I spent half of yesterday driving around the oldest parts of Richmond, Texas, down its narrow streets named after numbers, alphabet letters and big Texas cities like Dallas and Austin.
Richmond will be my new home in about three years when we build a house on what is now just 1.3 acres of tall oak trees, pink Buttercups and a blanket of yellow Butterfly Daisies.
I'm trying to learn the town now, imagine how I'll fit in, where I'll shop for groceries, wash my car or spend free time. Richmond has a much slower pace than the newer parts of Sugar Land, TX where I now live; no one seems in a hurry to get to work, school, or tomorrow. Richmond residents seem less concerned with how they dress or talk and more focused on just being, moving through their days without showy adornment. It's not uncommon to see a man in dirty overalls at Richmond's Newfirst Bank. At any bank in Sugar Land this would be an anomaly.
The Richmond buildings are short and many of the businesses are run out of old clapboard houses - chiropractor's offices, a few dentists and attorneys. I counted seven churches and two schools in just a few blocks.
The residential homes are heavily shaded by trees older than I am, and the worn lived-in look of these houses comforted me like a grandmother's warm hands kneading dough or digging deep in the rich soil of a healthy garden. The homes seemed to possess a wisdom newer homes lack, or maybe what I was seeing was more like a soul. Whatever it was, it urged me to keep driving down the Avenue H's, I's, J's, K's, and then down 1st, 2nd 3rd and 4th streets. I passed an old-fashioned barber shop with a red, white and blue spinning swirl. I saw two men hanging a banner for a bakery debuting next week out of a freshly painted pink house with a cupcake motif. There are businesses with names I've never heard of - Bob's Spirits, Jenny's Office Supplies, Guy Groceries - that sell what the Office Depot, Michaels, Kroger and Specs all sell back in Sugar Land. Richmond feels like a place happily stuck in time, maybe fifty or more years back, and I like that. I felt safe, in sync with their rhythms. In "faster" places I feel lost and dizzy in a disorienting wind that turns me around.
Sugar Land has streets with names such as Palm Royale, Commonwealth, Sweetwater. Along Palm Royale the lots alone are $1,000,000. The houses are magnificent, something you'd see on Lives of the Rich & Famous with tremendous lion fountains and large circular drives partially obscured by imposing iron gates. These fancier homes lack the inviting warmth I get from the Richmond community. Palm Royale makes me feel cold, shut out, detached. The residents in these multi-million dollar homes probably feel that way, too, sometimes. I doubt they'd ever borrow sugar from a neighbor or have a block party with beer kegs and fold-up lawn chairs. And maybe it's just me, but too large an enclosed space is more like a museum than a "home". Even the warmest company in an enormous enclosed space is swallowed up by the static gap and risk of getting lost beneath too-high ceilings.
The part of Sugar Land I prefer is over the railroad tracks which is more like Richmond - old and inviting, soulful. They both have the charm of the elderly, a seasoned warmth and richness not found in the more "self-conscious" versions.
My new street in Richmond will be have a name related to the measured movement of music, dance or speech. The name describes the inherent peaceful rhythm in all forms of life, a soothing heartbeat disrupted only by fear or an artificial environment. The street's musical sound is almost a song itself and inspires me to take long walks among the wise oaks and fragile sprouts of color that bend with the soft breath of a land nature intended to be left alone. I'll have to apologize to the lovely Daisies soon buried beneath a house I hope to love slowly into a home.