Learning to Hear the Countryside
By Anne Sheehy
I’ve lived in cities (or, more accurately, suburbia) for the vast majority of my life. When I wasn’t living in a “bustling” suburb, I was living in downtown Ottawa with two roommates. Social, noisy, car-filled life is what I am used to. That’s why, when I moved to Cardiff, Wales to be with my now-husband, I was unsure about our living situation – he had a house on the edge of the city, near rolling farmland and windy country lanes. I was moving directly from the Ottawa city centre, and I was anxious about what living in this quiet little house would mean for me. At first, it was challenging. Making new friends meant long bus rides into the city, and long bus rides back. Going to the movies was a full day event if I was going on my own, and last minute meetups downtown were out of the question. I asked my husband if we could move somewhere - anywhere - in Cardiff that had more...well...life. Stuff. Noise. It was something I thought a lot about. That is, until, COVID-19 hit. When we were told that we could leave our homes for emergencies and one daily form of exercise, everything changed. Gone were my solo trips into town on a Sunday for something to do, gone were afternoon teas by Cardiff Castle with friends. My favourite little pizza restaurant shut its doors indefinitely and our favourite tea room pulled down the shutters. I hadn’t (and still don’t have) a clue as to when I could go back to see my family in Canada. I felt frozen, stuck indefinitely in my house, an ocean away from so many people I love.
What then presented itself to us was an opportunity to discover the world lurking just beyond our doorstep. Instead of the Madeira ultramarathon that my husband had planned to do in May, he started discovering new trails to run in the countryside near our home. Instead of bus trips into the city, I spent hours reading in our back garden (or out front, wherever the sun hit best). The quietness that had bothered me so much initially actually became my solace, my peace, my “new normal”. Hearing about people living in city centres with no greenspace around no longer sounded as appealing. I realized how fortunate we were to have a home so close to nature. It’s a privilege; not a burden. I realized that my neighbourhood is FULL of “life”, of the “stuff” and “noise” that I thought I was missing; they just looked a bit different than I was expecting. The “stuff” is fields, creeks, forests, and trails, and the noise is birds, breeze, and children whizzing by on their scooters and bicycles. It’s a bustling landscape of its own, and I've only just learned how to hear it.
Blogs are written by ELB members who want to share their stories about Ontario's biodiversity.