I’ve always been something of a city mouse and a country mouse. For me, the New York City skyline makes me catch my breath in just the same way that the rocky coast of Maine does. Whether I’m driving down a country road or cruising down the West Side Highway at sunset, my heart fills with pure and unadulterated glee. People like to draw stark lines between the city and the country. Where the city is fast-paced and full of energy, the country is calm and quiet. Where life in the city is described as complicated, country life is depicted as simple, serene. The reality, of course, is that the two ideals don’t have to exist so separately. To make sure that when I’m in one spot I’m not spending all of my spare time wishing I were someplace else, I’ve chosen to bring bits of my country life into my city life. You can see them in the photographs I take: my window box in Brooklyn, flower stands at farmer’s markets, herbal tea, brewed at home.
At first glance, this marriage of country and city appears to be mostly an aesthetic choice. But I don’t eat farm fresh produce just because it’s beautiful to photograph and my choice to fill my home only with flowers from nearby farmers goes beyond my particular adoration of Black-eyed Susans. For me, these choices also take into account my impact on the planet. I’m not saying that country folk have all the world’s environmental questions sorted, but sometimes living in a big city can mean that the nuances of seasons and the environmental impact of our choices can feel distant. The truth is that whether we’re in the country or the city or in all the places in between, we’re living in an era of global climate change. In the face of these changes, it’s been important for me to reconsider my own lifestyle.
For the most part, the changes I’ve made have been small and gradual. I was never a Hummer-driving, Big Mac-eating lady to begin with. But carefully thinking about the impact of my lifestyle on the planet has become a part of my everyday life. I may live in a big city, but I’m trying my darndest to make sure that I stay in touch with the country all around me. Rather than flee the grit of the city for a simpler life in the country, for now anyway, I’m committed to making a simple life in the city. It’s mostly a fallacy that life in the country is so simple, anyway. Just ask my sister, she’s a farmer.
It’s a tough thing, this writing about sustainabilty and lifestyle. For some folks, it will across as preachy: pushing an agenda that finishes by boosting the confidence of the author and trampling on the choices of readers. For others, it won't go far enough: buying cut flowers from a nearby farmer isn’t going save the planet. Always, the issues are complicated. What of the workers? What of the economics? How do you afford grass-fed meat, anyway? This column isn’t a place for me to tell you what to do, it’s a space for me to chronicle what I’m doing. It’s a celebration of the city. It’s a celebration of the country. Mostly, it’s a celebration of the planet and a story about making my place in it. I hope you’ll indulge me.