Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Simple Life

These days I've been feeling kind of ambivalent about my city living. I KNOW, what? This city that I love? Yes, this city that I love. Love to hate, also.  You may be familiar with that old NYC pride-- I live here and I'm so awesome and this city is the BEST city of all the cities! I love it I love it I love iiiiit!

Well people say that because they earn that right. Also because NYC does have its moments, many of them, of being THE best city of all the cities, but yes, they earn it. Because they have to work so cursedly hard to live here.  It's a badge of honor.  Some might say this sounds like a form of self-torture. No one is MAKING us live here, right? You're right. And if it was the worst, then I would leave, but it's NOT the worst. Not always. Sometimes it's the very BEST.  So it's a dilemma, you know?? What does one do? How do they leave a city that can be the worst and the best?  (Reminds me of this Onion article that I love. Look out, there are swears.)

I know a woman who's lived here for 30-some-odd years. She is married and raised 4 children here in a beautiful Brooklyn brownstone they purchased back in the day when they weren't trillions of mad dollars.  She is very outdoorsy and taught me many valuable lessons in the art of camp-making.  She told me once that she could feel very stifled here but was ok living here as long as she got out every year for a few weeks or so.

Every so often--and it's feeling more and moreso-- I have this intense urge to get the hey out of town and go to the woods. The country. Anyplace where there's nature, and real nature (no offense, city parks).  When I visit my parents in Utah, seriously all I want to do is sit in the backyard and listen to the quiet. And then go for a bloomin' walk--still in the backyard-- and find someplace else to sit and listen to the quiet.  (sure am using a lot of dashes and interjections in this post. Is it the new comma? My new pet punctuation? Maybe. Let's read on)  This particularly happens in the summertime when all the world is green-- but I wouldn't know it because i live in this frigginly huge, cemented metropolis.   Of course the summer is fantastic here. And the seasons are all beautiful but one (you know who you are). Of course I can go to the park, which is huge and of which there are a gazillion,  and find a quiet nook and lie on the grass and watch the clouds and think my thoughts.  But somehow it's just not the same. There's still that pulse under the grass, under the concrete, under my skin. I still feel that urge to burst from this enormous apple-shaped bubble. 

Lately I've been reading a lot of Berenstain Bears.  The B-Bears are wonderful. I loved them as a child and now that we're on this kick, I'm loving them still.  I just read the Wikipedia page on them and read some of the criticisms from critics. It's interesting how enduring these stories are and how they are beloved by children, which i think speaks very loudly. Just interesting. Anyway, I love going to the bookstore and digging around for my favorites.  The other day Julian threw a little fit at the store because he couldn't get something (somewhat unusual) and I was like, what in the hey? Someone has the GIMMIES.  And we bought that book specifically to shut that business down.   I also dug into the far corner of my memory to find something I'm certain my mom used to say when we were small.  For days and days, all I could recall was "...the gimmies don't get...and the gimmies don't get."   And finally I think i reconstructed it, word-by-word:

Never get the gimmies 'cause the gimmies don't get!

Catchy, right?  Anyway, my point is, I'm DYING to live in Bear Country.  I want to live in a treehouse (hello--that was always the dream of dreams) down a sunny dirt road deep in bear country.  I want to BE Mama Bear and wear pajamas all day and take care of people and say wise things.  I want Sean to work in his shop to the side and be constantly building things for everyone, not just work, which is hugely successful.  I want a simple, simple, quiet life, possibly using old timey technology and appliances.   I want to spend the evenings reading as a family and watching the stars outside.  I want to build a clubhouse in the thicket and eat berries and honeycomb (I also want to be Sister and Brother Bear).

This is not unlike my desire to live the life of Frog and Toad. I want to live in the woods in a cottage with my best friend down the road to do things with all day every day.  We wake up, eat breakfast, go for walks, swim in the river, sit and talk about things, make cookies and share them, constantly hang out at each other's house, then sit by the fire and tell scary stories every night.   I want this life, I WANT THIS LIFE!

Just now I grabbed a stack of catalogs that recently arrived in the mail. One of them is L.L. Bean and while it doesn't exactly reflect my personal style of clothing, I love looking through it because I want to pretend that's my life-- ahhh, just got in from chopping wood in the snow while wearing my flannel plaid buttondown and mock-turtleneck.  Now I think I'll have a cup of tea and wear my shearling slippers by the hearth.  Just so cozy.  So... now I'm thinking I need a summer cottage and a winter cabin.

A friend on Facebook lives somewhere delightfully country-y-- Virginia, i think? She puts up pictures of the views from her house and i LOVE it. I told her to keep 'em coming, that I was feeling a little too city mouse.  She said one day we should swap houses and swap being city/country mice.   Let me know if anyone else would be interested in such an arrangement. If you don't mind real mice scurrying here and there (not IN my apartment, but i won't say never) and dirty people and things, always always being surrounded by people and noise, and also wonderful amazing things to see and experience that I can't, at this moment, quite recall but I know they're there. I could never fully forget for they have been woven into my being.  And that reminds me of some quotes Sean randomly sent to me yesterday:

One need never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life.
- Frank Ohara
 
City of wharves and stores! city of tall fa├žades of marble and iron!
Proud and passionate city! mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!

- Walt Whitman

And that brings me to a quote I heard recently that pretty much blew my mind. It's a warning and call to fight the poison called dissatisfaction.   Forgetting what you have because you're too busy chasing for more and thereby falling into a joyless state.  It is an excerpt from a piece interestingly called The Simple Life, written by Charles Wagner, (I started writing this post and titled it before I even heard this quote) a French reformed pastor born in the 1850's.  It's amazing, I love it, and I've made it the theme of my life:

  “He who lives to eat, drink, sleep, dress, take his walk, -in short, pamper himself all that he can –be it the courtier basking in the sun, the drunken laborer, the commoner serving his belly, the woman absorbed in her toilettes, the profligate of low estate or high, or simply the ordinary pleasure-lover, a ‘good fellow,’ but too obedient to material needs – that man or woman is on the downward way of desire, and the descent is fatal… Such men are dupes of an illusion forever repeated, they think: ‘Just a few steps more, the last, toward the thing down there that we covet; then we will halt.’ But the velocity they gain sweeps them on, and the further they go the less able they are to resist it. 
          Here is the secret of the unrest, the madness, of many of our contemporaries.  Having condemned their will to the service of their appetites, they suffer the penalty.  They are delivered up to violent passions which devour their flesh, crush their bones, suck their blood, and cannot be sated. … Has drunkenness, inventive as it is of new drinks, found the means of quenching thirst? Not at all.  It might rather be called the art of making thirst inextinguishable. … Let your wants rule you, pamper them – you will see them multiply like insects in the sun.  The more you give them, the more they demand.  He is senseless who seeks for happiness in material prosperity alone. … A man enslaved to his wants may best be compared to a bear with a ring in its nose, that is led about and made to dance at will.  The likeness is not flattering, but you will grant that it is true.”
                                                                  

1 comment:

Alanna said...

I'm the same way, and I already live in the suburbs! Recently, I can't stop dreaming of having a farm. My husband could be around all day, the kids could follow him some of the time. Cows and goats to milk, sheep to herd... I'm really not super outdoorsy (not by a long shot), but it just sounds so peaceful and fulfilling to live this way...

We're hoping to get chickens this spring. It will be our first step towards this lifestyle.