Monday, September 15, 2014

Bright Lights, Big City


Yesterday, after weeks of dusty trails, dense forests, quiet lake swims, and hot springs, I hit the city.  Not just any city, mind you, but a real, honest to goodness tall buildings, stand-still traffic, sidewalks that smell like pee, big city. And after all that time in the wilderness, it made me break out into a white-knuckled sweat. I couldn't think fast enough to make decisions in traffic, I balked at prices, and I nervously yanked at my now-uncomfortable city clothes. I wandered like a refugee, a displaced person of some kind, dropped into an alien world where the women are all ten feet tall, the men are always speaking into a cell phone, and all the surfaces are reflective. I felt like an outsider, a yokel, a gawker, and a little sick to my stomach. This panicked anxiety surprised me. I hadn't realized how drastically my context had shifted from the urban jungle to the, well, jungle jungle. It made me acutely aware of just how much I thrive on the calm and quiet of the outdoors, the ability to hear myself think, and the lack of over-stimulation. I wonder about living in these places, how people find time to themselves, where their quiet moments happen, and how they ground themselves. I wonder what it means to 'get used to it', if you lose the longing for the wild after a time, or if the call of it is simply drowned out by the urban din. I was glad for the trip, for the afternoon of playing tourist, and the necessary business that got done. But I was also glad to head back out, to smaller buildings, empty streets, tall trees, and the great outside.


  1. Ugh, I know how you feel. While I haven't been out in the wilderness exactly, I have spent most of the last several weeks in very rural areas, and returning to the Bay Area is a real - and horrible - shock to the system. I had to sit and wait at multiple traffic lights today, and that alone was so annoying that I was tempted to drop everything and leave town again! City life may have its conveniences, but sometimes I wonder how we stand the noise, the traffic, and the crowds.

    1. I had to move out of Portland in large part because of traffic. I don't know how people do it. At least the Bay Area is walkable :-)