In Rome you long for the country; in the country you praise the distant city to the stars. ~Horace
For as long as I can remember, I have been a person that craved the outdoors, craved exploring natural phenomenon, could name all the tree types near my home, felt most at peace walking alone beneath the stately green trees, exploring the red rock canyons, fishing the blue lake waters. This started in my youth which found me frequently catching the garter snakes common to the home where I grew up through my midlife which finds me still loving to visit the Canyonlands area of Southeaster Utah where encountering a person on many of my forays was more a rarity than the bees buzzing the scattered plants, alighting on the few flowers in their incessant search for the honey making nectar they take back to their hive, their version of a city.
I have never fancied myself a city person, never could see myself living with the crowds, couldn’t imagine a city being a harbor to anything that rivals the great outdoors. Until recently, that is. Recently, I have found myself enthralled by cities, by the large structures, by the energy that comes from people buzzing about their daily lives completely oblivious to those living but a few feet away, by the restaurants representing those distant lands I have read of and hope, one day, to alight upon.
I first noticed this during the summer when I found myself enjoying bike rides in Chicago. Initially, the rides were scary because I had to navigate the dangerous city streets on my way to the safe lakefront path. It turns out the lakefront path with the people walking oblivious into the paths of the oncoming cyclists was much more dangerous that the streets where the drivers seem to be very alert to many cyclists.
During my recent visit to the Smoky Mountains, a majestic section of the Appalachians on the Eastern edge of Tennessee, I was again immersed in beautiful nature, where I saw more species of trees than any place else I have been. However, it was the manmade structures that piqued my interest, the mountain homes loving built by the owner’s hands, the old churches adjacent to the cemeteries containing the bones of deceased mountain people. It was the manmade mountain music that captivated me for three straight hours on my way out of the National Park.
On my last trip to Switzerland, it never dawned on me to visit the mountains for which the country is famous. Instead, I spent my time exploring the cities where I was fascinated with the architecture walking through the manmade canyons between the buildings, particularly, the ornate churches which house beautiful sculptures and paintings to honor God. I most enjoyed the cities when people were bustling about. My energy seemed to feed off of their energy.
I have a craving to visit more cities around the world, populous places like Beijing, Morocco, Istanbul where I can experience both city life and other cultures. I want to visit those special manmade structures like the medieval churches in Sofia, the ancient temples in India, the pyramids of Egypt, and the Terracotta Army in China.
After not venturing into Chicago for more than a decade, I have spent quite a bit of my time in the city over the past 6 months. At times, I can see myself living there permanently giving me easy access to the energy released by the people. The one drawback at this time is my job is in the Suburbs. The traffic coming into the city is horrendous and is more daunting than is my desire to live in the city. The job is a good job that has opened many opportunities to me including trips to Europe and India where I was able to temporarily appease my craving for experiencing new cultures. Until such time as my life is amenable to city life or until I need to make a choice between the two, I will split my time between both places. It won’t be country or city; it will be country and city.