Daily Prompt: We Built This City

Daily Prompt: We Built This City (only, not really)

Last fall’s dried leaves crunch under my feet. They are still orange, though dull now from the months of laying atop the rocks on these well-traveled trails. My legs carry me forward, leaving behind the city with its scurrying cars, flashing signs blinking from the ground up into the sky and piles of trash blowing across the streets.

In the distance a dog barks, the sound echoing against the brick church down the road and soaring up the mountain side. I climb up and up, the sounds of city life dying away and making room for the quiet chirp of birds and the rustle of squirrels hopping from tree to tree, unseen in the foliage. This, these moments in nature, when I can look through the trees and down at the city but escape the bustle that comes with it, are why I love living here. I love that the trails are seven minutes of walking down backroads from my apartment, that I can go from mountain to mountain and even find trails with no other hikers wandering them. I love that it isn’t below zero with blowing snow in the winter. I love those perfect days, when the sun comes out and the sky is blue, blue, blue from the top of the world to the horizon. These things I love.

In the city, I love the variety of coffee consumption options, the random paths and narrow alleyways winding between old houses. I love the parks that pop up every few streets, full of ajamas (grandmothers) walking in groups. I love Shinae, downtown, with its markets, even though they smell of raw fish and slightly rotting vegetables. I love the maze of streets that meander through the shops with their kimchi tubs and pigs’ head, their spice piles and sacks of rice. I love that the way the sea crashes into the feet of the mountains  and the way the mountains divide the city into self-sustaining neighborhoods so that it never feels like I am living surrounded by 300,000 other people. I like that I can trick myself into believing I’m living in a small town.

But, at heart I know I am not in a small town and that in truth, I am a small-town girl. I will never understand the way traffic flows or why the wide streets are all one-way but the narrow streets are two-way with parking on both sides so that people are constantly blocking each others’ way. I will never understand why there are no dumpsters and instead trash is piled under street lights, along alleyways or against buildings, with the intention of being picked up but having half of it blow away. I will never get used to people walking down the street with their faces buried in their phones so deeply that they collide with you and never say ‘excuse me’; or the way people take a million-and-one selfies in ten minutes of sitting at the coffee shop; or how they are constantly touching up or re-working their looks in public. These things I will not miss when I return to my home on the plains.

The mountains here have stolen a little piece of my heart, this is true. But, the ocean below them and the sky above can never replace the sea of prairie grass or the wide, clear sky of Wyoming, with the jagged Rocky Mountain horizon I call home.

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