I love summer. I particularly love summer nights, those few weeks during the year when we get truly hot weather and it’s actually warm enough to sit out on your step in the evening in shorts and a T-shirt.
This past weekend I spent a few days staying in a house right by the sea, out in Coley’s Point, about an hour from St. John’s. It’s a 143-year-old house built by my great-great grandfather, and owned today by my aunt. It sits right a narrow road from the beach, so you can see and hear the ocean from almost anywhere in the house. You can lie in bed and fall asleep to the sound of the sea against the beach rocks, and wake in the morning to the same sound.
You can sit on the front step in the dark and enjoy the darkness and silence of night in a tiny village with only the sea for company. Every night I was there I sat on the step and looked out at the sea, just watching and listening, soothed by the absolute peace of that place.
Then I came home.
People who know me “from away” and don’t know the place I live, know that I live in a seaside city and they hear the picturesque name of the street I live on, and I think they imagine that the view from my front step is something like the view from the front step of the Coley’s Point house.
In fact, the view outside my house is about as urban as St. John’s gets. I live on one of the busiest streets in the centre of the city, between a gas station and a Shopper’s Drug Mart, with a chicken take-out just up the road. I’m a ten minute walk from the university, the hospital, and two major public-housing areas. While my neighbourhood is, OK, not New York or even Toronto, it’s definitely urban.
From my front step on a summer night, I cannot see the sea, or hear it, although the harbour is about a twenty-minute walk downtown. I can see cars passing, people walking dogs, kids riding bikes, police cars or firetrucks speeding past with sirens blaring, young couples screaming at each other as young love falls tragically apart …
My guilty little secret is that even though I love sitting on the step at Coley’s Point staring at the sea, and even though every enlightened and spiritually developed human being is supposed to love nature and draw inner strength and sustenance from it, I actually love summer nights in the city just as much if not more. I don’t think I could live year-round in some peaceful, remote place where I was in touch with nature and one with the universe — or even in the suburbs for that matter. Like I said, it’s not NYC, but I love my centre-city neighbourhood. I love the view from my front porch on warm nights when humanity in all its dirty diversity passes by. I love sleeping with the windows open in my bedroom that faces the street and being lulled to sleep, not by the rush of waves, but by the occasional ambulence siren and the one-sided yells of the drunk gal arguing with someone on her cellphone. A city street on a summer night is rich and messy and vibrant and alive … all the things I love.
Apart from the general societal belief that Nature Is Good and all good humans should prefer it over crowded and polluted cities, I have this added layer of Adventist guilt about how much I love urban life. I learned early on that cities were Bad Places full of Evil, and that really good Adventists, according to Ellen White, should live in the country and enter the city only on short-term mission trips, returning to the country as quickly and as often as possibly for healing and spiritual nourishment.
Well, whatever. God help me, I love my city, and cities in general, and I think if God so loved the world He must love the parts where so many of His creatures are squat together in a few square blogs of asphalt. And I love sitting on my front step on warm summer nights and watching the world, or at least Rabbittown, go by. So, I will leave you with this song, and if you don’t agree with the sentiment, at least you can enjoy the sideburns.