A few weeks back, when I crowd-sourced ideas for blog posts (still taking them, by the way!) my old friend Andrew suggested I talk about life in the country versus life in the city. Nearly two years ago I moved from downtown Montreal to rural Cape Breton Island, a move that baffles some people and fascinates others. But to the people who live here, I think it makes sense. This island has, for many people, a kind of magnetic pull; for people who find their way here by chance and make it their home by choice, but also for many people who grow up here and might have to leave for jobs or school. I often hear Cape Breton referred to as 'home' in a way I've never heard people talk about any other place.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I loved Montreal. I miss it very much. This isn't going to be a straight-up pros/cons list, because of course the merits country vs. city very much depend on the kind of person you are, and I love aspects of both. And I'm going to try to keep it specific to the places I've lived and try not speak too expansively or arrogantly about 'the city' or 'the country' (though I probably will...forgive me in advance.) So maybe I'll think about it this way: What have I gained by moving here and what have I lost? That might sound a bit melodramatic but it makes more sense to me than saying which is better and which is worse.
I gained: The ocean.
I live by the sea, which seems almost like a fairy tale for someone who grew up in Toronto, a landlocked city with no ocean for thousand of miles on either side. Yes, it's on a major lake, but the lake is not the ocean and I am an ocean person and lakes to me are like consolation prizes. The ocean is expansive, ever-changing, sometimes menacing, overwhelming, too big to really take in. And there is something about living near water that brings me a both a calm and sense of fullness that's hard to articulate. When I'm at the beach, I feel both scoured out of all the nonsense and nagging brain chatter but also brimming over. Complete. My father, who grew up near Brighton, England told me that my Grandmother used to to the beach everyday, even if the weather was awful and she only stayed for a moment or two. She needed to “see the sea”. I understand that now.
I've lost: Spring!
The winters here are longer, which my father, who has lived here full-time for twenty years, warned me about, but I don't think I really grasped it. This is Canada, so the winters are already pretty harsh and long, but in Montreal and Toronto, where I grew up, it's reliably spring by May, and even April can be nice-ish. But last year here in CB it was still pretty chilly even into June. And between the snow melting and the warm weather, there were many shades of brown and mud everywhere. Right now, there are literally more than THREE feet of snow outside my house. It's not like this every winter, so people tell me, but apparently the last two winters (the only ones we've spent here) have been the worst in memory. What have we done?? But I'm being a Canadian cliché by complaining so much about the weather, so I'll stop now.
Well, this post is getting a bit long and unwieldy, so maybe I'll continue it later. There's much more to talk about: community, isolation, beauty, culture. Are you a country mouse or city mouse? Why?