Love What You’ve Got

10 illinois signLinda Burton posting from Springfield, Illinois – I woke in Indianapolis today; from my room overlooking the city I watched the sun rise in the morning window-sparkle of downtown skyscrapers. I sleep tonight in Springfield; outside my room a single tree somewhat blocks my view of the long-haul trucks in the parking lot, waiting for daylight to hit the road. Though both cities are the center of government for their state, they are very different in style. Indianapolis (pop 829,718) thrives on the adrenalin of sports; speedways and stadiums dot the landscape, surrounded by the accoutrements that accommodate large crowds; restaurants of every ilk, high-rise hotels, taxi cabs. Stand and cheer! Springfield (pop 116,250) is Lincoln’s land; everywhere is evidence of the quiet reflective man who lived here, is buried here. In Springfield he practiced law; in Springfield he campaigned to become president of the land, though when he arrived he didn’t have money to even buy a bed. Inspiration of a different sort; such is the way of the Journey Across America, now 60% complete (stand and cheer!). Today I claim 30 capital cities as my home towns; for the last 443 days I’ve experienced life with big-city bustle, and small-town charm. I’ve seen mountains and 10 love brownvalleys and rivers and lakes, fishing and farming and mining and making things, fresh air and fresh food and history and her story, progress and dropping back and growth and decline, sun belts and bible belts and rust belts and no belts at all, just space. Or congestion. I knew capital cities would be interesting; I had no idea how such a mix of lifestyles and scenery and climate would affect my sensibilities, and begin to explain the world. It’s not what you’ve got that matters, I’ve discovered, it’s how much you love what you’ve got.

What makes a place feel like home? Why do people care about their community? How does a city blossom and grow?

Just yesterday, in the local hardware store (I was looking for potting soil for the cactus plant), I asked the young man who was assisting me: “What do you like about Indianapolis?” His eyes lit up as he quickly answered “the bicycle paths!” He described the routes to me; when I pulled a map from my pocket he began to point to parts of the city I “shouldn’t miss.” The Scottish Rite Cathedral, built by Masons, wonderful architecture; the Creation Café, right on the canal, have lunch on the patio and watch the boats; the City Market, oh, don’t miss THAT, fresh produce, food stands, it’s really the heart of the city. He would have kept talking, I believe, except someone called for a propane tank; he had to go but I could feel the pull of enthusiasm as he walked away. It’s not like that every time; once in a while I’ve received blank stares and the mumbled reply “Oh, there’s nothing much here.” What makes the difference?

Sometimes it’s something as simple as convenience, and prettiness. If your city streets are potholed, if the traffic backs up for miles, if the parking doesn’t exist, if the signs don’t explain, if the garbage doesn’t get removed, it may be more pleasant to stay home with the TV. Who wants to wade around in ugly? “There’s nothing much here,” you sigh. But no excuses! There is a vacuum cleaner commercial that tells you in no uncertain terms Life is messy. Clean it up! I say If it’s your community and you don’t like it, fix it up! “It takes vision,” Deborah commented as we rode through the bluegrass hills around Frankfort on the horse farm tour. “You have to see beyond problems and focus on the possibilities.” Wise words; I’m sure CCUSA Board Member Bob Jacobs agrees. “Citizen involvement,” he’ll tell you in a flash, “is imperative.” I remember the day we walked through the park by Olympia’s Capitol Lake; he stooped to pick up a piece of trash from the green lawn without thinking as he pointed out the features of the beautiful community spot he’d helped to develop. Love what you’ve got.

The last five capital cities I’ve lived in (and loved) were:

  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Charleston, West Virginia
  • Frankfort, Kentucky
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Indianapolis, Indiana

Based on my previous posts, can you match the five comments below to the city above where I heard them spoken?

  1. I love living here. It is a big city that feels like a small town.
  2. I love my city. It’s big enough for everything, but not too big.
  3. There is so much history here it makes me proud. I love to show it off to visitors.
  4. I wouldn’t live anywhere else. It feels cozy here, and it’s so pretty, everywhere you look.
  5. It’s the people I like here. Everyone says hi when I walk down the street. It’s home.

Answers at the end of this post, but here’s what I have to say about these cities.

10 Linda capitol RichmondRichmond (left) – I loved the atmosphere of colonial times; the houses side by side by side; the gorgeous capitol with the Thomas Jefferson touch; the monuments and trails of history at every corner of every tree-lined street; Patrick Henry in costume and wig; Give me liberty!

10 Linda capitol Charleston 2Charleston (right) – I loved the pioneering tales; time-traveling in the state museum from Boone to building bridges everywhere; the hairpin roads to houses on the mountainsides; the capitol’s striking golden dome and stunning river view; the airport on the mountaintop.

10 Linda capitol FrankfortFrankfort (left) – I loved the valleys edged by limestone cliffs; the rolling bluegrass hills with fences made of native stone; the water pure enough for whiskey-making fame; the tulip-planted drive leading to the grandeur of the capitol; the settled peace of sunset as horses graze.

19 Linda capitol Nashville. c jpgNashville (right) – I loved the downhome happiness of country music and country food; the flash, the fun, the guitars and the aw shucks grins, adoring fans; the past angling for attention against the current scene; the capitol perched atop a hill, historic yes, but not, by far, the tallest thing in town.

10 Linda capitol IndianapolisIndianapolis (left) – I loved the monument circle that centers the city; the capitol right there within reach; enough places to park, and sit, and walk, and run; enjoy the moments, the lunchtime music in the garden built above the street; so down to earth; so downtown Charlie Brown.

What will I love in Springfield? And Jefferson City, Topeka, Lincoln, Des Moines? Those are the next five; the Journey Across America continues, with 23,692 miles traveled so far and 4,000 miles left to go. Stay tuned.


Answers to matching: Richmond – 3. Charleston – 5. Frankfort – 4. Nashville – 1. Indianapolis – 2.