Pay attention to the shape of your neighborhood.
- What feels like the center of the neighborhood?
- Where are the boundaries?
- Where is the high ground?
- Where are the low places?
- Where can you find water? Is it still or flowing?
Notice how your neighborhood celebrates sacred time.
- What and when are the neighborhood festivals and other gatherings? (Be sure to include unofficial gatherings like garage sale weekends.)
- Where does the neighborhood go on pilgrimage (cruising the strip, along traditional parade routes)?
- What ritual objects (holiday decorations, public art, lawn sculptures) are displayed?
Find out what lives in the spaces in between.
- What is in the alleys?
- Where can you go to see birds?
- Where can you go to get away from cars?
- Where do children go to get away from adults?
Find out where the spirits live.
- Who lived here before you did? And before them?
- Where have scandals and tragedies occurred?
- Where is the haunted house in the neighborhood?
- What happens in your neighborhood between midnight and 6 a.m.?
Determine how well-rounded the soul of the place is.
- What grows in the neighborhood? Trees, flowers, vegetables, weeds, nothing?
- What places are named by the children?
- What makes your neighborhood different from adjacent neighborhoods?
- Where can you go to talk to someone who is not a family member or next-door neighbor?
- What basic needs can you satisfy in your neighborhood without getting in a car?
From "Finding the Soul of the City," by Elizabeth VanderSchaaf, Utne Reader, September/October 1994, reprinted with permission.