City or Country?

June 2, 2007

My life is here in the suburban realm of Virginia Beach yet I often imagine moving to the western part of the state and enjoying the space of country living.  I don’t like the traffic here but I can visit any number of vegetarian restaurants.  In a smaller town I’ll never see gridlock but most likely the diner around the corner will mainly offer beef, chicken and fried foods.  Yes I’m over-generalizing though I do think there is a hint of truth in these assumptions.

More people amassed in one area allows for a greater expression of the human experience.  Here in the city I can attend the religious services of many different faiths and partake in activities that would be hard to find in a more rural setting.  I have access to organic produce, yoga classes and high speed internet.  There are many more jobs in my field and the pay is greater.  But I do know what I am missing….

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This picture is from Mcaphee Knob near Roanoke Virginia.  Yes there is a lot to be missed when you decide to congregate around large groups of people.  That space outside can help to create a bit of space inside that mind that gets so wound up in the modern routine.  When the pace slows down a new perspective is afforded.

In 2002 I spent three months hiking on the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Pennsylvania.  I won’t go into too much detail here (Wonderful!) though I would like to share a memory that captures that city/country divide.

One morning I woke up to a blanketing mist that soaked my tent with dew and widened my eyes to the quiet trees hidden in shrouds of white.  I’d been hiking in Virginia for about a month and looking forward to Harper’s Ferry a few days walk ahead.  The morning fog seemed to hush all of the inhabitants of the forest and I marveled at the silence that leapt from my surroundings into my heart.  What serenity!  After a time I fished out my little AM/FM radio, put in my earphones and flipped through the fuzziness to see what the outside world could offer this peaceful jaunt.  I’d noticed the day before that I could pick up a few radio stations from Washington D.C. and this morning I again found a clear signal.

“We have a back-up on the beltway around the state line and you can expect an hour delay going into the city.”

I stopped.  The smile upon my face could not be withheld and I stared in amazement at my surroundings as the announcer spoke of this alternate reality.  In this moment I could not be touched by the grinding gears of humanity always working towards that next thing.  I had no one beeping from behind or slowing my progress down the path. 

In the same instant I knew that eventually I would rejoin the masses and find my way to a car that would sit behind other cars during a morning commute.  My appreciation of that moment in the misty mountains of Virginia was heightened by my knowing that I had been in that car before and I would return.  This precious time allowed for the reflection then and my ponderings now about the choice: city or country?

Perhaps a bit of both sprinkled throughout a lifetime to allow for a fresh inter-mixing of varied flavors.

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12 Responses to “City or Country?”

  1. Karen Says:

    I am so so so jealous of your AT adventure. I dream of hiking it someday; and being a teacher, I really have no excuses left to hike a little each summer. My only fear: staying in a shelter alone at night!!

    Love the post!

  2. Kikare Says:

    “That space outside can help to create a bit of space inside that mind that gets so wound up in the modern routine.”
    I absolutely love this sentence. I had lived in the city for as long as I can remember, that’s why I am enjoying my village life now, because I notice the difference and how the difference affects the working of my mind.
    I don’t know, maybe one day I will long for the crowds again. But for now I just really enjoy the serenity the country offers.

  3. awareness Says:

    Beautiful piece……I was right there with you and I LOVE the photo.

    I think we need all sorts of “opposites” in our lives in order to fully appreciate and understand our preferences and our desires. What is joy without sorrow? What is the beauty of winter without the experience of a steaming hot summer day?

    City and country experiences allow us to appreciate such vast differences……………….I love them both and would be miserable if I couldn’t access them both too.

    great post.

  4. Rena Says:

    Excellent piece!! I love your thought about the “space outside creating a bit of space in the mind.” So true.
    Wonderful story about your “alternative reality” experience hiking!

  5. Becca Says:

    That moment was a perfect snapshot of the differences in country and city life.

    Lovely, insightful post. And the photos are amazing!

  6. Betty C. Says:

    I definitely like the idea of both. I need to get some city into my life at some point — maybe retirement?

  7. Deb G Says:

    All very good points and beautifully written.

  8. gautami Says:

    I loved that picture. Great write too!

  9. Patois Says:

    Wonderful telling of the moment most of your senses were one place while another was elsewhere. I can see how that would definitely make you appreciate where you were right then.


  10. My main reason for living in a city is that it offers more cultural choice, similar to your experiences here. I’m really lucky that my city is small, full of green spaces and near to the countryside. Your hike sounds wonderful.

  11. Molly Says:

    Such lovely images here! It seems like you’ve got similar pulls to both city and country as I…


  12. […] references throughout my blogging career most notably here, here and here. I counted at least two […]


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