Monotony of Metropolitan Life and the Inherent Fluidity of the Natural

Imagine you live in two houses throughout your life. 

The first house is an old structure overturned by unkempt ivy and lush moss. It sits in the middle of a dense forest with a mountain view of a deep blue lake. You wake up every morning and go through your daily steps that usually lead to you leaving your house to enter the outside realm. And you cross your doorframe and step onto the soft earth underneath, your feet can recognize the feeling but have not memorized it. When you cross the realm the world around you is different every single day. Sometimes the earth below is muddy, sometimes it’s frozen hard. The trees that escort you out are sometimes full of leaves, oftentimes tall, and occasionally fallen. The sky changes colors too. From time to season, darkness to temperature, the nature around you is already dynamic. Your built environment is built by something that can never be the same and never be still. 

The second house is a newly renovated townhouse. The new version of the suburbs, the townhouse you live in, is part of city efforts to make a previously overlooked neighborhood seem hip again. Like in the other house, you wake up every morning and go through your daily steps that usually lead to you leaving your house to enter the outside realm. Yet when you cross that realm; to the outside, your feet are greeted with not just familiarity but memorization. Because the built structure, say concrete or some sort of standardized concrete underneath will not dynamically change and flow in a course of nature. Instead, it remains the same every single day unless nature decides to intervene. Say wood starts to rot or water from the sky creates cracks in the pavement. 

This isn’t an ode to living in nature or off-grid or whatever you want to consider. But this is considering how the monotony of metropolitan life is directly related to the literal built structure that holds our bodies. Beyond the obvious lifestyle differences between living in the middle of a forest or a field and living in a city or the suburbs, an additional realm must be considered. The dynamic constant change of nature means the physical interaction you have with your environment is different every single day. Like nature therefore, your own experience evolves to whatever the physical conditions become. Yet if we live in a sterilized and artificial environment that change cannot occur. Instead, life, therefore, becomes inherently stagnant. 

So when people ask me if I’d rather live in an urban or rural environment, I often feel like I have to explain that my answer goes beyond the usual explanation of aesthetics or overall feeling. No, for me, I feel that if I lived in a built environment that literally could not change as nature changes, that I would become completely dormant in how I live my life. And at least for me, the joy of feeling that I learn and love everyday; that each sunrise is an opportunity to grow like the trees that we hypothetically worship; for that feeling to be gone I would feel completely doomed. I would feel claustrophobic and fitted into boxes that for so long I’ve been running to escape. So for me it isn’t about where I want to live or how much beauty can exist in urban atmospheres, but where I can survive. Where I can grow everyday.

Pictured: The Oxbow Painting by Thomas Cole

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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