I've always had this vision of spending a year like Thoreau, and live very simply off in the woods somewhere. "...I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what they had to teach..." I wished to leave most material things and distractions behind, to live more honestly, and be completely present. To confront any delusions I may have about myself, and to find out who I was and what was most important.
There was a man, Dick Proenneke, who went into the Alaskan wilderness the year I was born to live such a life. He built his own log cabin, intending to live off the land for a year.
"I suppose I was here because it was something I had to do. Not just dream about it, but do it. I suppose I was also here to test myself. Not that I had never done it before, but this time it was to be a more thorough and lasting examination. What was I capable of that I didn't know yet."He filmed himself to pass along to relatives what he was doing and how his life in the woods turned out. His recordings were released as a show called "Alone in the Wilderness", and I have seen it a number of times on PBS. Pieces of it can be found on YouTube.
But of course this sort of life is easier in fantasy - I am not sure I am prepared to really live off the land. One of the other things I have found this year, is that I really need to have time with friends and family, and more social interaction in general.
I have always been a bit of an introvert and I still need to be drawn out from time to time. When I worked in restaurants, that atmosphere helped to bring me out of my shell, but the jobs I have had over the last 10 years had much less social interaction. I became increasingly withdrawn for several reasons, and pulling back into my own shell was one of the major strains on our marriage. I think the dream of being off alone for a year was one I could have enjoyed earlier in life, but I think that I need something different right now.
Another recurring thought has been to take off on a long bike ride, maybe across the United States. I have dreamed about this sort of trip for years, first on a motorcycle but more recently on a bicycle. Carrying only what I could load on my bike or tow behind me, it would be another trip toward minimalism and away from distraction. This sort of trip would also have the physical challenge that has been important to me for the past few years. I would also get a chance to see the country and meet new people if I did it with a group.
But the reality is I couldn't afford that sort of trip this year. I didn't have the financial ability and I also didn't have the time, as I had to fix up and sell the house among other things. I also think I wasn't mentally ready to take advantage of such a trip last year. It would have seemed more running than reflecting.
What I have been able to do is to get away for brief periods to see friends, and this has been the best thing for me right now. First I went to see Bill and Veronica in Arizona, then the quick weekend in Vegas with Sean and Marci, and now this great week in San Diego with Matt and Holly. I have always found this time away with friends restorative, and these past two months have been a wonderful tonic for my soul. And just the break in routine allows you to return home with a new perspective. To come home with a fresh set of eyes to see through all the clutter, to what lies at the heart of your life.
I will be heading home tomorrow, and I am in a better state of mind these days. I have a feeling whatever work I will find this year will be short-term contract work, so I may be able to get away to another place of friendship, solitude and reflection I seek.