Saturday, 30 July 2016

country and town, Canned Heat and Cavafy

Sitting in a cafe just round the corner from where I used to live, I took this shot of a road that was part of what I used to call home. I loved it here; our children grew up in this city. My coffee break was intensely nostalgic. Yet I clearly remember wishing we lived in the country instead. And now we do.

Here's another recent shot of a grandson in a big unspoilt open space just a couple of miles from the inner suburb shown above. It's all "the city."

I'm sure I could be content in the city as well as in the country, provided I saw city living as the path, the reality for me, rather than fantasising about another life than the one I was living...After all, I lived in the city for 23 years- though we did get away to the countryside when we could.

It's the work of staying with the present that would make it feasible - along with not having a rigid idea of what is city and what is country. I've read that suburbanites moving to an agricultural area are often dismayed by the noise and smells of the working countryside.

Here's a rather stern poem about the danger of avoiding the reality of where you are:

The City, by C. P. Cavafy

 "You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world."

Dreams of escape, whether from town or country, lead us away from living as fully as possible wherever we are. Wherever we go, we take with us who we think we are. Maybe that's what we need to change, if we want a real escape - what we think we are.

This rather feeble song from Canned Heat has classic rural escape fanatasy in it, back-to-the-country hippiedom.
"I'm going up the country, babe, don't you wanna go?
I'm going up the country, babe, don't you wanna go?
I'm going to some place where I've never been before.

I'm going, I'm going where the water tastes like wine.
Well, I'm going where the water tastes like wine.
We can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time.

I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away.
I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away.
All this fussing and fighting, man, you know I sure can't stay."

I was pleased to leave the traffic, the haste and the noise of the city behind, "the fussing and fighting;" any of us might have good reason to move on from the city, but it needs to be agood reason. Idealising somewhere else than you are is surely a recipe for unhappiness.


(Dunno about you, but I much prefer "On The Road Again" with its loping rhythm and buzzing, slightly sinister backing.)

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