Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A country fantasy

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.

Boucher, Shepherd and Shepherdess reposing
And so I get to keep my fantasy intact—pristine and beatific and all loamy— because I doubt we’ll ever really take the naked leap into a country life. Like the 18th century noble Parisians who imagined the lives of peasants to be sweeter smelling than their own, we’ll have to be content with the perfect, unreal version of farm country we have managed to till in the creative soil of our own minds.

That is, unless we found a really good deal on a five-acre lot with a few sycamores . . .

10 comments:

julie said...

My pioneer ancestors settled in Spring City when they arrived in Utah. I've never been there, but I probably have some relatives in the cemetery you passed. I love your idyllic fantasy life, even if it is only a dream. Sounds like I need to take a little trip there someday...

An Ordinary Mom said...

I have the same romantic fantasy ... although it sometimes morphs into owning my own horse ranch. Land, freedom, nature ... a girl can certainly dream.

Karlene said...

I, too, share that fantasy. Of course, I'd have farm hands to help because my kids are mostly grown and gone.

My husband and I fantasize about buying Wallsburg (near Heber), kicking everyone out and only letting our favorite people move in. It would be like the City of Enoch--at least, in our fantasy. :)

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Once again, you have written a post using my very thoughts. My husband and I are always daydreaming about this but know we are not ready to accept it as a reality. But I don't love the dream any less.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Had the fantasy. (Although mine wasn't as well thought out as yours.)

Made the move.

Moved back to the city last fall, for all the reasons you mention.

Yes, the beauty of the country captures your heart on a sunny day.
But then the ethanol plant fires up, and there's that "smell" in the air, and the bugs (OH MY WORD THE BUGS!) are thick on your screens like a horror movie and there are no restaurants besides fast food and nothing to do with your kids on a snowy/rainy day except visit the filthy BK indoor playground AGAIN.

My theory is, you're most comfortable with your native environment. Switching cultures is hard.

tjhirst said...

Eight years ago we moved from the suburbs of a metro area to a small community 2 hours off the interstate. I was amazed at how citified I am. The realtor showed us houses in the country (rural), suburban (still had septic systems and no storm water control so there was lots of standing water), and city (a little more country than a metro suburban neighborhood). We chose the city neighborhood and still feel like we got away from traffic and social pressures and found a good place to raise our children.

We found the happy medium between the friends I visit 10 miles from us who have lots of animals and the work to go with them and the friends we visit in metro areas who get lots of shopping amenities but lots of traffic to go with it.

anymommy said...

My husband and I are more likely to fantasize about a loft on the waterfront in Seattle, but I still love this. Escape from ordinary life always seems idyllic. Thanks for the daydream.

Candace E. Salima said...

I grew up in the country and it was a beautiful way to grow up. I loved every second of it and the Bookmobile was something I waited for breathlessly every other week. The country has many positive aspects as the city does. I live in the city now, because my husband says Orem is as country as he's willing to get, but I really, really miss the country. I'd just want it to be 30 to 40 minutes from the amenities of the city. That's all. :)

Pale Bear said...

My parents wanted to get away from it all, so they moved up on a mountain. 10 acres. A cabin. Beautiful sunsets through ceiling-to-floor front windows. Deer coming to graze in the lawn. Wild turkeys. No traffic. No close neighbors. No power for days in the winter. No water because the pipes froze again even when you thought you fixed it last summer. Cars stuck in the drifts in the driveway until the spring thaw. No gas station or grocery store for 40 miles--which took over an hour to drive in good weather. My mom once tried to finish cooking the Thanksgiving turkey on the woodstove when the power died during a snowstorm. My dad had to shovel snow off the roof. The spring that fed the well was slow, which meant just a couple of showers or loads of laundry a day or the water would run out.

And they hated it when they had to leave. Except for the parts they didn't.

Rachel said...

"Like the 18th century noble Parisians who imagined the lives of peasants to be sweeter smelling than their own, we’ll have to be content with the perfect, unreal version of farm country we have managed to till in the creative soil of our own minds." That's poetry, Julie Q., poetry.

I too dream of the idyllic country life with chickens that don't peck or leave dropping, but do provide brown speckled organic eggs.

Honestly, I think these fantasies are our inner visions of Heaven. Perhaps they really do exist, and these longings are put in our hearts to make us desire something greater than this life.