For eight years I lived in a small house in a forest clearing. My nearest human neighbour was quiet, invisible through the trees, several hundred metres away. My real neighbours were the creatures of the air and forest: moose; deer; bears; coyotes; porcupines; raccoons; skunks; hares; beavers; countless smaller beings, like voles, mice, weasels and so on. Birds sang, twittered and called out in all seasons. Hawks, several kinds of woodpeckers, hummingbirds, warblers; really, too many to even begin to name.
I did yard work while a skunk grubbed in the grass a few metres from me; we were used to each other and left each other alone, though I for my part often stopped to admire the small striped being.
I walked along paths and came upon moose or deer not too far distant; we eyed each other, and left each other in peace. Though again, for my part there was admiration, awe, in the eyeing.
Some years there was a bear around, others not. When there was, it was understood that the bulk of the plentiful wild raspberries and blackberries were his or hers, not mine.
Everywhere, birds. Whether I was out walking or sitting in the shade of my front porch, there were always birds coming and going in the trees, often stopping at my porch to have a look at me. Blues, reds, blacks, whites, yellows, and so many shades of each, so many voices and behaviours, everywhere, always, birds.
And the trees, grasses, wildflowers, were also neighbours. I listened to the comforting rustle of the breeze in the trembling aspens in the front yard, or the sieving of wind rushing through spruces and firs. I was saddened at each broken limb or fallen tree after a windstorm. I looked forward to star flowers, bunch berries, daisies, irises, valerian, hawkweed, bindweed, loosestrife, goldenrod, and many more, each in their season. Some years new flowers arrived and others didn’t appear; nature is not stagnant.
Not that I assumed that the wildlife looked with anything like admiration or respect at me; I knew that we got along because I wasn’t a threat to them, and I knew that any abrupt change or yaw in my actions could change that in a heartbeat. My deep and wondering admiration included a healthy dose of respect.
Then, some time in the sixth year of my life in the forest, I felt a change begin in myself. I began to hanker for civilisation, for the possibility of ordering a pizza, or walking to a coffee shop. I did not cherish my place less, but it was no longer quite enough for me.
I am a child of the city.
I was born and raised near a city and its many amenities.
In the end, after a year and a half or so, I left my refuge in the forest, and live now in the asphalted, concreted city. Not the city of my birth, but a city, whose own life and rhythm is gradually becoming part of my life and rhythm.
In this city are walking trails and parks, and the mighty Niagara Falls. But everywhere, there is the civilisation that I missed and ran towards. And when that same civilisation becomes too noisy, too forward, in my mind I let the leaves of my trees of my acreage rustle comfortingly; I watch a moose chewing alders, one eye on me; I admire the forest floor covered in bunch berry flowers; I rest a hand on the smooth-rough trunk of a birch tree.
My acreage is still there; other people are enjoying it now. My acreage is still here; I carry it with me, immeasurably richer for those eight years.