Driving home from work last night I made a rather important decision slash surfaced a long buried personal yearning – I have decided that my main goal in life is to live in a town where the tallest landmark is the community water tower. No drum roll needed – my wish is that simple. I have no desire to be around reach for the stars type office buildings; I’ll gladly bid adieu to corporate logos blinking in the night; I just want a top heavy navigational beacon that stands guard over its community’s most precious resource. An unpretentious structure with the town’s name on proud display so that wayward souls can be guided home. A locale where the words, “meet me under the water tower” encapsulate a near effortless execution.
I have sought simple living my entire life. I didn’t grow up in a particular large city, at least not by metropolis standards. My little back water municipality may be home to over two hundred thousand people but farm country and the vast expanse of open roads is less than a ten minute drive away (depending on which direction you are travelling). Despite close proximity to wide open spaces my city is still far too big for me. I’ve never really felt at peace here. I continually venture out to the surrounding smaller towns to seek space and solace. I sometimes set out only to explore the natural offerings but more often than not I just need a place where I can stretch my legs and breathe. I have become fully aware that I secretly carry a large personal bubble and sometimes city life is so overwhelmingly suffocating for me – I just need some space. It is then that I seek out the water towers.
So what is my ultimate heart’s desire? What does my ideal country life look like? Picture this if you would…
A place where the nights are so dark that the stars look like lite brite.
Where lazy days only lead to lazier nights.
Where no one thinks twice about idling, seemingly abandoned cars sitting in a parking lot while their owners shop at the local Foodland.
Where summer bonfires are a nightly ritual rather than a sacred seasonal treat.
Where you can drop your bike in the front yard and it’ll still be there six days later when you finally decide to bring it in out of the rain.
Where friendliness is almost taken for granted because it’s consider the only acceptable way to interact with fellow community members. Where rudeness stands out like a sore thumb and is openly bashed until made right.
Where dogs can live untethered because the closest neighbour is nearly two kilometers away.
Where there’s a mini forest in the front yard. Not just a single lonely tree that is constantly being trimmed by city workers because it’s blocking hydro towers or telephone wires – or sending the neighbour into a seasonal bought of anxiety because of all the colourful leaves it dumps on his driveway.
Where children make up games to pass the time because the internet takes second or possibly even third place to the wonder that nature holds.
Where elders are treated with respect rather than as a nuisance.
Where people smile at each other and ask, “How are you?” – and genuinely mean it.
I want, nay, GRAVE simple back country living. I think it has been in my blood since the moment I entered this lifetime. I want an existence that isn’t fettered by noise pollution or stress filled driving excursions. I have grown tired of the concrete jungle and every business I walk into requesting that I like them on Facebook (the point of which being something I still don’t understand). I want to be able to ask the young lad packing my groceries how school is going, or stop in at the post office to not only collect my mail but get caught up on the latest town gossip. I want to feel included in a community, not just part of a large statistics based collective.
I sometimes attribute small town living to college life – where city life is more like university. In college, as in smaller communities, you are more likely to be known by name. When you walk into a campus office you are greeted with a smile and a hello. If you’ve been to that same office more than a handful of times you’re likely to be welcomed by name. University, on the other hand, tracks your existence solely by your student number. Professors are not likely to know you are even taking their class let alone know what your first name is. Greetings are usually grumbled at you, if they exist at all. Your student number drives how you identify yourself – in highly populated cities it’s your phone number and/or email address.
I’m done with just being a number.
I am fully aware that smaller communities have their issues, the majors being that gossip travels like wildfire and that people are not afraid to speak their thoughts or opinions on any given subject matter. That being politically correct is an idea, not an expectation. But I also know that when respect is given it is given back. Niceties are a way of life, not just reserved for holidays. Famed painter Norman Rockwell made his living depicting small town life. His images are whimsical and touching and provide a window into a world that is both revered and enlightening. To quote Ariel from the Little Mermaid, I want to be part of that world.
Now just to find a friendly looking water tower.