I no longer live in Madison. From my first day at the farmhouse, when I downloaded photos, I realized that I had to change location labels from now on. I’ve begun labeling things “Dane County.”
But where is it that I live? What town, or village? You say – that’s easy. You can tell by the zip code. But no, you cannot. My town or village or whatever this place is hasn’t a post office. The town further south steps in and handles mail for some of this “area,” another town handles mail to the west of us and Madison fills in pockets elsewhere. So for my address, I have a choice: I can call myself “Oregon” because that’s what the Post Office recognizes for me, or Fitchburg, because that’s what businesses prefer.
Let’s say I really am in Fitchburg – the place without a post office.
It’s a vast expanse of... something. Where we are, it’s all farmland with a sprinkling of homes. Unlike in so many other countries, where homes cluster around the village heart, American homes hug their rural property and this place is no exception.
So, this is Fitchburg just north of this farm.
But the vast area of Fitchburg – a place of about 25,000 inhabitants and some 35 square miles, also includes the development that streams southwest of Madison – a (thankfully) far five miles from where I am. That Fitchburg has a monstrous cluster of apartments and condos and commercial places. You get more bang for your buck than in Madison’s inflated downtown market and so you find a lot of young adults moving there. You’ll see a sprawling Great Dane Pub, and it is always packed.
Is it the heart of Fitchburg?
No, Fitchburg has no heart. The place has no main street, no square, no center. Even as it has the idea that it should. In the next few years, land a couple of miles to the west of us is slated for that kind of development – with commerce (Promega is already there) and residences coexisting in some fashion that hasn’t been exactly figured out yet. All I know is that I doubt that it will give Fitchburg a “heart.”
In the meantime, when people ask where I live, I pause, then say – on a farm just south of Madison. That seems right. Even if it says nothing at all.