For our anniversary, Ken and I took a weekend jaunt to a historic town in central Utah called Spring City. While we were there, we looked around at the sleepy main street, rode our bikes up and down the sidewalk-less roads (past sheep and goats and pastured horses and a cemetery with gravestones dating back to the 1800s), ate in a café where the regulars chatted about water shares, and watched a man drive to church on his four-wheeler. We also got as serious as you can get in 24 hours about moving there someday. It’s a kind of mutual dream Ken and I have—to transplant ourselves to country soil, to get away from the crowded valley where we live (…and work and fight the traffic of a half-million other people’s lives and works), to trade in our tiny backyard for a few acres of weeds and some sycamores big enough to anchor a treehouse for the kids. I yearn for a coop full of chickens so badly I have already picked out names for all of them. I want to sit near an open window and not hear the sounds I hear right now: the beeping of reversing construction vehicles, the zooming of semis on the freeway a mile away, the roaring of the lifeflight helicopter landing at the hospital down the road, the incessant yelping of our neighbor’s neurotic penned-up dog.
I’m fully aware that we might hold a slightly romanticized view of country life. In my Spring City fantasy for example, we have no neighbors with trashy yards full of rusting abandoned farm equipment and discarded appliances (Mavis next door, however does keep an old cast-iron tub spilling over with wildflowers out back). The air is always fragrant—not “pastoral” in a way that had me checking the back of my shoes obsessively for the first several hours of our stay in Spring City. The regulars at the café never tire of discussing irrigation and move on to gossiping about our private lives. Our children would never get injured in falls from their four-wheelers and require a 45 minute drive to the nearest medical facility. There are no biting flies in my Spring City. The cows mill about cooperatively in a picturesque fashion and produce no cow pies.
I’m willing to take even a less-than ideal version of my fantasy if it would allow me to extricate myself (and my children) from our current nature-deprived, plugged-in, materialistic surroundings. But of course, as Ken said more than once over the weekend, if we really ever tried to move, the kids would kill us. Yes, they would love the treehouse, but they would hate leaving their friends and schools behind. They would love the wildness of it all, but they would miss the library (and, I admit, I would dearly miss the library too). They would especially hate having to mow the acre of back lawn and take care of my chickens. Oh, and Nora loves real birds but she loves our frequent “copper” flybys even more.
That is, unless we found a really good deal on a five-acre lot with a few sycamores . . .