Peace. Tranquility. Slow traffic. History mingling with modernity. Kindness and civility. People who speak to each other, know each other, and help each other. Neighbors. Community. Home. What am I talking about? Crozet, of course!
The clarion call of a rooster at dawn, the wren’s cheery chirp outside the open window. Hummingbirds, woodpeckers, bluebirds. Expanses of green, big old shade trees, closeness to nature within walking distance of downtown. Knowing my neighbors. Room to think. The smell of wood stove smoke, of rain, of fresh-mown grass. The deer’s wary stalk across the yard at dusk, the bear’s greedy meal at my birdfeeders at midnight. The sun piercing my heart with black beams at sunset, the blue mountains’ looming comfort through the trees, the clouds slowly turning pink, the bats swooping as the stars pop through the blue-black canopy one by one. Drowsing safe inside as thunder spills through the mountains, fading and growing again. Everyday beauty filling my senses.
Breakfasting on local eggs from the farmer’s market and fresh-picked strawberries from Chiles’. Finding everything I need at Crozet Hardware or the Crozet Great Valu, where I’m greeted by friends in the aisles and neighbors at the cash register. Planting lantana in the garden and watching the butterflies flit, hanging laundry on the line, kicking back to watch sports or music at the park. Sinking into the cool blue water of the beautiful, renovated Crozet Park pool, while the merry children splash and shriek nearby. Or floating in a bowl of mountains at Mint Springs Lake. Exercising at Anytime Fitness, Jazzercise, PT Plus, walking or biking through the neighborhoods (now, if we only had more sidewalks …). Exercising the mind by joining the Crozet Library Book Club or one of the many other library activities. Dinner at a sidewalk café—or on my own patio. Reading the news that matters in our own classy news rag, the Crozet Gazette, a family-run business. Dancing at the Greenwood Community center. Knowing the families at church because they’re neighbors; knowing the kids at school because they’re neighbors. If you’re lucky enough to work in the Crozet area, knowing your co-workers—because they’re neighbors! Safety: when everybody knows everybody else, criminal behavior is far less likely.
Who says you can’t have it all? Isn’t this the way of life Mister Rogers was trying to recapture as he sang “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and changed into his slippers? A way of life that is so hard to find in the rush and stress of today’s America—like a village in old Europe. How many of us realize how lucky we are to live in Crozet?
I moved here from Ivy in August (having lived in Charlottesville before that, since 1977), and now that I’m settled, the joy and blessing of being a member of the Crozet community has begun to sink in. I have been welcomed and have felt a sense of belonging from the first hot, sultry day when we ate pizza on the porch and gazed in awe at the sun setting over the mountains. I’ve begun to ask myself, what does it mean to live here? What makes this place so special?
What a contrast to the anonymity of the chains or big box stores in town, like one store’s refusal to take my check on Memorial Day because I had left both my driver’s license and my credit cards in my swimming bag at home. I couldn’t help remembering how the CGV has let me take my groceries with me and pay for them later! Why? Because they know me, I’m their neighbor! Our community is personal, there’s a level of trust that only comes with country living. I’ve lived in many places and visited many others, but none compares to the subtle magic of Crozet.
So wake up and smell the honeysuckle: if you’re offered a job in New York City for twice your current salary, don’t go. What price can you put on this quality of life? Doesn’t your heart, like mine, burst with gratitude every time you open your front door and find yourself in Crozet? When Fodor named Charlottesville the #1 best place to live in America a few years back, he must not have considered Crozet. This is it, gang. I suspect this is as close as we’re going to get to heaven on earth.