The moment I found out I was having another boy, I’ve wanted to live in the forest. The feminist in me hates that statement, but whatever, it’s the truth. Just so my inner girl feels better, you should know that no one loved frogs, daddy long legs and caterpillars as much as I did, even in my frilly little dresses and patent leather shoes. Girls like forests too. Girls can hang in dirt too. I know this. The fact remains, the minute I knew I was having two boys, I thought; dirt, sticks, mud, trees.
I’m from Maine and live in Chicago and yeah, I now have 2 boys. The Mainer in me is appalled by the idea of boys only exploring nature in a City funded park or perfectly curated playground. And though we have a great back yard… for a City, it’s really just the grass equivalent of a cubicle. For all you New Yorkers reading this, my apologies for not appreciating my backyard more. When I step into our yard, I image all the houses behind me looking in and I feel like I should invite my next door neighbors over every time they see us eating dinner on our deck. I’m exposed. Actually, if this were an apartment or building surrounded by other multi unit buildings, I wouldn’t feel exposed at all. I know this because I used to hang out in a bikini on a hammock in this exact scenario but I felt like my neighbors had to count across and count up to figure out where exactly that girl in the hammock lived and the reality of the situation is, no one cares. You are somehow anonymous or at least you feel like it and that’s very freeing. In a single family home neighborhood, it’s all about community, our neighbors are all about block parties and exchanging eggs, herbs and home made cookies. Yes, I live on a wildly friendly block where time stopped and it’s magically 3 blocks from the el train. Okay, so it’s lovely, but I feel so exposed! And… I miss the forest. I’m fine with cookies and pies and block parties but I would like to fade into the distance when I enter my house or hang out in my yard.
I honestly have loved living out the last 11 years of my life in the City. It’s perfect for those in college, or establishing their career, networking, making friends, dating, falling in love etc. Also, living in a such a populated place, you get to fully explore who you are without judgement. I remember when I first moved here, I told someone (maybe my mother) that I felt like I could wear a pink tutu on the train, dye my hair orange and tattoo my face and no one would even give me a second look. I still feel like that. You can grocery shop in stilettos and sweatpants if you feel like it and you likely won’t even run into your neighbor, let alone your friends. I don’t know, I LOVE that. Am I sounding like a hermit? Probably. Maybe I am, but I’m a hermit that loves to host dinner parties and holiday gatherings. So… a social hermit.
Anyway, back to the forest. I think the forest is magic. I love the way moss grows in such a random pattern, I love the fallen trees and the way animals hollow them out, the veining of leaves, the sun filtering through the branches and how the wind seems to make it all dance. I want my boys to build forts (even if temporary), play pirates, play capture the flag, make up their own game, watch an ant hill in action, get dirt deep under their nail beds, get scrapped up and bloody. I want them to know what it smells like when it rains in the forest, when it snows and when the leaves start to dry up and fall. I want them to memorize the bright greens, dark greens and shades of brown. I want them to see the beauty in the silhouettes of the branches in winter.
I think the most passionate, most creative, grounded people I know in the City, grew up in the middle of no where. One in Mississippi, one alongside a lake in Nebraska, one in a forest, one in a open field. Also, my favorite documentaries on chefs always seem to be chefs that live in the middle of nothingness. There is something to it. This world is not as linear as a City block would have you believe (or as white as the suburbs would have believe). There is a lot that a City can offer young growing minds, like incredible museums, free festivals, movies in the park, music in the park, incredible playgrounds, diversity, language courses etc but there’s just something about land that hasn’t been manicured to “perfection” that speaks deeply to me. I want my boys to see the beauty in “as is”, in something that ages, evolves and transforms minute by minute without your permission.
We’ve started suburb shopping, my husband’s priority is being a short walking distance from the metra train (fancier transit to downtown that doesn’t smell like urine) and my priority is… forest and a private backyard. Our realtor nearly rolled her eyes at us. “So you want a high speed train system into downtown Chicago, next to a forest?”
I joked that I wanted to raise “Forest Children” because that sounds funny and my realtor seems easily amused by me. But let’s be honest, I’m totally serious.
I’ll keep you posted. 😉
Love to you,