Well, Elon Musk’s plan of moving some of us to Mars is looking better by the day.
Were I to apply, I think I’d have a good shot at being accepted based on the fact that, a) I can grow a potato; and, b) I already look like I’ve been in stasis for four months. In addition I can name all of the Tom Baker Doctor Who episodes from 1974-1981. That’s a random skill that could be instrumental in moving my CV from the slush pile to ‘token civilian.’ Elon does have his quirks.
But if chosen, could I give up this green world, for all of its many imperfections?
For my world is very green. Especially at this time of year. Over the last seven years I have gone back and forth with city mice friends about the joys and perils of our country mouse existence, and the many reasons why we have voluntarily chosen – no, fought – to live without a nearby grocery store, asphalt, or passable internet connection; but never have I been more thankful for that existence than in the last few months.
And I trust in saying so, I may also be forgiven for it, as it seems that there can be no statement of thankfulness in a modern world without acknowledging that others do not share in it. It is a problematic premise that can turn the simplest expression of joy into something ugly, and it worries me lest it wring those expressions of joy right out of us.
I have been a city mouse too – for most of my adult life in fact. I can still feel the intensity of longing as a rural teenager for the excitement of underground trains, and 2am coffee shops, and street markets filled with shouting and the rustling of thin paper bags.
And it was all that and more when I arrived, fresh-faced and broke, and apartment-sharing with strangers. It was intense, and beautiful, and exciting, and hard. I am reminded of that fierce, unpredictable energy every time I visit a major city, and it still thrills me.
But years went by – and suddenly, I wanted out. Was it having children that did it? Wanting the self-sufficiency of a garden? A weariness of gray streets and exhaust fumes? It was certainly not for status, or convenience, or restaurant choices.
I cannot say, but what I do know is that although the longing for ‘other’ was just as intense as it had been years before, the goal was much harder to achieve. Looking back it still feels like a fight – my husband and me against the world and all its vagaries, single-mindedly focused on this one goal: Green, quiet, space.
It’s difficult to describe our gratitude in finally besting the odds and getting there, especially to city friends who don’t understand why we’d want to take on such drudgery in the first place. Many find rural life as intimidating as I once found the city.
What is the point of growing lettuce when you can buy bags of it, prewashed? Why would you want to hang out clothes when you actually own a dryer? Are your neighbors normal? Do you live there full time?!? Isn’t it a little gross to eat the eggs of your own chickens?
These are all questions I have fielded at one time or another over these seven years. In my better moments, politely.
And now – some level of vindication for our exodus, however bittersweet.
This place is a place to be quiet, to be reflective, and to be ourselves – however that happens to manifest each day. It has given solace in the midst of unprecedented world events that sadden us, and provided a constant touchpoint to the natural Earth and the processes that have occurred throughout millennia despite man’s many crises.
Watching a seed respond to warm soil and water with vigor, and break through crusted ground like a body-builder is one. The sheer miracle of such things keeps me grounded and connected to other human beings who watched seeds sprout last week, last year, or 10,000 years ago; just as it connects me to those who will come when I am gone.
A hen will grow broody and bring new life into this world no matter who is president, prime minister, or dictator president for life; and watching her do so brings an incredible sense of peace and calm to the soul. And I’m talking about true, deep peace – not just words thumb-typed into a clever meme for viral distribution. When the chicks finally come, it is pure joy. (16 days and counting on this next clutch.)
That is country life to me – an intensive coaching in the what and why of this world when the how is a little unclear. In my many city years, I always searched for and found those touchpoints – in a park…on a windowsill…in a community garden. They are simply easier to see now.
I could be persuaded to consider urban life again. When I travel for business and find my feet on downtown city streets at that certain time of night, with the scent of glorious foods on the air, a quirky bar beckoning two blocks down, and fascinating architecture to explore with friends by streetlight, my pulse quickens. These days there are also scooters to rent by the minute. What is not to love?
I have no doubt that such sights and smells will probably be used against me someday as my children decide that it is time for their aged parents to stop tending chickens and ducks and gardens and attempt to cajole us into living somewhere convenient.
Until then, it is a country life for me. And for many others who have found themselves quietly entranced. If that happens to be your dream too, I urge you to follow it and not give up, no matter what the world throws in your path. It is a worthy goal worth pursuing, but the world knows how to throw.