Which is better, a city or a town?

9 am, that is

9 am, that is

Which is a better place to live, a small town or a city? That was the conversation my husband and I had while enjoying a white Christmas —  though not the single-digit temperatures — in Winthrop, Washington, population 415, or 1,916 if you consider the outlying areas.

I should clarify “small town” to mean a thriving small town. Sadly, there are plenty in the state with buildings boarded up, and the thrift store and food bank the anchors. Thriving towns often are those whose leaders have come up with a gimmick to keep the tourists coming, if not new residents. Winthrop, with its faux wild west architecture and its honest reputation as the nation’s largest cross country ski area is one of them. The excellent “Trail’s End” bookstore describes the town’s residents as highly literate outdoor enthusiasts.

After spending two days there, in a cabin in front of a gas fireplace reading, writing, snacking as well as soaking in our private hot tub, we ventured into the streets, the stores and onto the ski trails. At the bookstore, I had a long and pleasant conversation with a clerk about books we had both enjoyed.  At the ski shop, we waited a long time for an employee to listen patiently to streams of questions, doubts, and other insecurities from a potential ski shopper. When our turn came, we received the same thorough and thoughtful attention. When we discovered that the restaurant where we’d made an on-line reservation for Christmas Eve dinner was not where it had been a year ago, someone we talked to on our rambles gave us good directions on how to find the new location. At the same restaurant, the hostess and our server both spent time asking how we’d passed the day and actually listening to our answers, while also sharing local information, and just generally chatting us up.

In no way did these experiences match those of our lives in a city, where everyone is busy. Normally efficient, but always busy. The pace is wearying.  “Rush hour” is not in the vocabulary of people who live in Winthrop.  On the ski trail, we met a couple from a city north of where we live who were considering relocating to Winthrop. Too much traffic, too many people, and too much development were some of their reasons. They’re right. The Puget Sound region is experiencing enormous population growth.

We were quite content to spend five peaceful days in the quiet of nature, the only sounds being the swoosh of skis on the tracks, the hum of the occasional light plane overhead, and the gurgle of the jets in the hot tub.

But would we want to live here? After considering the possibility from different angles, we decided we wouldn’t. Why not?  The clinic there couldn’t do what the hospital a few blocks away from our home could.  Dining out options were good but limited. Making new friends might take time, and we would miss old friends who live near us now. We enjoy museums, art galleries, and lectures, which would be harder to find without driving some distance. We knew that all of these objections could be overcome. We realized that the biggest reason not to move was that we are fair-weather outdoor enthusiasts. When the man on the street gave us directions to the restaurant, he added that it would be easy for us to walk there.  As we drove the mile home in well-below freezing temperatures, we were happy we hadn’t taken his advice.



About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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5 Responses to Which is better, a city or a town?

  1. Janet Orr says:

    My favorite ‘small town’ is Deer Lodge, MT. Reason? It’s where my Grandparents lived…where my Mom/Dad/sister/I spent summer days/Christmas many years ago. I have memories of sledding behind “Pop’s” pickup truck, climbing on the roof of the town ‘ice-house,’ my first ride on a horse, swimming in a creek, sitting around a huge table after dinner listening to those older than me laughingly tell their stories No, I wouldn’t want to LIVE there. Rather I can ‘go’ there whenever I want…with thoughtful thanks.

  2. You know your own mind…so important that you know yourself well enough to make a wise decision and not waste precious time finding out what you really want.

  3. dkzody says:

    I would like to be able to walk wherever I need to go, but not in the cold. I’m a fair-weather kind of gal. I also want to be close to large, very good grocery stores with a good selection of organic foods. Hard to find in those small, quaint towns.

    • stillalife says:

      Surprisingly, the small town where we were had a good grocery store with many organic choices. We brought home steaks that were the best we’d had in a long time. I agree though that cities offer so many more choices and possibilities.

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