From June to August end my husband has agreed to teach a course at his old institute. In our thirty-five years of married life, we have always functioned as a unit (whether that’s good or bad; it sometimes seems incredibly stupid, as now). And so here we are, once more, mostly city birds. We have a nice house in the suburbs, larger than our house in the farm, and grid power, and all the mod cons,. Some part-time help. A tiny garden where the animals can enjoy the outdoors. There’s shops and entertainment and garbage collection and a sewage system; we even have TV!
With all these comforts, it seems ungrateful to be yearning for something else all the time. But what I want to know is, WHERE’S THE JOY?!
Where’s that leap of the heart when you look up from your work and see a cloud pass slowly over the valley? I work equally hard at both my homes, because, I guess, I am a born drudge. But in the city, it feels like there’s no reward, except more work. I feel like a grounded kite waiting for a breeze to lift me up. At the farm, work is punctuated by moments of sheer happiness. Suddenly, there’s a herd of sheep with their lambs frisking about, or goats staring and nodding at you. It doesn’t matter that they’re someone else’s; in fact, all the better! On my last evening there, I saw from the hill a distant peak I had never noticed before.
The visibility changes constantly, and you never know what’s going to appear out of the clouds. Suddenly, the wild wind will become as soft as petals falling. To sit under the shade of a big tree after a couple of hours of digging is balm to the tired body.
To look around you and see green everywhere, and the laughing dove sniggering above, and suddenly, a strange wildflower hiding in the evil lantana at your feet – ahhh!
And the stillness and the dark of the nights, the breathless feeling as you look over a familiar landscape grown strange and strangely flattened in the starlight, knowing anything may be lurking in the shadows of those trees…
I was born and bred in cities, I have spent my entire life in them until the last few years. It’s true that we owe the city our education, jobs and savings, which enable a comfortable lifestyle and our so far not very successful experiments at farming as well. And I know that cities have much to offer that is intellectually stimulating, exciting, sometimes even beautiful. But I haven’t yet found anything that compares with the joy of the wide open spaces.
So, all you city lovers, which is pretty much everyone I know, tell me – what is it in the city that gives you joy? Not pleasure or satisfaction or mental stimulation, but actual joy, where you feel like you’ll burst with it? Tell me what I’m missing!