Monday, December 26, 2005

View from Kitchen window ... Posted by Picasa

The countryside ...

December 26, 2005

It is beautiful here, outside the snow is falling and the steep green pastures of the surrounding mountains are beginning to disappear under a blanket of fresh white. I couldn’t live in a place like this. Every square inch has a house on it, or an apartment building. It’s as thick as a city but it’s a residential area, a huge suburb nestled in the mountains about an hour from Cologne. You know your neighbors whether you want to or not. It isn’t like living in the city where anonymity is the untaxed benefit of living on top of each other in a vertical world. Here everything is laid out end to end … without cafes or bakeries or bookshops to break up the monotony of the flat white facades. The difference between living in the city and living in the suburbs is this – in the suburbs you have a big house in which to create your ideal environment and the trade-off is that when you leave that house you give up the joy and safety of your interior world in order to accomplish some task that you can not accomplish in the home – shopping or going out to work. In the city you live in a smaller space, because you must share the even more precious real estate with hundreds of thousands of others, but you live not only within your four walls but also in that greater space that is the city itself. You are an integral part of the city; you help shape and color and amplify it with your presence on the street. The common space of a city is where it thrives … what happens on the sidewalk matters, the lights from the shops, the smells from the restaurants and butchers and bakers … the sounds of a busted guitar accompanying a ragged tune emanating from the sidewalk face of an equally broken man, engines turning, street sweepers swishing, bike chains rattling, babies screaming, children laughing, horns honking, sirens blaring, airplanes overhead, snippets of cell phone conversations caught in passing the front of a busy cinema on Friday night, or the rumble of boisterous Saturday night escaping from the open door of a neighborhood bar. All of this is part of the experience of living in a city and I need to hear and smell and feel it. I also need to walk the city streets alone in the early morning before the rest of the world rises, feel it coming to life around me, sense it’s heat and wonder at its shadows. As much as I love spending time in the countryside, and I do, it is the city that I must come home to … it is that life which gives me peace, connects me with my fellow man, recharges my soul and confirms my existence.