Sunday, March 15, 2009


Recently, I took one of those silly quizzes that purported to tell me where I should live. And, while I'm skeptical that a 10-question long quiz could be accurate, it did hit fairly close to the mark. But the questions it asked seemed to imply that everyone was a certain type with, seemingly, very little fluctuation possible. Either one is an outdoorsy person or a bookworm, a sophisticate or a hick, a city girl or a country girl. This just seemed wrong to me. It seemed so one dimensional and so wrong. I am, at the very least, two types depending on my mood. I appear to be more of a both/and than an either/or type of person. Or perhaps I just want it all.

I was born in a fairly large city with all the usual cultural perks available. I don't remember the first time I went to the art museum, a legacy handed down to me from a grandfather who never even went to high school. And, if memory serves, there that the admission was free. It must have been, since we could have scarcely afforded to pay for it as often as we went. I also had access to Russian ballet, back when it was Soviet ballet, on three separate occasions. And both the open air theater and the symphony had free tickets on a first come basis. I definitely ran in circles that most of my friends in the suburbs never did, which probably made me seem to be even more of an odd fish to many of them.

At the museum, I soaked in the one Rembrandt and the French impressionist collection. And, since I was a kid, I also had a morbid fascination for the mummy. At the symphony, I fell in love with Faure's Requiem and Vaughn Williams A Sea Symphony. At the theater, I had my life permanently altered by Richard Kiley's portrayal of Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. And there were other numerous performances of greater or less quality. And after decades of having these preferences suppressed, I hunger for it: the plays, the musical performances, the ballet and the museums.

I also truly appreciate the variety of cuisines available in large cities. Here in the moderately large city where I currently live, I can, with very little trouble find good Greek, Indian, Japanese, Mexican and Italian restaurants. Sadly, no Turkish food, but still a very good selection. We also have excellent ethnic bakeries and wonderful little privately owned coffee shops.

In addition to the cultural and food outlets are the people. Whenever I've been in large cities, it is as though the diversity and throbbing pulse of the people from a myriad of places and backgrounds enlivens the place as nothing else can. I've generally found myself in an international community and feel somehow strange when I am constantly in the company of more "conventional" folks. I've known musicians, writers, a composer, some artists and people from every continent on earth. My life has been enriched in some way by each one of them.

Now, lest I start to sound like some sort of elitist snob, which no one from the Midwest is supposed to do, let me turn to the appeal of living in the country. From the time I was quite young my ultimate escape and the places that I have felt most secure and most myself have been in the woods. Far away from all but the select few that I include, I sink into silence and truly listen to the world around me speak to some very deep places in my spirit. The woods represent a retreat into myself and a release of all the energy of the city, which I crave and need at other times.

Naturally, this feeling isn't limited to the woods alone. I've felt it above the timberline in the Rockies, along streams and rivers in the Ozarks and, more recently on deserted beaches on the Pacific coast. The country places offer respite when it is needed, a sort of retreat or a slowing down, which in turn allows me to incorporate all the other stimuli that I absorb in the rest of my life. After all, one can't peddle at full speed all the time.

The food in such places doesn't have much variety, but sometimes that is a comfort in itself. Nothing to be adventurous about, just the security of simple comfort food. And the people are much the same, simpler but very real in their expression of life. There is a small town in the Ozarks where, with just a few words, I can establish my bona fides and be welcomed in like a long lost cousin, which I probably am.

Comparing the city experience with the country one is truly a case of comparing apples and oranges. To my mind, neither one is better or worse than the other. They each feed and nurture different sorts of people with different tastes. Perhaps I am the strange one in wanting both. But there it is on my list of 10 things I most want, a home in both types of places where I can move between them freely. Given my current state of affairs, this might seem to be a wild ambition - to have two homes in two varied environments. And, barring my ship coming in, winning the lottery or becoming an insanely popular author, that dream will have to remain on my list until I can make it a reality. And I do truly want both, and even more.

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