Are You Ready
For The Country?
A place in the country has long been the "American Dream." For some, the dream may be for an acre or two - just enough room for a garden, or a horse, or maybe both. For others, the dream may be for land that extends as far as the eye can see. And to what end? For privacy, peace and quiet, a little bit of elbow room, clean air, billions of stars in the night-time sky, a chance to try one's hand at growing grapes or lavender or olives trees, to have room for dogs, horses, maybe even cattle or goats, or perhaps alpacas or ostriches or some other exotic breed. Whatever the vision may be, you can bet on one thing: there's romance involved, something stirred from deep within the recesses of a collective unconscious that knew and tamed the wild west in an earlier century, one that retains the pioneering spirit, and continues to treasure the expansive riches of the great outdoors and intimate involvement with Mother Earth and with nature.
On the other hand, the vision for a place in the country may simply be one that offers relief from 5:00 o'clock gridlock traffic and tawny smog-filled skies, the never-ending auditory rumble punctuated by siren blasts and honking horns, and the lurking specter of crime, gangs, graffiti and other urban phenomena.
Some people acquire a place in the country as a second home, or a place for retirement. But, beginning in the early 1990s, a remarkable number of urban Americans throughout the U.S. began relocating their primary homes to small towns and rural communities - a trend that continues to this day. This trend coincided with the emergence of the internet age and the “virtual office.” Professionals discovered that they were no longer bound to the urban business setting and the daily commute to a specified work place. They discovered that they could do their work from almost anywhere. The greater flexibility in terms of where a professional business person could live made the advantages of living in small town communities available to numerous young professionals and their families.
The quality of life offered in some of the most desirable and highly sought after small town communities has many advantages which, when considered together, are all about "lifestyle." Today's rural lifestyle profile is dramatically different than it was in the mid twentieth century. In the 1950's, the rural lifestyle profile was one of isolation and lack of sophistication, overshadowed by a lower economic standard and fewer amenities and services. But today, that stereotype has changed dramatically; in fact, it has shifted 180 degrees! Thanks to technology and "global connectivity" small town communities are no longer isolated. And while cost of living may be less in certain rural areas, the wealth per capital in some of the most desirable small town communities is actually higher than in urban areas. Many desirable small town communities are home to sophisticated well-educated people, many of whom are attuned to cutting edge health trends, environmentally conscious practices, and "spiritual" values that focus on self actualization.
Regardless whether the dream of country living is about riding a horse across open space, rounding up cattle, undertaking an agricultural or gardening venture, or simply allowing the beauty and peace and quiet to inspire artistic expression, rural lifestyle comes out of some values that are shared in common. These include the value of having fresh air and clean water, having a direct relationship with the land itself and with nature, taking pleasure in the changing seasons and the natural rhythms, being good stewards of the land, and doing whatever is possible to minimize pollution and negative environmental impacts.
Rural lifestyle also places value on a more relaxed pace with less stress, more time with family and friends, more laughter and play, more fun. Urban life can be all about going somewhere and getting somewhere. The place where one wants to be can often be somewhere out there in the future. Rural lifestyle is about being able to say with all sincerity, "I am exactly where I want to be, right now!"
Rural lifestyle is a mosaic of so many little things: familiar faces in the post office and at the grocery store, wide open spaces variously fenced and cross fenced, sunsets that kiss the world with an orange glow, distant sounds of a rooster crowing, a horse whinnying, a hoot owl at night, conversations centered on the weather or on what the locals are up to, concerns about water tables and brush clearing and mountain lions, worn boots, barbecues, bales of hay, and fresh everything -- fresh eggs, fresh produce, fresh air, a fresh new morning.
Some happens to humans when they simply sit on the earth, or on the back of a horse. Something from deep inside connects and there is an experience of wholeness. There's something extraordinary about the golden sun reflecting in a crystal clear blue sky, its light unfettered by smog and pollution. There's something happy about crisp pungent air that fully oxygenates the lungs. There's something about the smell of rain when it washes across a large expanse of land. There's something about the silent sound of the natural world - utter stillness at mid-day; then a red tailed hawk crying out, piercing the sky, echoing, reverberating, and silence again. Then, the night brings its chorus of frogs and crickets, and stars that seem to sing. There's a special kind of quiet in the country that injects peace right down into the cells, filling them up, leaving one with a sense of being complete and whole and right with the world and with life. It is the experience of being in sync, in rhythm, connected, plugged in to something that's huge, and glorious, and multi-faceted – fully nurturing yet completely unbridled and untamed all at the same time. A depth of caring stirs; one that says life is beautiful and precious and good, that this planet is worthy of being preserved and protected and treated with care and respect.
Some years ago a man moved from greater Los Angeles to the Santa Ynez Valley where we publish Ranch & Country Magazine. He set up a thriving business that provides transportation for horses and quickly became well known throughout the community. When we see him, we ask how he’s getting along and he always gives the same answer, "Just another day in paradise!" His answer pretty much sums up what rural lifestyle is all about. This guy made the move; he was, in every sense of the word, ready for the country!
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