Sunday, September 6, 2009

Goodbye, Cool World

Two years, two months, and two days ago, I began this blog on the 162nd anniversary of Thoreau's move to Walden Pond. Today, on the 162nd anniversary of his leaving Walden Pond, it's time for the farewell, but not necessarily final, post. I expect there will be a couple more this month and maybe even an occasional one in the future if something exciting happens and I have convenient computer access.

In a few weeks, I'll be leaving the Superior Lake and all that's associated with it. No more Lake waves or Lake horizon, no Lake fog or Lake effect snow, no more 1000 foot Lakers. No more lovely mid-summer days with highs in the fifties. No more of the sounds of ice grinding and thumping and crashing. No more stretches of several bright glittery days when the temperature never rises above zero.

No more routine bald eagle sightings, no more unconscious knowledge that any walk outside could produce a bear sighting on sidewalk or trail, no more wolf tracks in the snow, no more falcon months filled with days of memorial and independence. No more easy walks to urban wilderness, no more waterfalls or thimbleberries. No more wild. No more room.

A couple days before I leave, no more of the cat I took in as a feral kitten almost five years ago, and without whom I probably would have left long ago. No more having the advantage of his senses to alert me to the darner and the spider just outside the window or the mystery in the wall. No more laughter as I toss balls the length of the hallway from bedroom to living room where he waits to leap three feet in the air and smash them to the ground with a paw, or as he follows my cursor across the computer screen, or his latest joy--taking a nap in the dresser drawer after I get my clothes in the morning. No more seeing him jump down from a window when people approach and then after they pass, standing on his back legs and craning his neck to watch them walk away. No more piteous cries in the kitchen intended to make sure I know he hasn't eaten in weeks at least. No more bundle of warmth curled beneath my arm or stretched between my calves.

This is by far the most painful part of leaving. Knowing I've taken care of him as long as I could doesn't make abandoning him any easier now or in my future memory. Huge thanks to T and W and their cats for taking him in, if not exactly with open paws, at least not with open claws. Instead of a cat, I'll soon usually be living with an OK miniature dachshund and a pit bull I've never met. You can fill a backyard with dogs and not have as much wildness and independence as in one house-cat.

No 24/7 computer/internet which, while extremely inconvenient in many ways, may well be a good thing--I've been very aware of how much less time I've spent doing the activities I enjoyed before I bought this thing. I'll bus or walk a couple miles to use one twice a month to order from my Amazon free books newsletters and occasionally to post the reviews and use email. I expect to spend a lot more time writing, but very little if any time blogging because of the limited computer time. There will be television for the first time in months but I hope to mostly avoid it rather than let it take the computer's place. I'll be doing some housesitting of cats and chickens when my dearest old friend is away, and sharing some hikes and meals when she's not.

I hope to get in a whale watch (reports and photos from recent trips here) before the season ends in late October. I plan on attending the Maple Farm Sanctuary Open House/Picnic for the second time (first time) and hope to become a volunteer there if I can arrange transportation. In the city, I look forward to the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival as well as bookstore browsing, visiting old neighborhoods, eating at longed-for restaurants, and hugging favorite trees I got to know when I lived a couple blocks from the Arboretum.

I've been researching the town where I'll be spending most of my time and though I have no illusions of matching Duluth's natural beauty or solitude, I've found several areas I've never visited ranging from state forest to wetland--it's always fun to explore a new place. Along with a coffeehouse which brings in some big names in the singer-songwriter category, there's also a college with strong dance and theater programs so there will be some entertainment without having to go to the city. And one stop away on the train is an Audubon sanctuary where I might be able to be a volunteer naturalist.

I'm walking away from a lease, credit card debt, and most of my stuff--between my own circumstances and the economy, I don't expect to ever have a serious job or my own apartment again. And I'm mostly fine with that--every moment that I spent at a "real job" or in the mainstream world was a lie, surrounded by people who eagerly destroyed what I valued in the world. For the short term, I'll try to find some part time job to cover minimal expenses while I spend most of my time with my father and grandfather trying to be useful doing the sort of house and yard chores which made me never want to own a house. It's a very unpredictable situation--given that they're in their 80s and 100s respectively, they could die before I even get there or my father might live another twenty years. They're the main reason I'm leaving now. I'd rather stay here enjoying the cat and my home until the last possible moment, even if that meant walking off into the woods during the first good blizzard, but I'm reluctant to have them worry about me being homeless and haven't seen them in a couple years so I'll try to make the best of a less than ideal situation and see what happens.

I obviously agree with many of Thoreau's ideas, but I've never had his skills or self-sufficiency. It has always amazed me that I've lasted as long as I have in the mainstream world. I've been close to the edge several times going back at least as far as almost dropping out of college during my senior year despite my high grades and reputation as a big man on a small campus. This time, I'm going over the edge. There's sometimes a great relief in letting go when you've been hanging on too long, especially when you didn't really want what you were clinging to anyway. This has never been my society--even when things were going smoothly for me personally, I found it difficult to live among people who treat animals and the natural world the way most people do. But although I wasn't interested in being a part of it, I was not able to figure out how to be apart from it. I've always been better at enduring than entrepreneuring, better at going away from a situation than at going toward one. We do what we can with who we are.

Freedom may be just another word for nothing left to lose, but independence is a lot to lose and besides the cat, that's the main thing I'll be giving up for now. I ended that first July 4th post with this sentence: Use your independence wisely; we're all a lot more dependent than we like to acknowledge. I'm not sure how wisely I've used it but I've certainly enjoyed it during the past nine years since I left full time employment and big city life, both by choice and because my wild primate mind and body simply couldn't cope with it anymore, always knowing that I was enjoying a very fortunate but temporary gift to myself.

Now it's on to something new. My expectation is that this next phase will last through the winter, after which I suspect everyone involved will be ready for me to move on but I have no plans for what I'll do next, only possibilities. That way of life doesn't come easy to me, who'd rather schedule spontaneity, but I think it's as it should be--our longing for security probably makes less of all of us; it certainly has made less of me. As for those possibilities, I'd be happy to get certain room and board jobs--anything involving animals or nature would obviously be great. Thirty years ago I had a Yellowstone dish-washing job lined up which I never made it to because of ill-timed illness; maybe I'll try to get that again. I wouldn't be completely surprised to find myself in a tent city, a nonreligious monastery, or walking through your town in the snow, on a blue highway or a railroad track or a Sea Shepherd ship, in a very fine little brown house with three cats in the yard and a creek running behind, or in the park here every day next June watching falcons. I might even transform into an elf or an alien life form. The world is always full of possibilities.

Thanks to all who've been a part of this blog; I've enjoyed your comments and visiting your own sites. If you've enjoyed the book reviews here and would like to keep up on what I'm reading, my user-id at Amazon is jd103. Just search there for one of the books I've reviewed here such as this one, find my review and you'll be able to click on my ID to see all my reviews. See you on the trail.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Greentangle,
I have much enjoyed your place and your thoughts here. Rave on, and Kia kaha - Remain Strong.

Anonymous said...

Your upcoming journey sounds fraught with emotional pros and cons.May the former outweigh the latter.Please don’t forget to drop line here when you can and keep your fans abreast of your adventures---we'll be wishing you the best.

Anonymous said...

(sorry, that's "drop -a- line here...")

Allan Stellar said...

Hey green,

I sort of like the sense of freedom you are stepping into. Hell, most of us are a paycheck or two away from being homeless.

Should your wandering bring you out west, drop me a line. I can promise a place to throw down a sleeping bag, a bowl of rice, a beer and a star filled night of conversation.



greentangle said...

Thanks all; don't know what's coming but I think maybe I'm getting shoved into more the kind of life I always should have been living anyway. I'll share what/when I can. Sounds like a good offer, Allan, I'll keep it in mind if I'm ever out that way.

OK, now that post's out of the way; back to packing and enjoying the last few weeks (for now at least) here.

Anonymous said...


Sonya said...

I'm right there with ya on not belonging to mainstream society. And I'm at a stage now (I just turned 30 in June) where I feel like I desperately need to be doing something more honest and sincere with my life... but I don't know what that is. I've never been able to think of anything I'd be happy doing for 40 hours a week, not even things I love like writing. My sorta plan, now that I have a house with a big gardenable yard, is to do some kind of urban homesteading thing and grow as much of my own food as I can, and then earn income with freelance writing, some non-hateful part-time job, maybe get back into art and start selling my work, maybe grow mushrooms in the basement and sell them at the market, etc., etc. Hopefully I can cobble something together.

I know you know that HDT was not as independent as his reputation--he lived at Walden for two years and then moved back in with his mom. And even when he was at Walden his mom still did his laundry and baked him pies, etc. You are absolutely right when you say we're all a lot more dependent than we care to admit.

I hope you enjoy the journey and find someplace where you feel you belong. There's a lot of possibilities in the world, and there is definitely joy to be found in having the freedom to explore some of them. I'll keep an eye on Duluth while you're gone.

(I also hope you get to live with cats again. I'd miss mine more than anything if I had to leave them; the only time in my life I've been without cats is in the dorms in college.)

greentangle said...

Sonya, your sorta plan sounds like a way of living that I would be very content with, and I think growing food is a wise move. I hope the plan or some other good option works out for you because having to do work you dislike or don't care about seems to become more intolerable with least in my experience.

There are actually quite a few things that I'd be happy to do for more than 40 hours a week, but in this society they tend to be things you have to do as a volunteer rather than for pay. And I've made plenty of choices which haven't made things easier for myself--I don't want to seem a whiny it's all society's fault person.

As for cats, one of the things I'm most looking forward to is spending some time with my friend's three cats. As a cat person, I expect you'll understand why I think they will help me through a difficult time.

Best of luck to you.