I am a child of the suburbs. Growing up I fed my love of nature through books, reading with a kind of hunger the descriptions of a more pastoral life in the work of L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Madeleine L'Engle. I lived on a cul-de-sac surrounded by other houses and shopping centers, and my explorations on foot only ever took my to other neighborhoods with different looking houses. A lonely child, I drew pictures of the fantastic house I would have some day and I always situated it on a vast property with a stream running through it. Of course it included stables, as would the house of any sixth grade girl.
My family wasn't particularly outdoorsy and we weren't well off either, so we didn't go hiking or camping or on trips to National Parks.When I was very young I had an uncle who would take my sister and I to one of the local parks and we would walk the trails together, but that stopped after my parents divorced. In retrospect I think he was trying to give them time alone to work things out and couldn't think of anything else to do with two little kids. After that our exposure to the great outdoors was mostly limited to the occasional trip to a 4H camp sponsored by a school. Even the summer camp my sister and I attended was focused on music and drama; it was located in a forest but we spent our camp time indoors rehearsing.
I still live in the suburbs today. My townhouse stands in the middle of a row of other town-homes off one of the busy main routes through my overdeveloped and overcrowded county. I love my house. It's the right size for us, it's easy to take care of, and it's very convenient to my job, but it's definitely not the dream home of my childhood. Mostly, that's okay. I have new dreams as an adult and this house fits them better. But I was happy today, while out with my family, to find an easy walking route that dropped us down onto a county trail system near my home. The system actually encompasses the entire county, following green spaces along streams with protected woods to either side that limit storm run off.
It's not the idyllic, unspoiled farm country of my childhood books, to be sure. The road is never far away and we still live bounded by houses, shopping centers and terrible traffic. It's nice though, to sit on a creek bank in the midst of all that and give my daughter a little taste of a place where wet and muddy feet are all part of the fun. It's nice to see nothing but trees and water and rocks and hear nothing but a rushing stream and my child's laugh.