Last night I went to see my daughter’s basketball team play. I didn’t leave early enough, catching the “rush hour” traffic jam, and arrived at half time, I missed seeing her play; she’d played the first two quarters. The game was 33.5 miles from my home. It took one-and-one-half hours to get there. We left after the game, and were home in three-quarters of an hour. The whole thing reminded me of why I dislike cities.
I live where it was once rural. The city swelled, spilling out over a vast area that takes hours to cross, even when there is little traffic to impede the flow. Each day my wife heads down into that city–into Atlanta–to her office. She leaves early in the morning before the worst of the traffic begins to clog the roads. She tries to return home in a similar manner, avoiding the evening stagnation. Leaving early isn’t always an option. More time than she’d like, than I’d like, some city dweller thinks nothing of scheduling an important meeting for five o’clock. One day the traffic snarled after a traffic accident, and she was nearly two hours getting home. And we are 28 miles from her office, which isn’t even in the Atlanta downtown district.
The thing is, Atlanta, including its surrounding metro area, contains five million people. Not twenty, like New York, not fifteen, like LA. The population of Atlanta city proper is less than a million and the area is fairly large. But during the day, the city swells like a balloon and tries to empty all at once.
So today I’m mentally retreating. I’m closing my eyes and remembering Eagle Lake, up in northern California. I stood near the lake one winter night with a lady friend. We were trying to see a comet. We’d driven up to the lake from a small town in which we both lived. There were no lights in the distance. The stars filled the heavens all the way to the horizon. The air. . . clean, crisp, pure. And the quiet. Peaceful.
When I lived in the coastal town of Arcata, some years ago, I walked out of my house, and within a few hundred feet dropped into the very empty low lands that led to the beach a mile of so away. I was a ‘runner’ then, as well as a long-distance bicyclist. On the weekends, if I wanted a hilly run, I’d go the opposite direction from the beach, passing through the heart of the town in only a moment or two–as the saying goes, don’t blink you’ll miss it–and follow trails into the redwood forest. I remember one day just running and running and running, up hill, down hill, nearly lost among the giant trees.
I wonder, on occasions like this, “why did I ever leave?” Perhaps I can only appreciate what was, rather than what is.
I’ve also thought that I’m not really of this modern age. Some years ago I got into studying America’s Fur Trapper Era. I was living in the mountains of Arizona, and I’d read about people going to a rendezvous in Colorado that celebrated in costume and custom the famous trapper-trader get-togethers of the 1820-40s. I built from a kit a muzzle loading rifle, and gathered or made gear that went with it–everything from powder horn to possibles bag. I researched costumes. While I never did go the a rendezvous, that Era some how just felt right for me.
It is wrong to say I was born in the wrong time, for G-d knew me before I was conceived. I just have a hard time living without “elbow room.”
Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .