I sometimes wonder about the appeal of the country.
Or rather, let me differentiate: I love being out in nature, in forests, on beaches, places where there isn’t as much evidence of man made alterations. It’s proven that “forest bathing” can actually help with stress. That, I get the appeal of: it’s why I camp. There is a state of mind that comes from the combination of a total lack of distractions, combined with the absorption of the ecosystem around oneself, that can be transcendent.
Still, I can forest bathe within the NYC city limits, anywhere from Brooklyn to Inwood. I’m more talking about the country, the concept of country houses, which were not a thing on the West Coast – or at least, not so much as I noticed. There is an ideal here of having a city apartment and a country house, a dream of multiple residences, that is new to me. And despite the fact that a country home is conducive neither to my preferred state of city living, nor to my other preferred state of being one with the forest, I am puzzled by why this is suddenly something with appeal.
I suspect this has to do with the place of Walden Pond in American mentality. There is an ideal that, if one could only get to one’s own Walden Pond, a country house, away from the city, one would be able to think. There’s a sense that a country house is required as a place to be while working on one’s art or craft, that being out of the city will free up enough mental bandwidth to be creative.
At least, that’s the appeal it has for me, the idea that if I could just physically distance myself from distractions, while being in an environment with fewer man made stimulus, my brain would automatically channel the extra energy into brilliance. That’s why I occasionally look at a getaway house, one of the adorable tiny houses outside of NYC. The owners of that business are genuises – they have prevailed on a trendy desire for minimalism, rolled it up with the echoes of Thoreau, and created a company based purely on overpayment for tiny forest cottages that don’t even have the amenities of an AirBNB. (I saw them on Shark Tank once – solid business model, if one with limited growth)
So really, what is the appeal of the country? Is it the space available in a non-NYC home for stuff? Is it the ideal originally made popular by Thoreau in America? Is it the proximity to the forest and to nature? What is it that gets city people out of their city homes, for which they have almost definitely paid a great deal in both money and energy, and into places so far away they can’t even be called exurbs? And why do I think it’s something I “need” to do as well?