I swear my skin attracts more mosquitoes than a pond on a still day. Considering that I’m leaving soon for the land of everything-can-kill-you, and that mosquitoes are the grim reapers of the animal kingdom, this is probably bad. I currently have 12 bites, and that’s from stopping to stretch for 5 minutes on my run yesterday. It’s a hard life, being so tasty. Despite my suffering, I absolutely love being outside. I was made for clean air and lush, green spaces. There’s this one part on the SRT, about 3.5 miles from my house and a mile or so past boathouse row, where you go under three bridges and come out on the other side to wide open grass and river and geese and trees. Every time I get to this point I feel an incredible lightness. Suddenly I have 20/10 vision – everything is clearer, brighter. My mind expands to fill the space that is no longer crammed with skyscrapers and storefronts. It’s like that feeling when you stretch out on a king sized bed – reaching to all four corners with fingers and toes spread wide. It’s like that, for your brain. I love it. It’s my high, and I crave it. When I run outside, I run to get there – and then I keep going because I want to stay there, easily logging 7-10 miles. When I run inside, I get bored after about 25 minutes and quit. Seriously, I was made to be outside.
Due to my affinity for the outdoors, I never thought I would be a city person. Philadelphia was like my city phase, you know? I always thought that by middle age I would settle down somewhere more rural, where I could surround myself with nature… but then I read this: http://www.good.is/posts/how-better-urban-design-makes-us-healthier-happier-and-sexier, and I was reminded of the things I learned in my Urban Politics class in undergrad, and I started to reconsider where my ideal home would be. If you don’t feel like reading the article, basically: sprawl is bad for the environment and bad for your health. Everything is uglier (think strip malls, parking lots) and more spread out. Instead of walking, biking, or using public transportation, people rely on their cars. This decreases both the amount of exercise that they get, and the amount of interaction they have with their community and the environment. So you’ve got a bunch of lonely, unhealthy people isolated in cars, polluting up the atmosphere, and taking up way more space than they need to. Humans are crowding out and killing off other species, and it’s only going to make things worse for us in the long run.
Cities can be really beautiful if designed well. I love Philadelphia, and honestly with the SRT and the many little city parks, it’s not too hard to get my green fix. Do I miss mountains and fields and forests? Yes, of course! But that’s what vacations are for. The convenience of living in a city is unbeatable. I can ride my bike anywhere I want to go in about 20 minutes or less, and if I don’t feel like biking, I can walk or hop on a bus. I feel like I belong to the city because I’m out there on the streets every day taking part in this weird collective life. Don’t even get me started on culture. I have access to hundreds of creative and diverse restaurants, a bar or dance club for any occasion, the symphony orchestra, the ballet, tons of theaters, museums and galleries, yoga studios, churches, non-profits, pop-up gardens, libraries, meet up groups for every possible hobby, live performances on street corners – it is impossible to not get cultured. There is SO MUCH going on. I think I get outside more here, because I’m doing more. It may not be the same kind of outside that you get on a long hike in North Carolina; in the city it’s a communal outside, it’s our outside.
I used to think that, because I cared about nature, I would never settle down in a city. Now I’m wondering if it should be the other way around…
Obviously the “settle down” point is a long, long ways away, these are just some thoughts to ponder! :) On another note, I just realized that my two favorite running trails have the same initials – the Swamp Rabbit Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail. Two SRT’s. What are the chances?! Maybe I’ll find my third SRT in Mozambique. Fingers crossed!