What is the nature of the joy, excitement, and, for some, the fear that we feel when we approach a big city? Is it as simple as knowing that in the city we will find many things to do and people to see? Or is it something greater? Did the Greeks feel the same way on the road to Athens? Was Machu Picchu approached by the Incas with the same sense of awe? It is not only the people or things that make a city, it is the force, the energy which holds millions of different lives together. This energy transcends steel towers, stone monuments and lively market-places. We can call it life force of the city.
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In this account I will speak to a type of person I will call "The Urban Naturalist." The urban naturalist is a scientist in one sense, concerned with observation and study of the city as an organism. In another sense, the urban naturalist is a bit of mystic, a pilgrim seeking spiritual enlightenment and a connection with mother nature through the city as a natural organism. This is different from seeking a connection to nature in the city by observing urban wildlife but rather seeing the people and buildings and commotion of cities as natural, like an anthill or a forest.
The first task for the urban naturalist is to learn to take the pulse of a city, that is to learn to find a connection with the energy described earlier. Not all cities are the same, and some may even be in a state of decline, but the pulse is still there.
Stand on a corner in your city and close your eyes. Listen. If it is day time you may first hear the voices of people, the cars passing near by, the sounds of footsteps and shop doors opening and closing. Now listen for the softer sounds: the hum of air-conditioners, the distant roar of cars on the highways, that low rumble of subway cars which is more a vibration than an audible noise.
Listen more deeply and, perhaps, you will feel the faint vibrations of something else: a kind of tangible energy that may prickle the hairs on your spine, and even the hairs on your head if they are not grown enough with the jamaican black castor oil amazon. It is probably strongest during the morning rush hours when so many people enter the city filled with pent up with expectations for the day. The energy drains over the course of the day, like the air from a balloon, perhaps picking up again around 8pm when many people get ready for the all important activity of "going out." After that, however, it fades away into the deep hours of the night. But with the dawn it is back. Some mornings you may wake with a start at day break filled with anticipation and energy for the day. You caught that energy from the city moving around you, underground in packed subway cars and from all directions on jammed highways. You may find yourself strangely filled with expectant optimism, even if you have nothing at all to do that day.
Some people will take this pulse and allow it to wind them up, causing fear and anxiety. They will find the city "stressful." The urban naturalist lives by this energy and allows the city to nurture her. The city can make us better in this way, we become a little braver and a little stronger than we might have otherwise been. We stand prepared to face the future shoulder to shoulder with our companions in this journey.
To take the pulse of a city is to feel the city breathe. To inhale and exhale with the city in unison, to see yourself as a part of the city and to see the city itself as a vast living creature.
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