Friday, July 11, 2008

A tree to hug

The other night I went out to walk and got only a few blocks away, knowing I had errands to run, and decided to change my plan.

I didn't need the Suburbs. I'd been walking enough, freeing my mind enough, enjoying the 'burbs enough, that I could finally stay close to home and walk in a city park.

I chose the one closest to my home, that also happens to be the most popular, the most beautiful.
I haven't been there much because it has steep hills and a "lake" and I'm probably too cautious when I'm alone with the girls but I worry ...

I was mid-walk, shoulders falling away from my ears, when I remembered all the pre-children walks we had in that park. I looked up and realized I was surrounded by dozens and dozens of big, beautiful, wise trees. These beauties came to life right before my eyes.

Not spending enough time in nature over the last 2.5 years has gotten to me, I guess, and I've been slightly obsessed with trees. They now adorn our living room, this blog banner and anything else I can find. Journals, necklaces (though, the girls broke it).

It occurred to me during this walk that I've been scurrying out to the suburbs in search of something that I could actually find closer to home, in the city. Those metro-area parks have their highlights that I love, but they are, without a doubt, mostly treeless. Or, the trees are still babies, memorializing someone's life.

I walked under the trees; they embraced my worries and troubles. They held me close as I realized that I'm not really searching to be outside the city; I'm searching to be a part of something.

That, in effect, has always summed up my existence. We moved to the city to make a difference.

As I thought about this I realized that living in the city is only great if you leave it, and often. The more you are here, the more it can work at your nerves. And I'm here a lot. All the time, in fact.

But, if I lived in Suburbia -- and I will eventually -- I'll want to be in the city. I'll miss those trees, the walks to the farmer's markets and downtown events. Those new, mixed-use communities are on to something. It's what feels right. Open space, everything you need in one spot and community that is close to home.

Community. That's what I was all about until I became a mother. Even in high school I was someone who wanted the best for everyone, not just a few. In the back of my mind I have remained that woman, but it's been hard to juggle it all. I wonder how I'll be able to let go of my mother-self to help represent all people, including the childless, in my new job.

During an interview with a source this week for my very last freelance gig, he told me about how he sent his three children through city schools, and how they had fears going in about being bullied or not faring well, academically.

In the end, he said, "We decided not to fall prey to our imagined fears." They left the door open for an easy exit ... but they never needed it. The kids are nearly all grown up.

That is staying with me. I have a lot of imagined fears. I guess I have a lot of imagined promises, too. If I've learned anything, the let down of imagined promises is much harder to bear.

My mom lives in a very rural location in the mountains of Georgia. She's mentioned a neighborhood bear. (Oh, god). I am sure it will be beautiful, and a welcome relief from city life. I'm open to this welcomed relief, knowing that rural settings actually scare me at night. I like being able to see my feet when I walk.

I recall long ago, when my brother was in middle school, he wrote an essay that declared, "I hate the city."

That statement hurt me not because of his honesty but because he didn't know the city. He's never spent anytime here. None of my family really has. Or any city for that matter.

Cities get a bad rap and it's frustrating. People hate on the cities and yet get mad because developers are buying up farmland to build more new houses.

Our city has plenty of available housing. Just waiting.

Waiting for people to love on its gigantic, old trees.

Waiting for people to get over their imagined fears.

Thank you for visiting today.

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Kathleen Botsford said...

Love your banner. Love your blog. I am waiting for the time when I will move to the city. The city and children never seemed to fit to me. How do you shop? How do you get kids and groceries anywhere? I know it can be done, but it always boggled my mind. When the kids were young I was always on alert when we went to the city. Cars and buses and cabs all jockeying for position. One small misstep and disaster awaits. Now that the kids are older we go often. They love it too. I urge them to live in a city, any city, when they are young and full of confidence, seeking adventure and everything new. I wish I had.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I've lived in cities and I just can't take them. They're just overwhelming to me -- too many people, too much movement, too much noise. (My son's sensory issues don't come from nowhere.) Actually, I have the same problem in the suburbs, but it's not as bad as the city. I'm not enough of a rugged individualist to live in the middle of nowhere -- so, I'm a fan of rural small towns.

Threeundertwo said...

This is why we selected a very old community to live in. With a real City Hall and real trees. I love it, and it's parks with ancient oaks.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

I live in a small city. It is perfect for me and I hope never to live anywhere else. But I've lived in places that made me miserable. May we each find our place.

Megan said...

Shawn, Your line about being all about community until you became a mother struck me. I'll carry this thought with me today. I feel very, very much the same way. Great post!

RocketMom Cheryl said...

Trees,trees,trees ... gotta love em! They are one of the reasons we moved back to the midwest. Trees that grow wherever they will, trees that are weeds, trees that green the landscape. And cities, with all they're faults, are communities. Seems we need them both, you and I. btw, i'm with mapelba - *small* cities are for me.