City Mouse or Country Mouse by Karen Shughart

Are you a city mouse or a country mouse? Does the thought of rural life make you yawn? Or does the idea of living in a city send electric shocks of anxiety through you?

I grew up in Pittsburgh. I enjoyed concerts performed by the symphony orchestra and boarded a streetcar with my mother for shopping excursions and lunch at downtown department stores. Our family went to the zoo, visited museums, and in the summer enjoyed the rides and games at big, regional amusement park. A branch of the Carnegie Library was within walking distance to our home.  I remember attending a live performance of what was the forerunner to the Mr. Rogers TV show. I loved the energy of the city, the hustle and bustle, the diversity of people and activities.

One set of grandparents lived in a small, rural town in Ohio. From their front porch you could see the Ohio River, and there were meadows and fields at the end of their road. We weren’t allowed to swim in that river, but I do remember hikes and picnics in sun-kissed fields, crowded with delicate Queen’s Anne Lace, purple thistles, and sunflowers. You could hear the train whistle and wave to the conductor from their backyard. I loved those visits, too.

 My children grew up in a mid-sized town in central Pennsylvania: safe, secure and with plenty of space to roam around, but we lived within proximity to major metropolitan areas. We exposed them to museums, concerts, historic sites, and a variety of restaurants that served food unlike the types available in our town. Those experiences impressed them, and as adults they have chosen to live where gridlock traffic is juxtaposed with economic and cultural opportunities.

There’s energy in a city that you don’t find in a rural setting. Where you can walk or hail a cab or call Uber to get just about anywhere in minutes. Where GrubHub is takeout. When visiting our children, I sometimes long for that lifestyle. But then, after a few days, I yearn for the solitude of the place we call home.

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We retired and moved from central Pennsylvania to a bucolic village in the Finger Lakes region of New York on the south shore of Lake Ontario, not too far from several large cities and on the other side, Canada. It’s a big lake, with beautiful beaches and waves that look and sound like the ocean.

Quiet three seasons, in summer restaurants, shops, and museums fill with visitors, and outdoor activities abound. Cars line our street for Sunday concerts in the park, and our July 4th celebration attracts crowds from miles away. You wait in line at farm stands and for tastings at wineries. It’s exhilarating and enervating at the same time. I hold my breath, not fully exhaling until September.

So, what am I? I’d say I’m a country mouse who likes best to feast on the grains of quiet and solitude but occasionally ventures into a city to forage for more exotic fare. What about you?

5 thoughts on “City Mouse or Country Mouse by Karen Shughart

  1. I completely agree. As I get older, I really appreciate the time spent in nature without the hustle and bustle of the city. Since we split our time between a city and the country, I can completely relate to your post.


  2. You brought out the conflict for a lot of us–both environments have a lot to offer, but being able to combine them truly enhances life. I grew up in a small town, and my parents loved hiking, camping, etc. in the summer and concerts and theater in the winter. I know Boston as well as my home town, and think of them both in the same way. Fun post.

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  3. I started out as a country mouse on a wheat farm in southern Alberta, with no close neighbors, migrated to Calgary during high school, then Seattle for university. I loved the city at that time of my life and worked there until I retired. Now my husband and I live on tiny San Juan Island, and I love the quiet, the clean, fresh air, and my neighborhood. But it’s great to be able to slip down to Seattle for the symphony, the art museum, and girlfriend dinners.


  4. Wow! You have lived in a number of different places. I know Cambridge very well, it’s a charming town, and I have been to Norfolk. I agree- at a certain time of life, living in a more rural setting seems to be preferable to living in a large metro area,- but like you I wouldn’t have liked it when younger.


  5. I’ve been both too. Grew up in Los Angeles, have lived in tiny Cambridge MD, Norfolk VA, Oxnard CA when it was a mid-sized military and beach town, and now live in a tiny town in the foothills of the Sequoia. I’m happy with the rural life–probably wouldn’t have been when I was younger.


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