We all have places we visit on a regular basis—some because we want to (the local coffee shop, the library, a church home), others because we have to (the gym, the grocery store, the hair salon). These places are the third places in our lives—the places where we gather beyond home (our first place) and work (our second place) on a regular basis. And while home is about family and work is about…well…work, our third places in life are about community.
Intentional or unintentional, these third places are gathering spaces that encourage relationships we might not have had otherwise. They also present more opportunities to be known, if we are open and vulnerable. After all, it’s no coincidence that “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name” is the opening line in the chorus to the theme song of a show about community found in a local bar (a third place spanning centuries and civilizations).
Some of my favorite third places over the past few years have been markets—places that I originally go to for physical nourishment, but where, after returning again and again to the same venders, I end up finding relational nourishment, too.
The first market my husband and I visited on a regular basis was none other than Pike Place Market in Seattle. Famous for its fish market, Pike Place is over 100 years old and houses beneath its roof most anything you could possibly need. A visit to Pike Place Market is a staple in my ideal Seattle day, and I love the long hall filled with brightly-colored bouquets, the displays of Rainier cherries that make their appearance in summertime, and the many cafés and takeaway restaurants (my favorites are Piroshky Piroshky, The Crumpet Shop, and De Laurenti).
However, the place in the market we frequented most often was Sosio’s Produce in the main food hall. During our first year of marriage, we lived just half a mile west on the same street of the Market and didn’t have a car, so Pike Place Market was truly our closest resource for produce, and we relished the opportunity to build a relationship with a vendor. We were regulars there, and while cruiseship-bound tourists slowly passed by, causing traffic jams as they stood there gawking, we snuck in amongst the fruit-filled tables, each time being greeted by familiar faces. When we went back to Seattle to visit just under a year since we had moved away, we were surprised and so happy to find that we were remembered; they knew our name and they were glad we came (and consequently sent us home with the juiciest cantaloupe and a large bag of Washington’s own cherries).
After such a rich experience in Seattle, markets have become a necessary third place and a regular part of our weekly routine. Visiting the Farmers’ Market of the Ozarks in Springfield, MO was one of the first things we did when we moved from Seattle to Springfield in September of 2011, and while I struggled to settle in, missing the community I had left behind, it was that initial visit to the farmers’ market that confirmed that Springfield could in fact feel like home, at least for a little while. After some time, we not only were visiting the market on Saturday—we also harvested for one of the vendors every Tuesday at their urban farm which just so happened to be down the road from where we lived. Yet again, our time at the market brought us not only good food, but also great friends.
We’re currently living in San Diego, CA, and the La Jolla Open Aire Market has become a Sunday ritual (and let me tell you, I’ve never tasted juicier satsumas). Since we knew we would only be here temporarily—we’re moving back to Seattle (for good!) in less than a month—having the farmers’ market as our third place here has been particularly valuable and enriching, making us truly feel like a part of the local community, if only for a few months.
Since Kyle and I will both be traveling some before we move to Seattle, yesterday was the final day we would spend together at the market during our time here. Though it’s just a place to some, saying goodbye to this farmers’ market in this season will be as difficult as saying goodbye to old friends, just like each market and third place before it.
What are some of the third places in your life?