landscapes

I love landscapes, urban and rural especially, not so much suburban or towns. In an urban environment the landscape is 100% human creativity or efficiency. The natural part of the landscape in an urban centre has to fight to be present, and these days it is being manufactured as never before by the choices of trees, vegetation and flowers that almost never have anything to do with what grew in that area for centuries. Still as an urban person I like the way we creative landscape to suit human connectivity. In rural areas the landscape is more untouched and less human. The look is more innocent, more rustic, it’s as if nature is showing you what she can do without human meddling. The beauty is rough but it is nonetheless inspiring and rest inducing. I open up and stop moving 100 miles an hour in such a place. I enjoy the rural landscape but have no desire to participate in it, I don’t want to cut down trees, build a house, start a fire, canoe on the river, or sleep outdoors. The only way I want to participate in the landscape is hiking, which seems very urban in its lack of intimacy (I am a voyeur as I walk through the woods).

I am not as big a fan of towns and their landscape. I know many urbanites like the quaint and pretty features of a town but to me it’s the worst of both worlds, urban and rural. Towns lack the critical mass of a city and the untouched rustic beauty of a rural area. The human connectivity seems limited, that is likely why towns are forever being labelled as full of “clicks” by the people who come there from somewhere else. It is very, very hard to break into a town. In a rural area there is so much isolation built into the experience that the expectation of connectivity is reduced. People don’t move into a rural area expecting to make friends and when they do there is a feeling of surprise and delight. In an urban area people want to make friends but there is a feeling that given its size it is on us to find the right place to go for this connectivity to take hold. In a town we expect that the minute we drive in there will be potential friends waiting for us. Never have I heard such disappointment as persons who have moved into a new town.

Suburban communities do have an appeal, especially for young families looking for other like-minded young families. It’s easy for me to dismiss this appeal as I came to parenting and family life in my 40’s, I was never a 30 something struggling with 2.5 children, a large mortgage and two minivans, driving my children to every conceivable activity. I imagine that would be very stressful and being surrounded by other like-minded young families would certainly reduce the stress and add some much needed connectivity. But let’s be clear, the suburbs are god-awful ugly. I mean, nowhere is the landscape as unattractive, uninteresting and just plain depressing as the suburbs. There is not one single aspect of suburban landscapes that is attractive, not one. It’s no wonder that after a long day working in the city a young couple, faced with that degree of ugliness, would retreat to their backyard deck and shield themselves from any visual of the sightlines.

My urban landscape fantasy is living in Montreal and walking from my townhouse to the local bakery to purchase some bagels and then taking those bagels to the local café for an espresso. I picture leafy trees, colourful people, and raised-bed vegetable gardens filling small front lawns. And I rest in the Lord…