On Leaving the City

October, 2016

As I write this, we’re embarking on what will hopefully be our last winter in the city before moving to the Woods. Many people we’ve talked to think we’re crazy to even consider this, so I’ve been thinking a lot about why we’re leaving and if we are, indeed, crazy.

We’ve lived 13 years in our house in a pretty rough neighborhood in the city. During that time on our block, people (some of them children) have died in house-fires, people (and one child) have been murdered. We’ve seen drugs sold, prostitutes plying their trade, guns fired, houses robbed.

Also, we’ve made friends and celebrated birthdays with our neighbors, we’ve cleaned up trash and blockaded the street for parties. In our small lot we’ve practiced for living in the country by raising ducks, experimenting with gardening and composting methods, planting fruit trees, berries, grapes, and wild plants, rainwater harvesting, heating with wood. We’ve renovated our century-old house, built a cordwood masonry studio and a clay pizza oven in the back yard. In short (previous paragraph aside), we’re attached to our little rectangle of the city.

We know it makes ecological sense to stay in the city. Here we can reach almost any place we need by bicycle; by living in an old house we protect wild lands from development; we rub shoulders with people who share our ecological beliefs.

Checking out of the city will force us to critically examine our impacts on the world, for example, just how much water does it take for four humans to live; or, if I am sending my wash-water out to the garden, is the soap I’m using harmful to the soil? We will be cutting out our use of natural gas…but increasing our reliance on gasoline. We’ll be using our own timbers and muscles to build an efficient, green home…but we’ll be building it on previously wild land.

Does the good outweigh the bad? Or are all our justifications for life in the country exactly that, empty justifications of a guilty conscience?

And yet, regardless of logic, we find ourselves drawn to a quieter life. We long to breathe clean air and quit dodging bullets. We long to take responsibility for our needs and wastes, instead of mindlessly hooking up to the urban utility stream. We long to unwind our nerves, strung tight by long fear of violence in the city, and absorb the ease of the trees swaying in the wind. We long to let the children play outside without fences or supervision. We long to see the stars.

For now, we’ll follow our longings. What could go wrong? 🙂

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