Remember when your teacher set you a topic for a composition? Here’s one: Which is better, life in the country or life in the city? This topic falls into the category of “compare and contrast”. Some of us preferred “description” which allowed our fevered imaginations to soar (or crash) on topics like “A stormy day”, or “The best Present I ever received”. Narration was good too. “A Day at the Beach” or the venerable “What I did on my summer Vacation”, allowed even the most uninspired student to start at the beginning, go on to the middle where she might linger or bustle along and then with a “concluding” sentence – the end! “Compare and Contrast” is a little trickier It requires observation, description, examples and, perhaps hardest of all for students who learn the hard way that their opinions and those of their elders could be puzzlingly opposed, it demanded a decision. Choose! One or the other, yes or no, thumbs up or down! As youngsters not only did we learn how differently we saw the world from teachers and parents, but that the way we saw it was inevitably branded as the wrong way.
“You brought a doll instead of a water bottle?”
“There is no such thing as a french-fry sandwich.”
“Black nail polish?!”
“What have you done to your hair?”
“You’re not going out dressed like that!”
“You dropped chemistry?! ”
One by one the bell tolled on our brilliant decisions and we learned to be wary of enthusiastically embracing our gut feelings about music, dress, and many other points of interest or taste.
So here I sit, pen in hand (indulge me) forced to declare my preference – city or country. Come on, which is it to be? It is my second full day lake-side in a typical Canadian cottage. Normally I live in a busy city. Which is better, life in the country or life in the city?
Our composition teachers would have tossed their heads in exasperation at the idea of a student questioning the idea of “better”. “What do you mean, mother?” We were so lowly that we had to call the sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame “mother”. The reply to such a question comes echoing over the years. ‘Stop asking questions. Get on with your work.”
But now I am free of their boundaries, their framework, their commands and so I can examine this question as I wish. All the pros and cons have different weight for different people. So, for me, being awakened at 5 am by three deer playing in the shallow shore water of the lake might score a plus of 8 out of 10. For a person who likes to sleep late, this charming “wake-up call” might score a minus 5. Ah, Mother St. Catherine Myriam! Not so simple is it? The simple thing back when the topics were being assigned was that she was obliged to make us write and, with few rare exceptions, we did not want to write. So, the sooner the pen moved over the paper the better – – for her!
I have decided to make a list and let you draw your own conclusions. After all whichever option I prefer, it certainly is not a universal eternal truth. It’s an opinion and I leave you to assign your own weight to each of the factors I list and to make up your own minds. We are not going to define life, city or country for fear of descending into Hegel. Let us accept that Montreal is the city and LacLabelle in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec is the country. So—–
Quiet no cel phone access
Swimming in the lake fear of bears
cottage community no TV
unobstructed sky fear of wild turkey hens with their chicks
seeing wild animals up close stinging insects
sounds of water, birds, wind no access to popular entertainments
stars far from shops
simple lifestyle uncontrolled water and weeds in lake
cable TV,cel, facebook, internet hellish traffic
familiar controlled environmet constant noise
access to friends & family pressure to perform (garden, dress code etc)
access to library library and parking fines
access to popular attractions Guilt about not participating in popular attractions
easy access to medical care neuroses and boredom
close to shops spending too much
in my own house cleaning excessively and mowing the lawn (some do!)
Now, assign your values + to a high of 10 and – to a low of ten and do the math!
City or country – enjoy the summer !