The View From Your Front PorchBy John Schwenkler for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
Mayville, North Dakota — You’re looking northwest from our front porch in Mayville, North Dakota. The picture, taken Sunday afternoon, November 13, casts doubt on what everyone knows about the state. Where is all the snow? It’s too soon to say for sure, but I’m wondering if the famous long winters are a thing of the past.
A concrete path runs from our house to the sidewalk. Most streets in Mayville have sidewalks. Many blocks also have alleys — and I don’t think FPR has yet celebrated the pleasures of alley-rambling, perhaps because walking in alleys would not be pleasant in most American locales. In Mayville alleys are good places to look for purple harebells and white-flowered mayweed, which are much easier to find than graffiti. The best place to see graffiti is on the sides of Burlington Northern boxcars when they settle across Second Street, on their way to or from one of the grain elevators downtown. The railroad tracks are about a block from the heart of town, which is Paula’s Cafe and Steak House. The smallest, cutest little downtown Carnegie library you’ve ever seen is open about 15 hours a week, but any community member may make free use of the university’s interlibrary loan service.
Our house is where the Campus-Community Reading Group was founded in January 2000. We started with The Brothers Karamazov and in the group’s eleven years we read a bunch more Dostoevsky, Tolstoy’s two longest novels, at least half a dozen Dickens and many other Victorian novels, and also the entire Divine Comedy. We read a few novels by Joseph Conrad but he was about as contemporary as we wished to get. Most of the time we had our book conversations at Mayville State University, whose Wikipedia entry reports full-time 2008 enrollment of 449.
— Dale Nelson
FPR is looking for portraits of life in your communities, no matter how plain or quotidian. Want to share one? Just e-mail a photograph of the view from – not of – your front porch to [email protected], together with a written reflection of no more than a few hundred words. Writing may be lightly edited. We’ll gladly withhold your name if you ask us to.