Monday, November 15, 2010

Suburban mouse or city mouse?

Every place has its own energy. Places like Manhattan and Chicago are always pulsing and sizzling like live wires. The constant stimulation of the urban landscape makes me tingle.
But the suburbs can feel like a warm embrace. There is some comfort in conformity and shared ritual--the way pumpkins and cornstalks appear on the front porches in my neighborhood every autumn and Saturday finds men raking leaves and gray smoke ris
ing from every chimney.

There is no bad or good to it. No right or wrong. Different places are just...different. I think, if one can, it's good to sample the energy in a variety of places. Because they have unique ways of working on you and molding your being. And most of us have an energy, a pace, a geographic personality that works best for us.

I wondered this weekend, when I traveled from my current home in suburban Indiana to my former home in Chicago, which energy suits me. Is it the snap, crackle and pop of the city or the warmth and familiarity of the suburbs? (I know for certain that rural life is not for me.)

I was raised in a suburban corner of a rust-belt city outside of a major metropolitan area. Perhaps this is the root of my mixed-upedness. I love big yards and high-rises; the sound of morning birds and the chug and squeal of an elevated train rounding a sharp corner; hay rides and plays at the Goodman Theatre.

Sunday, driving down Lake Shore Drive toward Indiana, with the skyline at my back, I ached a little. My friend, who I was visiting, lives in one of those great Chicago neighborhoods with tree-lined side streets and old brick homes, three-flats and apartment buildings set close together. The residential areas spoke off of a main thoroughfare with storefront busin
esses and restaurants selling authentic Mexican and Middle Eastern food. Being there made me citysick, made me yearn for electricity of urban living.

But then, I peeled off I-65 in Lebanon, Indiana, and drove through corn fields an
d and past worn country houses in one-horse towns to reach my suburb, and
hubby had the fireplace burning and my shaggy Border Collie (who would never have fit in our tiny condo in the city) greeted me at the door, and I wondered if I would want to trade this life for my old one. I simply don't know.

What sort of place do you feel most comfortable?

Chicago image: Stuck in Customs

Suburban image: G. Funderburk


Carolyn said...

I think that Elizabeth Alexander, one of my favorite poets summed it up well when she indicated that "many things are true at once".
It's all good!!

Cindy said...

City...I like to live in the thick of it and travel outside for my escape to nature and quiet. I've tried both directions and much prefer the big city for the day to day.

D'Ven said...

City, definitely city. With airport access to a warm beach (CA, FL, Caribeean/South America, the Mediterranean).

I might rethink this once I have a family, but right now I don't think it is going to change.

kristine said...

I love you mentioning the Goodman. My dad worked there when I was a child and I used to run around that beautiful theatre.

After 15 years in Chicago and Brooklyn we have found our little bit of heaven. A small blue collar city an hour north of New York City. Our city has diversity, a community feel, a real main street with everything you need (perhaps not everything you want but you know:-) and we are surrounded by acres of national park. We're close enough to the city for my son to take art/dance classes in Harlem on Saturdays. Yes, there are dance classes in our little town but if we're this close to Harlem then how can we resist. Saturdays are city and all the loveliness and energy and the rest of the week is comfy.
The only real downside in our little haven: the constant hum of weed wackers, lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Sometimes the suburbs and small towns can be louder than the city.


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