It’s still hard for me to grasp that I have lived more than half of my life in the Boston area; I suppose it’s part of my local identity to be from somewhere else. And within this realm I still identify more with the city than the country where I have lived for many years. But so often I feel my heart is in the city. Stopping to take this photograph last weekend gave me a sense of exhilaration and belonging that, hard as I try, I never feel in the woods. In the city my step is surer and quicker, with more bounce and energy. In nature I have to work to see the details, I am so overwhelmed by the vast landscape – but in the city everything pops in the most pleasant way, just as these buildings seem to spring from the earth, each from a separate time, percolating up like the water in the fountain. The city speaks to me, it lets me be alone in a crowd, it asks me to participate on my own terms and dares me to thrive. The very act of driving in is a thrill – coming over the rise on Route 2 in Belmont it’s like Dorothy’s first view of the Emerald City.
Boston in October is an effortless romance – the light and the colors along the sparkling Charles set off the bricks and ivy in ways that are easy to love. And the courtship continues though snowy Christmas with red bows and balsam in the snow on the Public Garden. And then in January the holiday hangover turns eveything gray and bleak and the pall extends all the way out to the county and we hide under our down comforters, look at one another and plead: “please tell me why I live here.” By Saint Patrick’s Day retirement in Arizona seems a viable option. The city sees spring first (though long past that cruel date in March when it is supposed to arrive) and I find myself driving in to see the blooms three weeks ahead of my still snowy garden. When the green mist appears in the branches on Commonwealth Avenue, all winter betrayals are forgotten.
I’ve grown to love the space and quiet of the country and, when the opportunity presents itself, will have a hard time giving up the spring peepers, evening owls and ample parking. I am grateful now, though, for the luxury to tap into my inner city mouse just as I did as a girl back in Iowa, listening to the morning chickadees and blue jays and feeling reassured that my beloved urban landscape is just over the hill.