The dictionary says a decade is something in a group of 10, often 10 years. Chunks of time comprising those years often develop their own personalities and moods. The 1920s, famously known as the “Roaring Twenties,” featured mass-produced cars, jazz music and flappers. The 1930s brought the Great Depression; the 1940s, World War II. The postwar years of the 1950s saw increasing material comfort, the emergence of rock and roll, and the introduction of television. The 1960s brought the counterculture movement and civil rights activism. During the 1970s anxiety and entertainment became intertwined. There were political scandals, an oil crisis, the fall of Saigon, and inflation. To counter the tension, television introduced the nation to Saturday Night Live. Jaws terrorized beach communities and Hollywood reported on events that occurred “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” The years continue to roll on.
In my own life, I’ve just reached an important decadal milestone. Exactly 10 years ago, my husband and I moved to Farmville. So, how would I describe the character of those years? It’s been an era of discovery. Farmville isn’t what I expected. It is so much more.
I expected a small, sleepy town. I anticipated a wary, tepid welcome until I could prove myself. What I discovered instead was a vibrant two-college town with a lively Main street and neighbors who offered generous friendship without question. I found a community where the welcome mat was always out, where even strangers waved to me, and where help was offered whenever I needed it.
Next, I discovered High Bridge Trail State Park. When I arrived in Farmville, only its first 4 miles were open. As the trail extended by segments, my husband and I explored each additional section to discover what new vistas awaited. Today, I can boast that we’ve traversed all 31 of the trail’s current miles multiple times (although never all in a single day, as some of the park’s more vigorous visitors have done).
Because of the park, I’ve had a chance to connect with a group called “Friends of High Bridge Trail State Park.” Group members represent varied interests. Some primarily view the park as a great outdoor space for exercise. They applaud the contributions the park makes to the whole community’s fitness level. Others are more connected to the natural beauty it opens up and the opportunities they have to connect with a vast array of plants and animals. Still others feel a deep connection to the region’s history and the trail’s connections to stories surrounding railroading and the Civil War. My most surprising discovery was that the group comprises people who befriend not just the park but each other, irrespective of their different areas of interest.
Another group that has been important in my decade of discovery is the Central Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists. Through their training, I’ve learned about our area’s natural history and its flora and fauna. I can now look at an oak leaf and tell whether it’s from a white oak or a red oak. I can spot salamander eggs when they hide at the edge of a vernal pool. I even learned how to identify poison ivy (well, about 80 percent of the time; I’m not always a quick learner).
During my first decade in Farmville, I’ve discovered that diversity across the community helps guard it against the kind of tunnel vision that can result from a single perspective. Farmville possesses a broad range of people representing various racial and ethnic backgrounds and people living in widely different strata on the socioeconomic scale. I’ve met people from religious backgrounds that include Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations. I’ve met followers of the Islamic faith and adherents of the Buddha’s teachings. I’ve met people who follow ancient folk wisdom and those who profess no faith. I’ve met people whose ancestors settled in the region before the United States became a nation, and I’ve met people who are first generation residents.
I don’t know what to expect as I begin my second decade in Farmville, but I’m eager and excited to continue my journey.
KAREN BELLENIR has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia features a compilation of her columns. It is available from PierPress.com. You can contact Bellenir at kbellenir@PierPress.com.