Day 329. Who’da Thunk?

I’m a city gal.  Always have been.  Probably always will be.  Born that way.  At ten years old I asked my parents if we could move to an apartment downtown.  At the time we only lived about caledona ten or fifteen minute drive from the centre of the city, but to me it seemed like we lived in the middle of nowhere.  I hated it.  Well, that’s a very strong word.

I didn’t hate it.  I just longed for the excitement of the city.  The rhythm.  The pulse.  The energy.  There was always something going on.  Constant movement.  And I felt it.  I responded to it.  It made me feel alive, even as a child.

When I was nine years old, my parents sent me to summer camp.  Sleep-away.  It was fine.  I had a good time, except for the two overnight camping trips we took.  Definitely not my cup of tea.  I was NOT one with nature.  Gathering wood for the fire was a pain — literally.  I stumbled and dropped a whole load on my foot.

Major ouch!

Wasn’t crazy about the smell of damp earth.  Smelled mouldy to me.  Dank.  Funky.  The food we cooked all tasted of dirt.  Or at least I thought so.   I could not get comfortable sleeping on the ground.  And when morning came, I was far from pleased to see I’d been sharing my sleeping bag with a skunk.  Thank God I hadn’t been sprayed.

After that my appreciation of nature was confined to having vases of fresh flowers all over my apartment.

Until I met a man who made me change my ways.

Well, he didn’t make me.  It was my decision.  Shocked the hell out of everyone who knew me, too.  For that matter, I shocked the hell out of myself.  But when you’re in love, you often do things you would never do if you were sane.  I moved about fifty kilometres west of Toronto.  That’s a little more than thirty-one miles, for my American friends.

Let me put it another way.  My commute to and from work every day took between an hour and a half and two hours, depending on traffic.  WHAT was I thinking?????

Don’t get me wrong.  Oakville, the town I moved to, is beautiful.  Very picturesque.  Home to captains of industry.  CEOs of banks and fortune 500 companies.  So it boasts excellent restaurants, beautiful boutiques, an endless choice of gyms and spas, tennis and country clubs.   It’s right on Lake Ontario, most of the residents have boats and there are several yacht clubs and marinas.

Then there were the rest of us, who didn’t live in six-bedroom, eight-bathroom, ten thousand square foot estates.  But it was still a lovely place to live.  Still is, for that matter.

In case you’re wondering, the only reason I’m telling you this story is because of yesterday’s WordPress Daily Prompt:  “Describe your first memorable experience exploring and spending time in nature.  Were you in awe?  Or were you not impressed?  Would you rather spend time in the forest or the city?”

Oakville was mine.  My first memorable experience exploring and spending time in nature.

Amazingly, I really started to get off on the peace.  And the quiet.  My favourite thing to do on weekend mornings was to get up at around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. and walk to a nearby harbour.  At that hour there were very few people out.  Sure there were a few, walking like I was, or on bicycles, but for the most part I was alone.  The biggest challenge was trying to avoid all the goose shit.  It was a real problem, let me tell you.  There was tons of it.  I kid you not.  I exaggerate NOT.

But I loved those walks.  It was so still.  The path was lined with benches, so if you wanted to just sit and stare out at the water, you could.  I did it quite often.  Along the way I’d pick up a coffee at my favourite cafe and take it with me.  When I got to the marina, I’d usually walk along the dock until there was nowhere else to go, turn around and find a place to sit and stare into space.

For a half hour.  For an hour.  Sometimes even longer.

All without saying a word to anyone.  We’d all just smile and nod at each other.  No one wanted to break the spell.

What a great way to start a day.

There was never time for me to do it during the week, unfortunately.  That’s when I really needed it the most.  As I squared my shoulders and prepared for that long, slow, bumper-to-bumper drive into the city.  But I did often take the walk when I came home, at the end of the day.  It was a perfect antidote to the stress of the drive and life in an ad agency.

Pretty soon, I became a real nature lover.  Yes, me.  The girl who thought nothing of eating on restaurant terraces that were mere steps from busy, downtown streets.  Where the smell of food mingled with the smell of gas fumes coming out of the exhaust pipes, of all the cars zooming by.

Nobody was more surprised than I was, that I moved to the boonies and seemed to like it.  And that was when I really got into photography.  When I bought a good, manual camera (pre digital days).  When I’d head out, on weekends, to all the little towns and villages and escarpments and ravines and forests and streams within an hour or two of where I lived.  When I’d wander and explore and take pictures.  Hour after hour after hour.  It was like meditating for me.  The photo on this post is one I took one Thanksgiving weekend, in Caledon, a lovely spot that’s an amalgamation of urban areas, village and hamlets.

My preference was always to go alone on these little junkets.  Which was fine with ‘the man’.  He preferred to keep busy building decks and cocking windows and stripping wallpaper and painting and ArmorAlling his tires.

As more and more people moved out there, and as more and more forest was destroyed so communities could be built, it started to lose its charm.  At least for me.  It wasn’t only the development.  The commute got worse and it really started to drive me crazy.  Like road rage crazy.  I was becoming disenchanted with all of it, including the man.

It was time for me to get back where I belonged.  To the noise and congestion of the city.  I do still enjoy down time in pretty, quiet, out-of-the-way locales.  Except now I consider them to be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.  It was calming while it lasted, though.

12 thoughts on “Day 329. Who’da Thunk?

  1. Etobicoke is far enough west if you work in Toronto. Oakville is certainly beautiful but the commute is killer. Unless you can take the train. Your post reminds me of when we lived in Markham before it got all developed. It was pretty and rural…and had an awful commute for both of us. So we moved back downtown. Happy Canada Day!

  2. Reminds me of my 2 years of living in the middle of nowhere. It was beautiful. Lots of wildlife but I yearned for people-y things. (Yeah, even as I write that I can’t believe it. I must have lost my love of people-y things!)

  3. Your post is so timely and really resonated. I am a totally urban girl but I love getting away to the outdoors (must be the West Coast in me). I was talking with a colleague last week about moving from Vancouver to Toronto – the hardest thing in Toronto is that it just takes soooo darn long to get into the real wilderness. But … yesterday, the SO and I took a long walk up the Humber River north of Old Mill, which I had never done. It was lovely — quiet, river running by, shaded by trees and it reminded me that we are lucky in Toronto that we have so many opportunities right in the middle of the city (Don River valley, Leslie Spit, Humber River, Rosedale ravine) to get away from it all…That being said, the walk yesterday must have inspired me as we still just booked our 3-day canoe trip into Algonguin this morning!

  4. The countryside is wonderful but only if you don’t have to commute! I’m not a city person but wouldn’t like to be surrounded by nothing but nature either. My ideal is where I can easily walk to the village shops and go running/walking somewhere with no (or very few) cars. Which is what I have, so I’m very fortunate.

  5. Ah yes, the old fable of the country mouse and his cousin, the city mouse. So true, the way one mouse said the constant noise of the city kept him awake all night, while the city mouse couldn’t sleep in the country because of the racket of the crickets and the waterfall.

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