When we are weary of our daily tasks, we often say we need a change of scene. The city mouse longs for silent forests and simple fare. The country mouse craves bright lights, big city. People seem to be wired to want what they don't have, and maybe that's healthy. In the hustle bustle times, we seek solitude time to process our experiences and pray for grace. In the green times of ordinary life we look for antidotes to boredom to bust us out of a rut.
In comparison to a rural setting, urban areas sport higher population density with vast human features. I live in a sparsely populated county graced by golden hills and expansive valleys, wild rivers and sparkling lakes, snow-capped granite mountains and grassy meadows. The natural beauty of this place is diverse, but the human features are few and homogenous. I like to visit places where I can experience a cornucopia of characters, artists and entrepreneurs who weave themselves into an urban landscape and flower brightly.
On densely populated Bainbridge Island in Washington State, I once saw an old man jogging on a trail in the rain. Nothing unusual about that, except that he was juggling while he jogged. It's not a sight I would expect to see on the mountain passes in my home town. Our hikers juggle water bottles and GPS devices. His earnest activity struck me as the ultimate Alzheimer's prevention exercise.
In Surprise, Arizona, I marveled at league of old men playing softball on a field. I don't think I've ever seen such a gathering of healthy old men. Certainly not in my rural town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where oldsters are the norm but tend not to run in packs.
Urban spaces in natural landscapes draw me out of my rustic malaise. I vacillate between thanking God for the breathtaking beauty of my mountain community I sometimes take for granted and wishing for a wider array of human features.
In my normal mindscape, when I contemplate the rugged hikers on our unforgiving slopes, it is the lone juggling jogger on an accessible Northwest trail that beckons me. When I bemoan the lack of fitness options in my town for those of us who are not ex-Olympians, it is a grassy field full of exuberant gray-haired ball players that quickens my pulse. Then I am refreshed in the depths of my soul. Perhaps that what the Psalmist had in mind when he expressed this longing:
Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Psalm 55:7 (KJV)
Sydney Avey writes and blogs in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. She is the author of The Sheep Walker's Daughter.
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