I love cities. I love the pulse of them and the way you can walk to the shops and restaurants. I love the way the local people go about their lives while me -the visitor -watches them like they are a species. Maybe they are -city people.
I was a city person for a short while. I lived in Boston for about a year in my twenties. I was part of the hustle and bustle. I walked to shops and I took the T down town to work everyday. I learned how to get on that T ( the Boston subway) – pushing my way in at rush hour -holding on tight to the silver rail or pole that spanned each car – packed in like sardines- and snagging a seat of it became available. And God help is if we had train trouble. Or another train had trouble. Being stuck in a train car like a sardine with no lights and no AC is a bitch. I can’t believe I didnt claw my way out when those things happened. I could not deal with that now.
What I came to realize in the years since I left the city is that I was really a poser. I was not a city person. I was pretending to be one.
While I lived in the city I took every opportunity to get out of it. Visiting the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. All of those visits involved camping and/or riding bikes all over those areas. We were on beaches and in the mountains. The city was where I worked and lived but it was in nature that I truly felt alive.
When I flock to the city now I always gravitate to the parks or to the water. In Baltimore I love Fells point -bc it’s kitschy -but also because it’s on the water. I never stay long in the city. Just long enough to enjoy watching the real city people -and maybe some of them are posers like I was. But I always leave to come home here to this little farm because I’m from Nature. Nature called me and she won.
I’ve always found solace and peace in nature. I think we are drawn to what can balance us. And since I’ve been young I’ve been drawn to trees and the forest and to rocks and water.
When I was a kid we had a small line of woods near our house and I had a special place I went to that was private but so close to the house I could see our backyard fence just feet away. There was a big rock there and I could sit there and think -my hands running over the cold, smooth surface. There was a dirt path that led up through the woods. Houses flanked both sides. I could run up the path and pretend I was on my horse exploring strange lands. I could see the kitchen lights of our neighbors windows as evening fell. I’d walk in the house after being gone for hours. Nobody worried. It’s just the way it was back then.
“I’m going to the woods” was on my lips and came out of my mouth thousands of times during my childhood. I travelled alone or in packs with my neighborhood friends. I was known as the one who always fell in the creek. Sometimes it was by accident and sometimes it wasn’t. I’d come home in soggy Danskins. Cold and wet but happy.
I’m sure I escaped to the woods back then to escape the chaos that was part of my household. But it was more than that. It was like I felt more at home outside in the woods than I did indoors.
I rode horses on Saturday’s at a farm 45 minutes from my suburban home. It felt like another world and I was so happy when I was there. I was sure I was supposed to be part of that world and not part of the confines of suburbia. I think I knew then where my heart wanted to be.
My dad never liked farms. To him they didn’t represent the ideal world he had in his mind. He was kind of an inside the box thinker. I lived outside. And I followed my heart a lot even if it didn’t always work out. I’m the The Road less travelled type of girl – dad not so much.
I remember my dad taking us every so often to the Catoctin mountains about an hour outside where I lived. I loved going on those excursions with my dad. We would hike some. Then he’d drive around inside the pretty park. Once we took our dog and she puked in the car on the way there. Once or twice after visiting the park we stopped at a hamburger place in Thurmont , Md right outside the mountain park and we’d have small square hamburgers at this cute little restaurant. I always loved small towns and always wanted to live in one –and now I do. Those trips were special. My dad seemed more at ease, more focused and friendlier. Except for the time the dog puked in the car.
After my dad moved to Florida he would come North for fall and one year we went back to the Catoctins. He was excited to share that time with my kids. He travelled to Colorado regularly and the year before he died he took a bus trip across Idaho and into Montana and beyond. He took a cruise on the Rivers of France. That was so outside his comfort zone going outside the USA -but I’ll bet being on the water was enticing to him.
My dad also loved the beach. He lived the last years of his life on a small island on the Gulf side of Florida. As kids My family spent years going to the Maryland and Jersey shores every summer. He taught me how to ride waves. We ate Taylor burgers together from our favorite dive on the boardwalk on the jersey shore.
Sometimes I am amazed at how similar we were. He just never saw it and I don’t think I did until he was gone. I wish it didn’t take death for me to see this similarity -I always looked for our differences. And we had a number of them but we both loved the beauty of the world.
Sometimes he was the chaos I ran from to the woods to find the calm I craved -but maybe in his life he was running from the chaos inside himself. Maybe nature called to his heart like it does mine.
It’s hard to walk into a canopy of trees and not feel enveloped in a hug from something not of the human world. Or when you walk on the beach with the sounds of the waves and the gulls how can the heart rate not slow?
I’m from nature. When I reach out to it it always reaches back and gives me just what I need. No wonder I often sleep with one earbud in with ocean sounds playing on my IPad. Or I crack my window open at night and can hear the snort of a horse and the crow of the roosters in the early morning. Farm sounds for free.
I live in the country now. We have neighbors but we have space too. I am 8 miles from a small town that I love -And not too from big cities. My place is here on my farm or at the beach. Or in the woods or at a lake. I am from nature.
My world has been limited lately. My pain makes it hard to go out anywhere in the car. I hate being cooped up. I’m like a wounded eagle wanting to fly free.
For now I have the lane next to my house-And the trees beside it and fields surrounding it. I try to walk everyday on the lane. I don’t make it that often but I try. I walk out the door and visit the chickens and ducks. Sometimes I have goodies to feed them. I step onto the lane -sometimes it’s dry, sometimes wet and sometimes soggy but it always calms me.
If we open our hearts to nature it will speak to us. We are all part of the same thing but our humaness is a shield that hinders our connection. Drop the shield and the real world will reach out to us.
On the lane I talk to God, my dad, my father in law, I pray, if I’m with my husband or one of my teens we chat. I take pictures. How can I have so many pictures of the same place? What a small world I live in. But the that world changes everyday. It is what nature does -it is never the same.
I stop to take a picture and I’m somewhere else. I’m in the puddle looking at the branches of the trees in the reflection. I’m mesmerized by naked branches. I have so many pictures of the winter tree.
But for a moment I’m not in pain. I’m part of that tree. I’m part of that puddle. I’m part of those woods and of the cornfield.
I come back inside and I’m grounded and whole.
I am from nature.