A Story of a Possible Future
Mountain fever is a probability that one in 11 of us, beards extending past dirty plaid shirt collars, find all too serious a reality. Winter has broken, for now, but these Rocky Mountains don’t understand the meaning of “let up.” Torrential come the downpours and as the peaks above begin to melt, the streams of last fall will surely be the creeks of spring, and likewise with the creeks turning into rivers and the rivers into floods. Oh well, at least there’s a rocking chair uncovered in snow to sit on and enjoy this afternoon.
We came up here almost a year ago today, though to be honest I’m not entirely sure what day it is. We’ve been counting the moons, watching the stars, nearly every night of course, but we didn’t begin that until sometime last summer, so the specifics of the month and certainly the date, elude me. It was a decision that had been made long ago by myself, that I would come to live here, and likely die, far from the civilization that blessed and cursed the most of my life. Away from the computers that kept food on the table, the automobiles and airplanes that showed me around the world, the easy access to alcohol, food and plastic bobbles that kept me drunk, fat and always in need of more money to replace the old. Not that life was hard, mind you, I have been retired since the age of 27, now 52, mostly because I saw work as a way to live and so only put in as many hours as needed to pay for the above mentioned, and partly due to luck and a good woman.
We arrived in the early spring, though, and I can tell from the melting snow, the chirping birds and the buds all over these old trees that spring is indeed here again. I bought a donkey and packed him full with some tools for building, for gardening, for cooking; enough food to last us a month and my fishing gear. And a few bottles of wine and some tobacco. I knew these were two of the things I wanted to get away from, but if I was going to leave society for awhile, for good even, then I would need to ween myself off of it. We also brought some passtimes, such as a deck of cards, my old guitar, and some arts and crafts material. We brought two hens, a rooster, a pair of goat and my dog, Question. It was just the old lady and I. We’ve been silver for years, but she still looks like the heaven and space she always did, even if I’ve grown balder, a bit fatter and wrinkled over time. I believe her eyesight has diminished substantially, as she assures me I still please her fancy, but like I said, she’s a good woman.
It took us a month and a half to build our home, small, sufficient. Some of it made from fallen trees in the area, but mostly packed tight and made from the earth. A stone fireplace houses a cauldron full of soups, sometimes simple soups made from wild vegetables that grow in these woods, but during the harvest made of everything the land was good enough to let us raise. Tomato soups, squash soups, onion and cucumber and zucchini soups. Through this winter that fireplace has been our best friend, and most of the house is used very little while we’re inside, because only a warm fire can keep away this wintery lifestyle. Electricity, natural gas, pumping heat into your home with no effort, this is one of the things we left behind. Having pizza or sushi or Chinese take out whenever the whim struck, these are the things we have left behind.
I go fishing twice a week and typically catch enough trout or whatever else will bite to put some meat on the table most nights. We eat mostly roots, the vegetables we’ve grown in our garden during harvest, and a good deal of nuts and berries. That’s the most hilarious bit of it all, eating like squirrels, but food is now more of an activity than something that needs to be exceptionally extravagant. Fishing, tending to the garden, gathering blackberries and strawberries and walnuts, these are major daily activities. I find myself consumed with things to do, important, fulfilling things, not like when I was much younger and would sit around for hours on end doing nothing and wondering what I should be doing instead.
Building the house was an exercise in patience and bliss. Never had I created anything, short perhaps of my son, that was so perfect upon completion, so worth every chopped trunk, hauled stone and packed dirt, before. It is only two rooms, one to store food, supplies, and tools in, and the other to eat, sleep and live in. A small porch out front with a rocking chair, a bench and a small table, all of which I’d built last fall, after the harvest was over and I didn’t know what else to do with my time.
I make maps of the area, not specific, to scale maps, no, but ones that more or less mark off where one might find the fish plentiful, or where I’ve seen bears, or just where there’s a particular tree I might like to climb up into one day. The wife is constantly creating jewelry or weaving some new blanket, something that you can rarely find yourself with too many of near the middle of winter.
We’re not all that far from civilization, 30 miles or so from a small town which is only another 100 miles from the city. We could go back if we needed to, even if just for a break, or in the case of an emergency. But I can’t see what emergency would take me back now. I’ve found a peacefulness here in these woods that can only be equated to the feeling Atlas would have had were he ever given the chance to set the world down from his shoulders and rest awhile. I enjoyed life, fully, and feel like that part that kept me in cities and towns was nothing short of wonderfully lived. And while I didn’t come here to die, I imagine I still have another two or three decades in me, I am sure that this will be where I go when the time comes.