I went on a hike up a mountain on Saturday. Or what they call mountains here on the California coast. As I absorbed the golden 70-degree day, views that went hundreds of miles, and the sweet citrusy redolence of sun-baked pine needles, I remembered how depraved the distant city could be.
Then, as I soaked in the solitude of a gurgling spring running through the shaded redwood groves and witnessed the murder of crows squawking over an empty valley, I recalled how wilderness can press down lonely on the heart.
Most of us aren’t meant for either. Perhaps this is why the suburb came to be. True, the personal automobile allowed for the suburb to exist, but it would not have come to be without the desire for the hybrid living scenario. The comforts, options, and opportunity of a nearby metropolis with the soothing and restorative components of the hinterland.
Personally, I have a hard time with the hermaphroditic notion that is the suburb, but that’s me. Something about everyone living in tract houses with almost identical floor plans and mortgages tying them to onerous commutes and forced house labor. Bleh. About as close to purgatory on earth as I can imagine. Each 0.34-acre lot represents the meniscus of dreams. Yes, it’s an elitist and exaggerated point of view. But I grew up in the suburbs as well as the boonies, and I’d take the country any day over the city. Room to unabashedly learn the trumpet, shoot an arrow, grow a half-acre garden, roam through the woods. That’s what it’s all about.
Now I live in the city, the 2nd or 3rd most dense in the U.S. depending on whose metrics you believe. But I’ve also lived in the wilderness, the largest one in the lower 48 in fact. Both are dangerous in their own fashion but the city takes the cake on the statistical likelihood of external assault. Even the wild bears I’ve had run-ins with were as chill as The Dude compared to the average commuters on the 31 bus through The Tenderloin.
So, what point am I getting at besides just writing a big old “Look at me!” monologue? I’m not entirely sure. But it is nice to write about myself. Sometimes I forget that I have a past. It sounds strange but its true. I think we all do, especially with every new year. As memories accumulate like the rings on trees, I find it harder to access the inner sanctum of experiences. Even if I gain a peek, I find the original feeling and intent weaker and more shadowy than I’d like.
However, every now and then you go and take a hike up a mountain with the city in the distance and recall that one summer day seven years ago on a sunny and windswept ridge in Idaho. The lightness of a youthful heart. The dreams that now resemble tissue paper planes. Exaggerated beauty.
It’s the closest thing to time travel I know.