“So come to the pond, or the river of your imagination, or the harbor of your longing, and put your lips to the world. And live your life.”
My husband and I recently bought a house in the country. We have always been city folk, but we were craving a weekend getaway that would allow us to slow down and reconnect with nature. We wanted lazy afternoons on a sunny deck with the birds playing in the trees while we read actual books made out of paper.
I grew up in some of the greatest cities in the world, including Paris and Rome. But when I was eight years old, my family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia- a quaint, historic town with colonial houses, giant oak trees, and deer that would walk right up to your porch to sniff around.
I have fond memories of playing in the creek by my house, building forts out of sticks and rocks, and getting lost in the woods. I was friends with all the neighborhood kids and all summer long we would ride our bikes around town until dark. Parents weren’t particularly worried about the whereabouts of their kids, and we didn’t have cell phones to report back to them anyway. We had total freedom.
When I am in the country, I feel nostalgic for those days when I was young and unafraid, when I was full of joy and optimism. Or at least that’s how I remember it. Nostalgia can be a tricky thing. It has the tendency to gloss over our past and paint our memories in a way that seems perfect and glowing.
In the 50s, Americans were swept up in the nostalgia for small-town life. It seemed like the ideal setting to raise a family and reconnect with their American heritage. But increasingly over the past decade, suburban life has grown out of favor, and now cities are busting at the seams with families that want to raise their kids in a diverse, urban environment with access to modern amenities and vibrant culture.
I suggest a compromise. If you live in a city, then go spend at least some of your weekends in the country. There are so many AirBnB options now, that it’s easy to get a local experience in a small town near you. If you live in the country, drive into the city and take in that energy. Dress up and hit the town, maybe see a show and have an amazing meal.
Now that I’m in my 30s, I can’t do city life 24/7. I need a respite where the air is crisp, the trees are towering, and all you can hear at night are crickets and the leaves rustling in the breeze. I still thrive on the excitement of the city, but I feel more balanced when I can take breaks and retreat to the serenity of the country.
As my husband and I drive up to our house through endless rolling hills of verdant farmland, I am overwhelmed with awe of this nation’s great beauty. When I am in nature, I feel like a kid again, and I realize I took for granted the bucolic years of my childhood. I’m grateful that my nostalgia has lead me back to a simpler way of life, and I feel blessed to own a little piece of this California countryside. It is my American dream come true.