October 28, 2011

Nature and night: Moving from the woods to the city

Maple leaves

Swishing through a bed of leaves in Kitsilano reminds me there’s nature in the city, but it’s still difficult letting go of the dense, unique nature around the home in which I grew up.

It’s dark when I get home from work now. I get to my street, and it’s like I’m at the edge of the wilderness. There’s only one street below mine on the hill as it slopes down into the water. From street level you can’t see the lights across the inlet. Those lights are what make the darkness borderline between oppressive and refreshing. There’s just enough of them, and at Christmas everyone lights up their docks and boats.

Moving was easy the first time. I don’t know why — I should have been more emotional about it since I didn’t intend to move home again. I did two years later; I’ve been here again for over three. I’m glad of it though: being in my mid-twenties — a mature adult, one might say — I’m aware of my surroundings in a more intimate, celebratory, pensive way, where I revere and require the nature around me. I would have missed out on this if I hadn’t moved back.

I know it will be harder the second time. I remind myself that I will be excited about the prospect of having my own place. It’s more complicated now, and yet easier: I plan to buy an apartment not solo but with my sweetheart, once his current place is ready for the market and we’ve had more time to know each other. The only disadvantage of this co-purchase is timing, since we’re in agreement about having a bright place near a farmer’s market and a bike route, close to nature. (Too bad Trout Lake is a lofty dream.)

But as we’ve been talking about it more, I’ve been thinking more seriously about the prospects. Oh, not regretfully. I want to. But I’m nostalgic and I’ve spent all but two years of my life living in this house, surrounded by trees and looking out onto a scene so beautiful that people always remark about that aspect when I tell them where I live.

Leaves on the trees in the city

My heart lives in the woods

I had just as many months to mull it over last time, yet this time I’ve become aware of just what I’m losing. What I’ll move to will certainly be infinitely better than that suburban concrete jungle where nature appeared to struggle to survive, and the best sense of community existed at a single bus stop with no shelter and once-a-half-hour service. I know that much. And I’m not concerned about the added responsibility — I’ve been there before and no doubt the next space will be smaller than my last place, thank goodness. I’m losing something intimately, uniquely tangible. I’m moving away from the forest, the ocean, quiet bus routes, my favourite park, and a quiet back yard. The suburbs. I won’t be far, but I will be immersed in something different and urban, which is new. I don’t even know if it’ll work for me, but the idealist in my heart says I’ll love it. And I’ll love escaping the suburbs’ raucous teenagers on the bus in favour of a bike route (or a packed but short bus ride, depending on the weather). And I’ll love coming home to loving arms every night. And not worrying about bears and skunks on a dark path. But the driving rain will be falling on pavement more often than grass, trees and skylights.

I also know the best thing I can, financially, do for my retired parents is to stop being a drain on their resources. I worry about them, but I’ve never reciprocated in chores like they want me to. I’ve spent my three-plus years here smartly saving up for that elusive Vancouver apartment that I secretly knew I needed another person in order to live in, let alone buy. The dream of having one all to myself faded when I started imagining what I could have by buying with my man — not just adequate space in a nice neighbourhood, but moreover companionship and somebody with whom to spend every Sunday morning sleeping in and making pumpkin bread French toast.

orange leaves

After all that reverie I come back to thinking about how it may be my last Halloween, Christmas, winter and spring living in this place. I’ll visit, but I know from experience that the sensation is different. Yet, perhaps I’ll appreciate even more the way the air smells at night in August, how it’s so very dark (there’s more rain and less daylight here, I learned not long ago), or how I can hear so many types of birds in the morning when I creak open the window.

Perhaps my heart will seek out the first summer, autumn and Christmas in a new place in a different community. My ears will find different birds, my eyes a new definition of night (it’s surprising what you can see in the city sometimes), and my other senses a lust for something quietly beautiful just down the street. This time it will be a final moving-out — my parents will probably be relieved — which makes me as sad as it does proud.

My nature, in some changeable form, will still be here, nestled in the lap of the mountain.