Where I Live, and What I Live For

Thoreau went to the woods because he “wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I went to the woods because nobody told me the cabin did not have electricity, and I honestly thought I would die before I’d lived.

As I crouched in my tiny box of a New York City apartment one night, my friend Julie painted an idyllic picture of me sitting in a rocker on the big front porch of a cabin cuddled in the warm Virginia woods, with nothing to do but gain new zest for and purpose in life.

I fell for it all and discovered too late that “rustic” does not always mean “charming.” In fact, “rustic” means “no Americanos or hot baths or outlets or email or texting or toilets for you for five days.” I made a feeble attempt to conceal my anxiety until my friends told me people’s typical reactions — either mockery or naked incredulity — to the news that I would brave the wilderness. (Why? Just because I can’t pull off the messy look?)

Despite the mockery of all of you, however, I survived. In fact as one friend noted, I became a man — at least in the sense that I forwent hygiene for four days and learned to chop wood. I uncovered a crankily competitive hiking streak and adapted my speedy, New-York-tourist-dodging walking skills for an off-trail nature hike. I toasted marshmallows over a wood stove, slept on a flimsy mattress, ingested bacon grease, admitted that the outhouse was nice as an outhouse goes, and only complained like, maybe twice.

I also bought some espresso at the first gas station claiming to sell it on the way out of the wilderness and nearly cried for joy to wash my hair again. And no, I really wasn’t sad to see Manhattan.

You see, I returned to the city to fill the essential needs of life — high-speed wireless Internet and reliable cell phone coverage. I write this from a sunny coffee shop in Brooklyn next to a truly charming, sort-of-rustic, fireplace. I smell like Burberry London instead of sweat and smoke. I hiked through Prospect Park yesterday, bypassed a sign marked “Nature Trail” and took solace in the fact that should I ever want to unleash my inner mountain man again, nature is a subway stop away.

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~ by stultiloquence on March 26, 2008.

9 Responses to “Where I Live, and What I Live For”

  1. There is nothing like the feeling of wearing a flannel shirt that smells of smoke.

  2. Your words never fail to entertain me. I wish I could live your life. Except for the being-a-girl part. That’s way too hard.

  3. You did well.

    But honestly, I’m wondering how things would have been had you not been fortified by the dismal expectations of the incredulous and amused.

  4. I too, prefer city jungles and sidewalk trails. No shame in that. But sometimes it is nice to camp for about 2 days.

  5. I won’t lie… The first words out of my mouth were “Why is she going?” But I am really proud of you.
    I’m going camping soon, too. I might be the only girl and have to sleep in a bona fide tent all by myself. we are talking hardcore camping, to the point that there could be BEARS. pray for me. I can do the canoeing thing. But the smokey tent-alone sleeping food-cooking? I don’t know.

  6. Spider Jerusalem esque, I must say.

    I doubt you’d care at all for spider jerusalem, mind you, but this does remind me alot of the build up to transmetropolis.

  7. Smelling like campfire is almost as good as smelling like sweat, my friend tells me, especially if you have a lot of facial hair.

    Thoreau drowned himself in tediousness, so he couldn’t live deliberately. He was dull. Then he stopped doing that and became civil disobedience hero which was a lot more interesting, but not enough to make me really want to pay attention.

    It’s good you didn’t die. “No toilets for five days”? Does that mean you’ve never had to find a bush before? My.

  8. This is very Carrie Bradshaw-esque, and I mean that as a compliment. I had my doubts, but I know also that you have an inner reserve of strength.

  9. Yeah! There was that SATC episode where Aidan forced Carrie to come to his gross cabin in the wilderness and Samantha milked a cow!

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