Tree-change for the better?

In conversation with a co-worker today we noted that our move to small country towns had netted us some really good friendships. We moved, with our families, to different towns in the same Shire. The towns themselves are very different. Mine is a bush town and hers more a farming community. Both of us have experienced very different levels of inclusion than when we lived in suburbia.

Is this just our experience? Does it say more about us as newcomers? Is it a general experience for people moving into small towns? Has it anything to do with our Shire? I don’t know the answer to these questions but, as always, I am curious.

My town is in the Dandenong Ranges of Melbourne and it really it a bush town. Summer poses its own risks of bush fire but for the most people live here because hearing the birds calling throughout the day and the wildlife that lives around us and the trees that are in every yard, is our choice. In the back corner of my block (and it is the once traditional 1/4 acre) is a group of ten gum trees. I think of it as my mini forest. Now I am well aware that eucalypts go up like candles when fire comes through. Facing facts though, I have no hope of beating back fires so figure I may as well enjoy my trees. My hopeful theory is that fire may leap to the trees and leave my house alone. I said hopeful.

Anyway, we moved here 6 1/2 years ago although it does seem longer. At first because I was working off the mountain, it seemed quite lonely. While my children were at school, I didn’t know any of the parents. We did the usual round of sporting activities and I gradually became a more familiar face. Even with being unfamiliar, people were friendly and would smile and nod hello long before they knew who we were. The mail here is collected from the post office (it is a very small town) which gives everyone a chance to pick up mail and get to visit the shops.

It took awhile for me to get involved in anything here. Mainly because my full time work left me too tired to add in anything else. Last year I changed jobs and came to work in the Shire in which I lived. I now travel 20 minutes through the trees to get to work without any traffic. Bliss. More than that, my new job didn’t ebb my creativity and it began to flow back into my life and demand attention. More than that, my work involves community development and I have been able to focus some of that up here in the hills.

It’s interesting to live in the area in which you work or work in the area in which you live. I love it. It is such a blessing to have an insight into the towns and people for whom you are intending to make a difference and to know some of the people who are leaders in the communities you frequent.

So, is it the towns that are friendlier or is it life arrangements that allow access? My co-worker’s new living situation gave them much more space to run and a happier place to be. Maybe our tree-changes are working because we were ready for it. Maybe small towns have more to offer than a lot of people realise.

One thing is for sure, I am very glad we are here.

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