Living the Dream

“What do you miss most about Chicago?”

David asked me this question as we worked together building benches to place around the grounds at the ranch.  Friends and family, of course, popped into my mind but he wasn’t asking about people.  He was asking about the city. 

“Not much comes to mind.”  I said.  But I continued to think about it and came up with a few things:

·         My writing group.   There is something magical about writing with an intimate group of people that is motivating, inspiring and freeing.

·         My granny cart.  I walked everywhere in Chicago.  My feet were my primary mode of transportation.  Grabbing my granny cart on Saturday for a morning of shopping along Roosevelt Road was immensely enjoyable.  Here at the ranch I walk everywhere and I hike quite a bit but I have to drive to get to the store.  In the city there was something about the destination, the purpose of getting my exercise and groceries too that seemed so efficient and so green.

·         The little Italian café on the corner of Roosevelt and Halsted and the best tuna salad in the world.  But I guess I must not miss it too much since I can’t remember the name of the place!

·         The health club and my daily early morning work outs.  When I walked into the club in the mornings I had so many options.   Some days I would lift, others I would do cardio, sometimes I would swim, the choices were endless.

A short list but these are things that I don’t have here.  I live in such a remote area that it is an absolute must to keep a list of things to do or pick up when I take my weekly ride to town.   If I get home and realize I forgot to buy eggs, I go without eggs for a week.   I could drive back to town but that takes a minimum of two and a half hours round trip, not to mention the expense of gas.  The idea of forming my own writing group is circling in my mind.    I recently discovered a little center in Catalina called New Moon Haven.   I might approach them with the idea and see if that goes anywhere.  I have tried to recreate the tuna salad but it’s not quite the same.  The closest health club I have found is a tiny little family run gym in Oracle which is an hour away.  I mentioned all these things to David, not to complain, but to answer his question. 

“There is not much I can do about those things but I do have a bowflex that I don’t use.   I’ll bring it out for you.”  He said.  “We’ll have to figure out where to put it though.”

We talked and decided that it would work well in the screened-in room.  Now I will b e able to get in some weight training a few days a week while listening to the songbirds and watching the sun rise.

After David left at the end of the day, I kept thinking about his question and wondering why I didn’t miss more things about Chicago.    It bothered me, actually.   After living in Chicago my entire life to this point, I should miss more things.  Sports came to mind.  A life-long White Sox fan, a diehard Blackhawk fan, Bears and Bulls—I enjoyed going to all the games, even the Cubs.  I’ve worn my Sox cap when hiking a few times but that has been the extent of my fandom since coming here.   It doesn’t feel important anymore. 

I was a regular at the Chicago museums and tourist attractions, in particular the Art Institute.  I could spend hours diving into the depths of a Monet water lily, lose myself in the Egyptian hall of the Field Museum and stroll through the zoo every chance I had.   Now, living in the wilderness, gazing at a piece of artwork cannot compare to the beauty that surrounds me every day.  Big horn sheep and great blue herons are my neighbors, golden finches and fiery tanagers serenade me and tiny lizards make me smile.  Wading through the creek, tadpoles and mosquito fish skitter around my feet. 

And there it is.  For fifty six years, living in Chicago, I was a tourist.  I was a spectator.  I did things, to be sure, but it seemed always on the sidelines of life.   Watching other people, listening to conversations, I always felt on the periphery of things.  Instead of living my own life, I was in the peanut gallery, clapping when the Applause sign lit up, laughing and crying on cue.  How many times did I participate in The Wave at sporting events? Never once did I initiate it. One of the herd, one of the flock, an obedient sheep doing the bidding of others, that was me.

Moving to Arizona, working on the ranch, is now my life.  It has always been my life, only I didn’t know it until now.  Each day I rise and tend to my responsibilities and yet my time is my own.  I choose what I will do each day and whatever I choose is good.  I produce with tangible results.  The garden is blossoming under my care; I created several meditation areas on the grounds and built benches for each.  It is gratifying to see someone sit on a bench in deep reflection.  I tend the animals with joy and they respond with love.  I welcome the guests, ensure their needs are met and they respond with thanks.  Neighbors tell me they see a difference in the ranch, an improvement and it is good. I am focused on what is good for the earth, keeping the sky blue and the water pure. And I write.  I no longer feel like a spectator.  I have stepped out of the peanut gallery and taken center stage.  The things I do may be small but I now realize that the smallest pebble still creates a ripple. 

And so as I look back at my list, I know that my hesitation to respond was rooted in my understanding that those things that seemed to matter in my old life are superficial.   Chicago life was real but my life now in Arizona is a dream.  And living the dream is what truly matters.




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