I admit, I'm as guilty of this as the next suburban kid: we go to a Tim McGraw concert, once upon a time, and when he asks, "Are there any country boys and girls here?" we all scream in the affirmative. Even if we're sitting in the Rosemont Horizon, a scant couple of miles from O'Hare, we can hear the planes going over, and the traffic jam going out of the arena will be a nightmare of the kind that people are grateful to AVOID in truly rural parts.
Yeah, we're country boys and girls. NOT.
Until some of us...are.
For over 10 years, I lived in what many people will call the "country." Heck, I'll even call it the country, especially since at least one of those residences had a true rural address: 3614 W 1000 N. Yes. A house, in the midst of cornfields and woods, plopped on the side of a county road and between two other county roads. For a long time, I dreamed of living in a place like that.
Was it great? Yes and no.
But I discovered some interesting things about myself in the process...and about what "living in the country" is actually about.
And surprisingly, when I left it, I was ready to go. Which was a revelation to a girl who always thought she'd love nothing better than the Wide Open Spaces.
Did I love it when I was there? Yes. In part.
I LOVED the fact that when I got out of the car at night, all I saw in the sky were STARS.
I LOVED the endless silence, broken only by the howling of coyotes at night or the rustle of cornstalks by day. Did you know that the wind through cornstalks makes a unique sound, not unlike waves washing up on a shore? I didn't, until I took daily morning walks next to cornfields and heard it for myself. And the sound is sheer heaven.
I LOVED the fact that our local deer had a predictable route through which they'd walk, and pretty much a predictable time of day when you could see them.
I LOVED the critters. Well, most of them. Except the flies (but they were a problem mainly because our landlord kept HORSES less than 100 feet from our back door. Yeah. You get the picture.)....but most everything else. I didn't even mind the field mice, since I got to know so many of them up close and personal. Yup.
I LOVED the vista of open fields around me, a sure antidote for feeling closed in anywhere. I even used to breathe more easily once we got out of "town" and into the open spaces. It was as if something released inside me once I broke free of the grid of houses and cars.
But there were also things I HATED about it, things I never encountered in suburbs or in town.
I HATED the flies and endless other bugs that would go after me on my walks. Unless you went out literally before the sun was at 10 o'clock, you risked getting dive-bombed from late spring well into the autumn months. Wearing a hat and insect repellent, yet still feeling deer flies bouncing off you, is not a pleasant way to enjoy a walk. Or sit outside. Or barbecue.
I HATED the smells. No, I don't mean the normal "farm" smells of manure and the like. But wilderness--as in untended country fields--gets all kinds of decay going on in it. If it's swampy, you'll smell that. If there's a dead animal, you'll smell that. If there's anything the least big stagnant, you'll smell it. It's the unspoken other side to no traffic or "city" pollution in the air. But that doesn't make it perfume!
I HATED (sometimes) the unrelenting clarity of the place I was in. We had almost no shade around our house, and when you went outside in sunny weather, you were literally blinded by how bright the sun could be off nothing but cornfield, pavement, and a white garage. I hadn't experienced that level of searing brightness before, probably because there were more trees and buildings to shield me from it. In our particular setting, however, it was an unexpected irritant, especially in the summertime when the brightness was accompanied by baking HEAT.
And I HATED the fact that so many people who lived in the country seemed to have no respect for it. Making it beautiful? Some of them did that in the immediate area around their homes (some didn't--more on that in a minute). But once it got beyond the back door, some of them just plain apparently didn't CARE.
In the process of experiencing that, I discovered something about myself. And it's come home to roost in a whole other way since we're back in Illinois.
I'll continue that in part 2!