Thursday, October 16, 2008

Penguin in the City

Cat Power put it best in Colors and the Kids, which is one of my favorite songs of all time.

it's so hard to go into the city
because you wanna say hey i love you to everybody

Some days I can slide through the city in a bubble of busy purpose, but some days I am so affected by the density of the human condition around me that I can barely contain myself.

Between the first and second stop on the 07:27 train I could hear a lady having a quiet phone conversation with the vet about her old dog. She had stopped eating and had fallen down the stairs a couple of times when the kids forgot to close the gate. She didn't cry as she arranged an appointment for tomorrow morning, but my window reflected the way she bit her lip and rested her chin on hand after flipping the phone closed.

Later on the bus I sat across from a girl who was talking too loudly with an acquaintance about her wild life. She loves it when her friend Chris gets high on cocaine because he gets physically affectionate with everyone. Three stops after the acquaintance got off Chris' girlfriend got on and the girl talked too loudy about how drunk and high they would all get this weekend. Chris' girlfriend spoke carefully, at a normal volume.

Walking to a seminar this afternoon I noticed a man in the distance shuffling along on wonky legs, crippled either from birth or by some disease. As I was contemplating the challenges of his day-to-day reality another student tripped on a curb and splayed onto the sidewalk, books and papers flying out of his arms and onto the wet ground. Several folks walked right past before the fellow with the wonky legs arrived and bent down to help.

On the bus this evening an older Asian man sat beside me with a letter hand-written in English, ink smeared in spots by drops of rain. When he finished reading it he opened his knapsack and tucked it into a stack of air mail envelopes. Then he removed one of several paperback books and underlined some words in red pen as he read. Some of the pages had black and white pictures of old-time hockey heroes.

Ever since I was a little kid I have wanted to live a rural life. Two years ago today David and I offered to buy Farcical Farm in all of The roof leaked, the deck was falling off, the little barn that had housed one horse was dangerously akimbo. Decades of cigarette smoke clung to the outdated walls and there were empty bottles of hard alcohol in the bathroom cabinets. It was not a happy home, but we believed that we could revive it with time, inspiration and money. David would be closer to work on a route devoid of urban traffic, and I was willing to make a much longer commute in exchange for quiet.

And this is where it gets tricky. The voluable quiet of rural living is very pleasant, but the mental quiet is what I really love. As someone who thinks quickly and feels deeply I find city living to be so overstimulating that I get stuck on a perpetual pendulum between numbness and hypersensitivity. The daily routine of a small life in Deroche allows me to better appreciate the whole of the world around me and I have never been happier. Not your typical FFF post, but some insight into how we got here.


Funder said...

Cool post.

I am almost always stuck in a bubble of my own thoughts, almost like I'm perpetually daydreaming. Sometimes I'm thinking about me and sometimes I'm wondering about the lives of the people I see around me. When I'm out with the horses I don't think as much, I just do. Probably why I like them so much.

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm with you on why I live in the country. I just can't take all that stimulation in the city.

Brandy said...


While we both adore LA, with its 24 hour schedule and proximity to amazing venues, we both like to hole up at home at have our quiet time. I can get overstimulated just sitting in my living room, though, and need to be able to have quiet time. When I first stayed at our house, I was amazed at the silence after living in a high density area. Sure, there are some exciting moments, but afterwards, we are back to our quiet street.

We had contemplated living in other areas of the world. We would adore England. London, with its numerous museums and history and nightlife, is great, but most places close pretty early. I like being able to stop at the market at 11pm if I need to. Or go to an art gallery or bookstore in the evening.

Isn't it amazing what you can see when you take the time to open your eyes! Working in the outdoors really can change your energy and soothe your mind so you can slow down and see things.

I wish more people would try this.

And congrats on another year in your home! I think you've both done an amazing job in transforming it to a happy home!

Black Jack's Carol said...

Eloquent prose in this post. I was there on the 7:27 with you. Each vignette resonated with me, and will for some time. Thanks for granting your readers the privilege of a peek into your mind and life. I suspect I'm not alone in feeling the richer for it.

I grew up in a small village in the midst of a farming community (Howick, Quebec) and craved the anonymity of the city. At fairly regular intervals, I've scuttled off to the country, but now feel pretty firmly ensconced in Vancouver life.

Thanks again for a thoughtful and evocative post.

P.S. How did Raven and Tonka do in the rain this week?

P.P.S. Brandy, FF worked better than Safari, although there were a couple of font issues with it too. Will try it out more on the weekend. Thanks for your comment. Hope the fires have settled and that you're getting back to normal.