I have a very diverse background as far as places I’ve lived. I think I mentioned this once before, so I won’t go back into it. Suffice it to say, I was raised in a small farming community in southern California near the Mexican border. If you didn’t farm, you sold farming equipment. It was kind of a nice place to grow up, but didn’t really lend itself to a broader world perspective.
Coming back to live there after I’d been around the world a few times seemed like quite a step backwards. I got out as soon as I could and moved to San Diego where I’m living now, and haven’t really looked back since. I’ve only been here a few months, but already the change has been dramatic—being next to the ocean does wonders for the soul.
Yet my family still lives down in the desert, so about once a month I head down to visit them. I usually only stay for the afternoon and then head back, having my fill of small town life for the month. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s nice to live in a place where your neighbours are separated from you by several fields, and you still know all of them by name. I drove down with Mary yesterday and went for my routine walk down the ditch bank beside the canal out back behind my grandparent’s house.
The sun was low in the sky over the mountains and the sheep in the next field were kicking up dirt. In the haze it looked like mist, and you could see their little black shadows jumping up and down as they ran. Our neighbour keeps farm animals in a big corral behind his house, and when I was younger they used to have a little brown filly I named Lucy, and in the mornings before the sun came up I would go for walks to see her and pick the grass that grew outside her pen, just beyond her reach.That was probably five or six years ago. Well, the man has kept his horses and though I don’t go for walks down his way very often, I was very happy to see that he had added a few new young horses to his herd.
After that I made her work for it, and would keep it just out of her reach so that I could scratch her neck and ears. The goats were eager to get in on some of that action and tried to snatch strands of grass from her mouth, catching the clumps that fell. Goats are tenacious animals, if you’ve never been around them. Even though the horse kept her head well above them, the goats managed to get a pretty decent share of the bounty. After that I patted her down and washed my hands in the nearby canal. The field crickets chirped as the sun finally set, and we walked home with a warm westerly breeze in the air. I don’t miss living there, and given the chance I would stay here without hesitation. The summers there are unbearably hot, and there is absolutely nothing to do. Nothing.
San Diego is a much happier, healthier place for me to live. But I won’t deny for a moment that I do love the country, and that I often miss the tranquillity there. It’s easy for a writer to appreciate the kind of rustic beauty found in endless acres of farmland that rolls out like carpet towards the distant purple mountains. I may not be a rough farmhand like my father and grandfather were, but I definitely feel a sense of balance in being close to the earth and seeing green things planted and growing out from neat black rows of tilled soil.
I used to go for long runs in the country, with no one to disturb me but the wind in the old cedar trees. You can’t do that here. There are intersections and traffic and people, buildings and cars and roads and everyone is going somewhere and has something to do, and aren’t really fussed if you’d rather they weren’t there. Maybe there are places to live at times in your life. It’s often said that change is what makes life interesting. So perhaps at this time in my life, I need to live in a city, and do what city folk do. Then, when the time is right, who knows? Perhaps there will be a house in the country where I can walk beside a burbling canal in the evening and play with horses.