The city speaks to me. I can’t possibly be the only person who feels this way. My recent trip back to Toronto brought the distinct sensation of city life immediately and sharply back into my consciousness.
Since moving to the Okanagan Valley just over a year ago, I’ve constantly marveled at its beauty.
Sunrises wake me with gentle light creeping over the hillsides across the lake while birds chime in with their chorus of songs. Deer are regular visitors to our backyard, meandering through in search of extra seed left by the birds or any sweet plant life not yet dried up from the scorching heat of the Okanagan Summer. The days in the summer are long and beckon you to explore and enjoy the splendor before the colder months arrive. But even in the depth of winter, when the sun sets long before 4:00 in the afternoon, the hills around us protect us against incoming winds, sheltering us from the harshness that blows around this valley.
City life calls to me
Yet with all of this beauty and tranquility surrounding me, the city calls to me constantly. With all of my efforts to breathe in and enjoy the peace that this land offers to me, my mind wanders constantly to the city I used to call home.
It was on my last visit while riding a streetcar across town and cursing the fact that it was diverted and taking far longer than I had planned that it became clear to me why this unexpected delay was also strangely comforting to me.
I was experiencing this inconvenience with dozens of other people; it was communal. The city, in its density and diversity, offers the occasional escape from its busyness; sometimes you can find a quiet park bench undisturbed by passersby, but those moments are few and far between. In a large city, your home really is your refuge from the outside world that has so much to say it melds into a cacophony where it is impossible to discern one message from another. City life is a beast unto itself.
Alone together vs alone
In contrast, in my new home, I experience almost everything alone or with my partner. When we go out, whether together or individually, we do so in our car, driving on a highway passing other people in a blinding haze of traffic, difficult if not impossible to make any kind of connection. It takes us about the same time to get to a grocery store or pharmacy here as it did in Toronto, the difference is, here, we do it alone.
It’s a difficult sentiment to describe, but I have always felt great comfort being alone in a group of people. I love eating alone at a restaurant, watching the tables around me, and imagining their lives and what brought them to this same place at this same time as I am there. I enjoy walking out of my home and watching the city change and breathe and shout and laugh and cry and grow around me. The city is alive and it tells you so every time you engage with it.
Of course, the valley is alive as well. My challenge, I suppose, is to find the same music and comfort in the quiet song of this home as I did in the chaotic rantings of my former. It’s a tune I have yet to learn.