I went to a conference in Washington, DC, last month. I absolutely loved it. It was a good conference; a nice blend of USEFUL information and camaraderie, with enough free time woven in to check out some sights and spend a little time with a BFF. One of the highlights for me, however, was just being in the city. Not even a particularly big one, compared to Boston or New York with skyscrapers, but a busy, humming, diverse place with functional public transit (God bless it!) and choices. So many choices! In the two blocks around my hotel I could choose from a dozen different ethnic foods and a variety of shops (the Baskin Robbins store smelled really funky, though, so we opted for the frozen margaritas next door.) I love cities. I don't know if I'm cut out to live there full time, but I find a visit rejuvenating. I love the diversity.
In the boondocks we have limited choices, and the closest regional shopping towns are 45 miles east and south, respectively. Yesterday, I was forced to make the trek for a routine, work-related lab test that couldn't possibly have been done locally. As I drove home, though, I caught myself noticing, then made a concentrated effort to notice, the scenery around me. I often hear folks complain of rural scenery: one field after another, with only a road every mile to break it up. That's not what I saw, though. I saw fields of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, sugar beets, hay, oats, stubble and freshly turned earth, all different textures, colors and heights. I saw the ditches filled with cattails, brown-eyed Susan, thistles, broadleaves and grasses too numerous to keep track of. Red sumac, silver maple, weeping birch, evergreens and other trees filled windbreaks and groves with a cacophony of color. Tidy little farmhouses with well-tended gardens and yard art alternated with sprawling, ramshackle farms with bikes, trampolines, pools, lazing dogs, and machinery scattered about. Here and there a burned or abandoned farm haunted the landscape, with its own particular beauty painted in charcoal colors. We do, indeed, have diversity in the countryside, it's just of a different sort. Though perhaps this brand of diversity is not as impactful on lifestyle, its essential to living.