When I was living in Australia, I once took a drive with a friend down the Grand Pacific Drive. Our destination was the journey itself and an oceanside pub, a wide stretch of grass wedged between the winding road and the Pacific.
As we sat with our beers at a picnic table in the sunshine, conversation ceased as we watched the lull of the waves against the rocks. It was a comfortable sort of silence, one of those peaces that you can’t take for granted with just anyone.
“Someone once told me that being out here like this, it’s emptying your wastebasket,” he told me. “You have to take the time to clear out all the stuff that builds up in your everyday life.”
Living in a fourth-floor walkup, it’s easy to let the trash build up: it’s the most-procrastinated chore in our apartment simply because it’s cumbersome and heavy and, really, more effort than it should be. Life in New York City is like that: it’s easy to let it all add up: the comparisons, the anxiety, the stress, the never-ending list of things to do and people to see and errands to run.
There’s a lot that I love about life in a big city: the ease of public transportation, the quality of the restaurants, the diversity of people in age and origin and dreams. Every morning, I look around at the faces in my subway car and am simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of human experience I’m surrounded by: the heartbreaks, the successes, the good days and the bad.
But it’s those times that I get out of the city that I realize what we miss when all of those souls are pressed up against each other in the hot, heavy rush of the train: it’s the fresh air, the pure water, the sound of nothing but the wind. It’s when you see that the most beautiful places are always the result of nature’s long-winded but seemingly-effortless work, that not even the most spectacular building can compete with the vivid red cliffs of the desert or the stunning crush of a waterfall.
I grew up with a lot of open space, in a house that bordered a wildlife preserve and was only a few blocks from a park, a few miles from farmland. The cookie cutter homes of the suburbs are noted for overtly creating that distance between neighbors: the garages, the fences, the backyards. Most of the time, I revel in the novelty of the close proximity and fast pace of city life and the juxtaposition of relaxing in park surrounded by skyscrapers.
But without the bitter, the sweet ain’t as sweet. And the longer you go without an escape, without a chance to empty your wastebasket: the more overwhelming life can become.