My wife and I are becoming quasi-urban. We have a property in the downtown core that’s been a revenue house for us for the last four years. But ongoing troubles with tenants have exhausted our patience and we’ve decided to live on the main floor part-time. It means we will be at our home at Paul Lake roughly half our time now. The other half, we will be relearning how to be urban dwellers.
It’s daunting. Even though we left Burnaby only a short six years ago, the rural life effectively removes your city sensibilities. There are underlying noises we’d forgotten, from the audible whir of traffic, to the shouts of neighbourhood children, dogs and sirens. Even the creaks and shifting of a different house give sleeping a definitive spot on the learning curve.
There’s all the fuss and bother of the reconnection experience; the cable, the telephone, the Internet and the realization that comes that we’re now paying twice. We have a second set of furniture. I have two offices. The dog has to readapt to walking on a leash at the same time I familiarize myself again with plastic bags.
I can’t get up from my desk and walk off into the trees. I can’t turn my beloved stereo up to levels where I can hear it as I mow the lawn anymore. There’s no practicing moose calls on the deck in the early morning. We have neighbours downstairs and I have to learn to walk differently. Stomping to the fridge is out. So are long drum solos on the djembe and pogo dancing to old Ramones records.
But I can walk to the grocery store for random items at a moment’s notice. The library is 10 minutes off.
Should I ever have a sudden fancy for a hot dog it’s steps away. We even went to a movie at night that didn’t require a 70-kilometre commitment to get there and back. We’ll walk to the theatre, to hear the symphony, to join in on community events and drop in on friends for tea. We couldn’t do those things at the lake.
The other charming thing about urban living is people. Every time we have been out and about getting our new digs ready, we’ve run into someone we know. At the paint store, grocery, drug store and even on a street corner. It’s marvellous. You stop and chat, laugh and make plans for a bigger, better get together that you suddenly realize is imminently possible.
For six years our mailing address has been Kamloops. But we’ve never really availed ourselves of the city. We became hermetic almost, loving the cloistered nature of our lives overlooking a lake. As a writer of books, that’s been fabulous and I’ve been amazingly productive. We found peace and calm and a togetherness that’s solid and cozy and tight.
But we’ve missed city things; music, movies, restaurants — heck, even bowling, though it’s more the idea of possibility and proximity than the lure of the game. I love libraries. Now I can go and spend entire evenings and afternoons there if I choose. So the relearning curve is worth it. Being an urban person was my reality for a long time.
Now, at 57, the idea of it is vastly different. I’m seeking the same quiet shelter I find rurally. I’m seeking to belong, to find community, to be peaceful and secure. I’m seeking the same idea of home that’s represented by our home in the mountains. Warm, inviting, known and treasured.