Saturday, August 29, 2009

Park Your Butt

Most of the time, I love living in the city. I have access to the things, people and places that I feel I need to survive: friends, gluten-free cookies, used CD shops, concerts, coffee shops, pay phones, pharmacies that stay open until midnight, and the library. Even though I owe a ton of money to the libraries (yeah, with an s: I am notorious for owing cash to each of the four libraries I belong to), it still gives me a warm glow to know I can access damn near everything.

On the other hand, sometimes I get to wishing I had access to a more natural space. I love the urban amenities, but Toronto isn't renowned forbeing overly nature-ish. Even though allegedly it's the "city within a park," it's surprisingly difficult to get at the green spaces. Sure, the Humber Valley is sort of there, as is the Don Valley trail, but they're both kind of ho-hum in really creating a natural setting for urbanites to explore. I mean, for Pete's sake, the DVP runs right through the Don Valley. It might be a haven for cyclists, but the only river that flows through the Don Valley is one made up of Mazdas and Mack trucks.

I admire cities that have really exerted themselves in creating or maintaining natural spaces. New York City's Central Park is the most obvious example, even though it's more park than forest or nature reserve. Savannah (go Sandgnats!) has this remarkable archipelago-style park system that greens up the city real nice, even as they're all hemmed in by buildings.

Toronto, when viewed from above, is desperate for the green. High Park might be considered "downtown" if you live in, like, Rexdale (go Streethawks!), but it's pretty far West for a lot of folks. Besides, even if there was a 100-acre wood right across the street from me, it might not be enough. I'm getting a hankering for the big vista. I am not really a nature girl, but I love the idea of the natural world. I love watching the water, and having to fight through an escarpment of condos to get to the lake ain't my idea of a great time.

Giving up the great views for bonuses like all-night shawarma joints is just one of the trade-offs you get for choosing to live in a big city. Urban living, while not rife natural spaces, allows me to live a uniquely eco-friendly lifestyle: I don't drive, I bike, I can shop at Ontario farmer's markets, I can buy second-hand clothes, I can curb-score my cookware, and I can live with lots of other people. Living in the country, with all those great views, wouldn't let me do any of those things.

I'll eventually spend time away from Toronto (go, grad school!), and when I do, I'd like to have sought out some different landscapes. Canada is just chock-a-block with different geographies, and a summer on the Praries or a winter in Southern BC might be a great cure for the skyscraper blues.

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