20131029_121122Diana and Mary Ellen at lunch in Washington’s Union Station.
(Diana rode her bike; Mary Ellen and I took the train.)

photo-7Mary Ellen and Chudley in Baltimore

photo-8Autumn Leaves in Mary Ellen’s and Chudley’s neighborhood

20131031_111129Deer in the woods outside Jean’s and Bill’s Kitchen Window

20131031_144819Bill and Jean Amidst Autumn Foliage in Silver Springs, Maryland

I dearly love being immersed
in nature.
If you’re not here all the time,
you don’t get to know it
so well.
Too, I dearly love being with human friends,
immersed in community.
In the days of our parents’ youth,
when there were four families
per square mile,
it was possible to have both.
There was community of many species
on the prairie.
Now,
living on the prairie
means burning fossil fuel
to be with friends
who live in the city.
I long for a way
to be immersed
in a whole life—
close community
immersed in the natural world.

Instead,
I’ve been burning way too much fossil fuel,
traveling from home in the country
to visit friends in the city.
This week—a sort of reunion week—
I visited friends in North Carolina,
where we ate supper
at the Homegrown restaurant,
which serves locally-grown, organic food.
(Always get the same thing:
fried chicken with rosemary gravy,
skin-on mashed potatoes,
roasted vegetables.)
In D.C. and Maryland,
I rode the train and Metro
to visit cherished long-time
and more recently-made
friends.
In Baltimore,
after a late-afternoon walk
around the neighborhood and a beautiful park,
I looked up and saw
Venus!
In Silver Springs,
we had breakfast conversation
as we watched deer grazing
and resting contentedly
in the woods
just outside the kitchen window.
The colors of autumn leaves
are much more varied—
as are the trees—
than here on the prairie,
where allelopathic prairie grasses
prevent trees from growing
except along the creeks.
Sun shining through
soft yellow and apricot-colored leaves
is sublime.
There are black squirrels
in the woods in Silver Springs.
And a friend’s black lab,
Chudley,
immediately became my friend
too. No questions asked.

I don’t know
if I would have noticed Venus
on a clear autumn afternoon in Baltimore
had I not been immersed in nature
here on the prairie,
where the sky is companion.
I don’t know
if I would have appreciated Chudley’s warm company
so much
had I not known our own dogs
and alpacas and goats and chickens and wild birds
here in the country.
I don’t know
if I would have sought a walk in the woods
and thrilled at seeing a black squirrel
if I hadn’t spent days sitting still
on the front porch of the farmhouse
watching, listening,
getting to know better
and love more
lives on the prairie.
Maybe it’s because
I mostly have other species’
companionship
on the prairie
that I both crave
human companionship
and keep an eye toward nature
when I am visiting friends
in the city.

I doubt we will
go back to our parents’ days
when four families
lived here on a square mile—
at least not willingly.
And I don’t know how to resolve
this tension
between city and country,
friendship with both humans and others.
But I am happy
for every green space
in every city
and the life it supports.
And I am grateful
to know welcoming friends in the city
who stay in touch
with nature,
on which
and with which
all cities
are built.