September 7, 2011, Washington, DC: My apartment in Washington is decorated with cowboy hats and photographs of my travels in the mountains and on the coast. I live in a city full of gardeners and cyclists and environmentalists who demonstrate that it’s green to live small in the city. On occasion, I listen to country music. I don’t feel trapped inside a skyline. I walk a lot. I take advantage of our city’s river. I live an urban lifestyle that’s a little bit country, a little bit coast.
Bottom line: I’ve come a long way from the days I was convinced that living in the city meant sacrificing my outdoorsy side.
Have you ever felt stifled by the city? I used to. A lot. Living in Manhattan, I often felt trapped, unable to access the outdoors, certain the choice was “either/or” and I’d picked wrong. Nevermind that I’d go camping and realize I was far more of a city girl than my peers who lived happily in small mountain towns. Still, returning to Manhattan, I repeatedly just didn’t feel like “me.”
Maybe New York wasn’t me. But maybe more likely, there are thousands of pieces of it that suit me perfectly. Now I see the choice between city and country is not so black and white. Maybe it never was.
There are millions of opportunities to bring the outdoors in to the big city, to incorporate here some elements of the country, the mountains, and the coast. It feels easier to do so than ever before. Part of it could be that cities are changing. They’re more attentive than ever to sustainability, to carving out space in the city for the natural world. Maybe these changes make it easier to reconcile these elements of my personality. More likely, maybe it’s just that I’ve started seeing things from a more optimistic perspective. Instead of writing off certain places that “aren’t me”, I can appreciate that I feel a little bit like me just about everywhere.
“Once on a long trip down a wild river, I dreamed about my city and my home every night, and upon my return, I began to dream about the river over and over again. Here, most often, is nothing more than the best perspective from which to contemplate there: one climbs the mountain to see the valley.”
-Rebecca Solnit, A Book of Migrations