Genre: Contemporary, Essay (R-Suitable for All)
My Wild City was originally published in a small Canadian publication called My Wild City. Yes, as you’ve probably deduced I wrote it specifically for them. It was later reproduced as a re-print in the Litport Echo.
Some people would say I live a small life. Some would say I live in a small house. Some might even tell me it’s a small house in a small street ,and would you believe that it’s in a small town, not even a city.
A five-minute walk takes me to the main road. Another minute or two and I am in what is laughably called our High Street. On the way, I walk over a bridge that spans the canal. If I were to gaze over the wall, I might even spot a passing boat and, on occasion, a swan might grace the murky waters.
Even this startling white evidence of how much I am between two worlds, the town and the country, cannot distract me from the roar of traffic at my back. It follows me over the hill to the small thoroughfare of shops where it lies trapped in a mingling conglomeration of fumes. Our small High Street quickly chokes.
I cross at the first set of lights, avoiding the people who gather, rushing forward to their long-awaited bus and, without sparing them a glance, head to one of our shops of a well-known department chain. Now, like many stores, it has become a treasure trove of a worthless assembly –- items you know very well that you can live without day-to-day. Not that it is without its uses. If you need a card in a hurry because you have forgotten someone’s birthday, and therefore accept that a cheap tacky one will do, or if you are in need of a needle and thread, require stamps, a quick fix of chocolate, then this is your place.
On the other hand, if, like me, you are in need of pens, paper, it’s sometimes a necessary excursion. It makes the coming home all the more real.
Here in my home I have another story to tell. In this small house, in its small rooms, where I live my small life, I become a different person. I wear a face that the outside world would be privileged to see.
Lately, the birds have been singing…
With a smile on my face, I take my newly purchased pad and pen, my steaming mug of coffee, and with unslippered feet, I open the door to my garden.
I used to moan this area was windy. Now, the breeze blows through my mind, disturbing the cobwebs. I take a deep breath and let it enliven me.
This is my oasis. Here, I can settle. Here with the sun warm on my face.
I have been listening…
To begin with, I take a moment. I study the plants I have planted. I make a mental note of those that have intruded with a will of their own. I breathe in their alternating fresh, clean, and heady scents. I am aware of an ant crawling across the paving stones following a silvery trail of a snail, the spiders in the hedge, and the birds in the trees.
In this oasis, a family of hedgehogs, field mice, foxes, and ubiquitous neighbourhood cats have visited us.
Lately, I have been listening to the birds that sing a lot around here…
A tree dominates this garden. Not in my garden and yet it looms over us. When the tree is shedding its leaves, there have been times we have cursed it. These are meaningless words. I love this tree. I know it, my husband knows it; maybe even the tree knows it, and right now, it is full. The wind moves the branches, tossing the leaves in a wild dance, a rhythm I will never be privileged to know, although I am aware it exists. It rustles with its own music.
I am aware of the tree’s seeming permanence, though I am also aware how fragile existence can be. Lightening could as easily strike it as a disease, or an irate gardener with a chainsaw. It is not even on my land; I cannot protect it.
Lately the birds have been singing, and I have spent my time listening…
I am jealous of the squirrels. We have three. They live in this tree. I spent an hour one afternoon watching their aerobatics, their leaping, tumbling chase-me game. I was overcome with awe and fear in equal measure. When one fell from a branch only to cling deftly to another my heart leapt into my mouth for a moment, and then the laughter bubbled out of me. When they raced to the top, I wanted to race with them. I wanted to be able to share their lack of fear. I wanted to be able to look back, and down, and see my garden as they see it. When they raced to the top, they took a part of me with them.
Some would say it’s a small garden. I just say it’s mine. It’s my oasis. It’s where I come to get away from it all.
I am aware of traffic in the distance, even the occasional passing plane, the rumble of a train, but largely these noises are drowned out by birdsong and the buzz of insects. Mostly my selective heart drowns them out.
The birds sing a lot around here and lately I have been listening to them…
Here, when I take hold of my pen and bend my head to the page, when I begin to create, to write, I hold the universe in the palm of my hand.
© Sharon Maria Bidwell, all rights reserved.