The country and the city
A graduate of the University of Toronto, Trevor Hutchinson is a songwriter, writer and bookkeeper. He serves as Contributing Editor at The Lindsay Advocate. He lives with his fiancee and their five kids in Lindsay.
I got a little scared recently reading the words of Stephen King, one my favourite horror authors. But it wasn’t from one his thrillers, it was a quotation on living in the city: “City life is no life for the country man, for such a man that life is a kind of damnation.”
That got me thinking because we were just packing up our country house and moving into Lindsay. Technically, since we were moving from the Greater Glenarm Area (or the GGA, as future planners might one day call it) to Lindsay, we were moving from one part of the City of Kawartha Lakes to another. But we all know calling either a ‘city’ is more than a bit of a stretch. Still though, the move from farmhouse to residential street will mean changes, both big and small, for my family.
The little kids are having to transition from riding their bikes in the relative safety of a farmyard to the big-town traffic of Lindsay. School buses will now just be something they only see at their school. Most scary for them? They might go from what seems like a thousand snow days a year to the rare one when the actual school is closed.
If our city had any regular and reliable public transit, we might have been able to swing staying in the country. But our 14-year-old wants to enter the workforce and that would not have been possible given our schedules. Not to mention there are now feasible opportunities for activities and sports for the whole family.
Weirdly enough, while we will be surrounded by less greenery we will be, in fact, living a ‘greener life.’ Gone will be the daily commute of 60 kms for two cars and the carbon consumption that went with it. So it is a change. But I find myself asking if it is a fundamental change.
I am reminded of the writings of cultural theorist Raymond Williams, who wrote in his 1973 book The City and the Country, that the division is a bit artificial, with the country being frequently described in idyllic terms and the city more often in stark and brutal terms. He eschews the traditional portrayal of the idealism of the country and the bleakness of the city, arguing at the time for a closer relationship of both.
He could not have known it back then, but Williams was writing what could serve as a rebuke to the lyrics of almost every New Country song — lyrics that shamelessly appeal to that same romanticism, extolling the alleged simplicity and honesty of rural living, not to mention the fetishization of tractors!
I will no doubt miss my country view and waving to my Amish neighbours but I probably won’t miss the winter commute. With any luck it won’t be a damnation — just a different side of life in the CKL. See you around town!