the way the sun comes in a window.

Neighborhoods are human ecosystems and, for now, our family is set up right on the border of North Downtown (NoDo) and Martha Jefferson (MJ), two near-Downtown ’hoods characterized by big trees and a quiet propriety that’s strangely like the neighborhood I grew up in, which I always found lonely. 

I don’t find my current neighborhood lonely at all, mainly because I can ride my bike to the river or Downtown in a few short minutes and because it’s friendly. This week’s feature looks at the ways in which MJ and NoDo will be affected by the departure of the hospital and the construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway. This town has the potential to be a pedestrian paradise. The challenge is to link its neighborhoods to the cultural centers of Downtown and UVA, keep the cars moving around the outside, and finish the Rivanna Trail. The people working on these projects, both public and private, need help from the rest of us to make it real. Got a good idea?