Friday, June 15, 2012

There's a fable attributed to Aesop that goes something like this:

There once was a country mouse who invited his city mouse cousin to come and share a meal in the country. The city mouse arrived, and scoffed at the meager meal. "Come visit me in the city," said the city mouse, "and I'll show you a feast the likes of which you've never seen." So the two mice left together for the city. Soon, they came to a cozy corner in an alley, filled with all the bounty a mouse could imagine - bits of cheese, bread, fruit, meat, corn - all for their enjoyment. As they sat down to eat, a large cat appeared, sending the mice scurrying for cover. They trembled in their hiding place until the threat was gone, and then slowly came out of hiding. The country mouse left in a hurry, saying, "I'd rather enjoy my meager meal in peace than have plenty and live in fear."

The fable reminds me of a verse in Proverbs, though none of the history-of-the-fable articles referenced it. The verse goes like this: "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." 

As we've recently moved to the city, this country mouse feels very out of her element! I'm trying to learn all of the city-mouse things to do. We already lock our doors as a matter of habit, of course. But there are things like, say, getting one's nails and hair done biweekly, wearing the latest fashions, shopping at the "best" groceries, eating at the trendiest cafes, attending the just-out-this-week movies, running in brand-new sneakers and matching running clothes... things that, in the country, hardly matter. It didn't matter if my nails were painted, so long as they were cut and clean. It didn't matter where my groceries came from, as long as the food was healthy and fit in our budget. It didn't matter, really, what my kitchen tile looked like, as long as it kept the drywall from water damage. It didn't matter that I've always cut my own hair and saved a few dollars a month doing it. It didn't matter that I went exactly the speed limit, because someone was always driving slower. Here, if I'm not 10mph over, I'm "slow." It makes me tremble - both because of the danger and because I know we cannot afford to pay a ticket.

Being "country mice" meant that we had a safe, quiet place to live, where we could be outside without hearing a siren, honking cars, yelling neighbors, barking dogs (well, there were barking dogs, but), smelling cigarette smoke (or worse). It meant more that the lady at the post office knew me by name, even though I was there, at the most, once a month. It meant more that the worst "traffic" we saw was an Amish buggy, that we could travel 8 miles in 10 minutes without hopping on a highway.  It also meant that we had to drive 30 minutes to a decent grocery store, and still had to pay extra for some things we needed. It was 45 minutes to a quality hospital. It meant more gas use, and paying exorbitant prices for internet service that doesn't hold a candle to what we have here in the city. It meant that jobs were scarce, neighbors were far away, and church family hardly knew us. 

We're already beginning to enjoy having a grocery store within five miles of our house, being friendly to our downstairs neighbors, and enjoying the local parks. Hubby gets to play with a local Frisbee team and a flag football team, and that means a safe place and time for me to go running. We have trash pickup service instead of having to lug our garbage to the dump, and it's included in our rent price. We now live closer to some of our family members. We have good medical care within a 10 minute drive, and a CVS just a few blocks south. We will choose to thrive here. 

Regardless of how long we live in the city, I think I will always be a country mouse at heart! The thing that matters most to me is that we're safe, together, and that our basic needs are met. Though I want a gorgeous home and cute clothes and a nice car, those things don't really matter. Better a dry crust with peace than luxury with strife. 

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