Thursday, January 15, 2015

Country Mouse Moves to Chicagoland

As the flight attendants prepared for arrival at Chicago O'Hare, I yawned as I pushed up the shade covering my window. There were lights as far as I could see. It was right around midnight. My first Christmas Eve with my fiancĂ© was just moments away. 

The three hour flight from Salt Lake City had been uneventful once we finally took to the air. Now here I was in Chicago, the proverbial country mouse, gathering my belongings, to start a new life in the big city.

The picture above, I posted to my Facebook timeline with these words: "City lights that stretch forever. The girl from Chicago is home."  
Fish Lake, Utah, in the Fall 2014
Who does this? I thought. Who flies away from family at Christmas? Who leaves the only life she's ever known to make a new one without having ever been to the new place? Who strikes up a conversation with a stranger that leads to serious plans for meeting across the country just days after introducing herself? Who, for that matter, agrees to marry that man after only being with him for less than a week?  
Um, that would be me. I'm the woman responsible for this seemingly wild, unpredictable behavior. I'm the one who is living in the moment, following her heart (and her brain and her spirit) to live a life of which she's only dreamed with the man who has captured her heart.

During an earlier conversation, this man we now know as Chuck, had mentioned he lived in a small town. It had already been established he lived near Chicago, so I asked him to "define small."

St. Charles, Illinois

"Oh, I don't know, the population of Saint Charles is right around 30,000," he guessed. He's pretty good with numbers. (33,264, according to the last census. ) "What about where you live? How many people live in Joseph, Utah?" he asked.

"You think you're from a SMALL town?" I laughed incredulously. "There are about 300 people here. JOSEPH is a small town." (A population of 346, if you count my son and me, who moved to town in 2014. And, according to my research, Joseph is 0% urban, 100% rural. That was not news to me.)

Joseph has a hay derrick, a dairy, a canal, and the most spectacular views.
Joseph does not have a library, school, post office, or church.

Joseph is so small, there isn't a church or school in town. We don't even have our own post office. We DO have the Flying U convenience market, which is great when a girl just has to have a Diet Dr. Pepper or a few pieces of penny candy. 

Let's be clear; Joseph is a small town. Saint Charles is a thriving metropolis.

From the first time I saw the glow of Chicago, I felt much like Dorothy must have felt when she landed in Oz. I have said to myself on more than one occasion, "Toto, we're not in Utah any more." It is so different here, which isn't a bad thing, in my book. I guess I was ready for different.

Yes, this country mouse was moving to the big city to begin a new life with her city mouse. I was trading the desert and mountains of rural Utah, for the  urban canyons of Chicago.

In rural Utah, every time we need to "go to town," it takes at least 15 minutes, not because of traffic, but because we live about 13 miles from the nearest town with a Walmart, Richfield. If I want a gourmet coffee or fast food, I go to Richfield. If I want to go shopping in the big city, it's a two hour drive to Provo and about three hours to Salt Lake City. The bookmobile brings books to our small town since we don't have a library.

Here in Saint Charles, anything I need is within 5-10 minutes of home, and I can even walk right into downtown, a mere eight blocks away, and go shopping at darling boutiques, grab a hot coffee, check out a book at the library, and walk around the city parks.

My favorite pastime in Joseph is walking the dirt lanes.

In Utah, neighbors are anyone scattered within a five mile vicinity. In Chicagoland, there are thousands of people in each square mile. There, my photography focused on canyons, wild animals, and farm implements. Here in Illinois, I can shoot urban landscapes, sculptures, and botanical gardens. We occasionally have wildlife in our backyard in Saint Charles: squirrels, raccoons, foxes, and cardinals.

Cardinals? Oh, my heck. (A colloquial saying from Utah only, apparently.) My heart strings are pulled at the sight of those regal red birds. They are the state bird of Illinois, my birthplace, and Virginia, where I grew up. My mom loves cardinals, and she passed that on to me. My first sighting of a cardinal was in the park behind our house. The first time I had my camera available when I saw them, I was able to capture two males having a standoff in our backyard.

Today, I'm meeting a fellow writing friend I met through our Facebook writing group. This will be our first face to face meeting, and I find that very exciting. We're going to Town House Books in Saint Charles. The internet has made this world a much smaller world, and I'm so grateful for these experiences that are mine.

Life here in the city is very exciting to this country mouse. Every day is an adventure, if I want it to be. This is my year of discovery, and I am discovering that I live in a very charming corner of the world. This country mouse may just become a city mouse yet!

Today, January 15, 2017 is the second anniversary of meeting my "fellow writing friend," Susan Trestrail. We share a love of writing, photography, good coffee, and we both count our blessings in marrying wonderful men. 

Happy Friendiversary, Susan! I am so grateful for your friendship and encouragement. Sharing our Cameras and Coffee days is something I look forward to every week. Love you!

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