On the pastoral

Is the countryside really nicer than city life? I’ve lived in a big city or two with underground trains, tons of surface traffic, people everywhere, concrete canyons and paved right-aways, neon lights, smoke and fog, buses, trucks, and cars. The steady drone of city life is like a huge upset beehive with lots of angry bees. Horns honking, people shouting, trucks groaning, movers moving, venders selling, distributers delivering everything. The white noise can be a little overwhelming for the senses, and I don’t even want to talk about the smells or the unsightly stuff that one might witness. I love the city where you always have a million things to do at a quarter to three in the morning, but it can wear on your nerves. The countryside, however, is a little different: noise stand out because of its absence. Birds singing, a brook gurgling, wind fanning the trees, sunshine on your shoulders, and absolutely no people, When I’m up in the woods of northern Minnesota, and no one is around, every step you take breaks the silence that reigns over the area. Waves lap on the shore of the lake, kicking up a little foam. Another breeze rustles the branches of a small tree that stands next to you. A fish jumps in the lake, a loon flaps heartily across the surface of the lake as it takes off, a wolf howls at sunset, calling his troops home. The urban environment of the city is home to conflict and discord, noise and chaos, straight lines and concrete paths. The forest and the lake are the dialogic opposite to the pressure of the city. Time stands still and only reluctantly passes as the sun slowly slides across the sky. No one is in a hurry. A squirrel suns himself on a rock before heading off to find more acorns. The smell of grass, leaves and forest, a pungent mixture of wetness and decay, a lazy multi-layered perfume that Mother Nature shares with everyone. There is no sense of urgency, the paths are crooked and unpaved, the ground is uneven, a boulder juts from the ground like a stranded iceberg. Wild raspberries grow in unorganized clumps, and you have nowhere to go, no neon, no noise, no trucks, no delivery vehicles. There are no phones ringing or cars or stoplights or crowds. Life in the country is both simple and uncomplicated; the complete opposite of the way the urban crush can be 24/7. Nobody cares what time dinner might be, so the sun comes up and it goes down, creating a natural rhythm that is unaffected by neon, noise, and nattering neighbors. The forces of nature of much larger than anything man can create–buildings, streets, bridges, and artificial parks. In the cities, we use parks to remind us of the country in case we forget or get nostalgic about the peace we have left behind in the wilderness, creating artificial ponds and fake forests, trying to find the peace we sacrifice the fast-paced life under the lights. The country, wilderness, a forest, a mountain meadow, a dry dessert, a quiet river valley, an empty canyon, the prairie, these are the places where time stops and a person might recollect their thoughts and remember that not everything is a schedule, landscapes are not always created with straight lines, and that mud, rocks, grass, trees, creeks are natural and intriguing. Nostalgia for natural places will probably lower your blood pressure.