Adam left last night and things quickly quieted down after an incredibly productive weekend. And by productive I mean him moving from one job to the next while I followed behind with cold drinks and steak. Something like that. There is much he’d like to accomplish here and with his time being limited, I can already tell that my role this summer will be divided between helping him with the work, while also encouraging him to slow down and simply relax. During the week I tend to jot down a few things that we could use up here, as they come to mind - a certain tool, rope, a favorite pan - not much, just some things that he’ll bring up when he comes. A few minutes ago I wrote “fly rod” and “canoe” on next weekend’s list. I hope he brings them.
Some questions have come up over the last few weeks as people learn I’m here in the woods (mostly) by myself. Among them: Do you miss your Vitamix? Are there bears? Are you lonely? The short answers are no, yes, and sort of. Because it’s a quiet night and I have a full charge on my computer, I’ll go ahead and write out the long answers, too.
Vitamix. What Vitamix? Don’t get me wrong, I’m likely to throw a bunch of greens and fruit into a blender and call it breakfast as much as the next girl, but having the kind of power needed to run such a machine is not an option or priority right now. As it turns out, I don’t miss it at all. When priorities shift, expectations tend to follow suit. Although, this is all made easier I'm sure, with it being strawberry season. What better way to start the day than a bowl of yogurt with the finest tasting strawberries you’ll have all year? I do need to find a raw milk supply so I can resume yogurt making up here (that is one thing CT has over VT; in CT you can buy raw milk from pastured cows at the grocery store).
While I don't think about the Vitamix much, I do miss regular access to bone broth. At home my usual method is simmering pot to freezer; think I'll pull out the pressure canner so I can have broth up here with greater ease. Its absence is greatly felt.
Bears. Yes, there’s bears. Check out the following text exchange from one night last week. I’m here, Adam in Connecticut. One of us grew up in these woods with bears, the other did not.
We’ve done a ton of hiking and camping through the years all over the northeast and bears are just part of the deal. Especially (in our experience), in the Adirondacks. If you love hiking, and have never hiked in the Adirondacks, get on over there because it is the best hiking around (and you all know I’m smitten with the Green and White Mountains). The Adirondack hiking culture is the strongest we’ve encountered - hostels everywhere, ridiculously well marked trail systems, many sherpa style trails (a luxurious break from the straight up hikes of the Whites), and where else around here can a person bag 46 peaks in such close proximity to one another. The other thing to know about the Adirondacks is that more than anywhere else in the northeast, it feels like there is a bear hanging out behind every next bend in the trail. And the truth is, there might be. I’d say this is purely anecdotal - as I really don’t know if the bear population is higher there compared to other northern sections of this region - but the rangers and various huts promote bear safety more so than any other area we’ve hiked so perhaps there is some real truth to it. Watch out for those bears. And tie up your food.
Am I afraid of bears, here on this land? Not really. I mean, I would prefer not to surprise one, and I’m very aware that we share the same woods (which I actually like knowing), but I’m not fearful as I go about my day. And as for the fella who made himself known that one night, I sure would have liked to catch a glimpse of him through the dense trees, but truth be told, he has about as much interest in befriending me as I do him. Hopefully though, we’ll make good neighbors with respectable boundaries.
On loneliness. This has occupied more headspace than I could have anticipated, and I’m writing about it from a mindset that is not fully formed, so please know I have no idea the direction this will go. Maybe by the end it will be sorted out, as so often is the case with writing. I should also point out that my curiosity with loneliness does not only have to do with my own experience, but how others experience it, too. It seems like there's a lot of loneliness in this crowded world and I'm trying to better understand what is within a healthy range and what tips the scales into the land of too much.
I hadn’t given much thought to loneliness until I was asked, and now I seem to be thinking about it all the time. Hopefully not in an “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” kind of way. That would be awkward for everyone. Loneliness is not something I can recall ever experiencing; I’m fairly independent, not easily bored, and enjoy more solitude than the average person probably does. (For the record, I also enjoy people, and am not a recluse. I just really love quiet.) But here’s the thing - being up here marks the most time I’ve spent apart from Adam and Emily in the history of our family; and before that, since Adam and I have been a couple. And surprise-surprise, it’s a hell of a lot harder than this independent-never bored-solitude loving fool thought that it would be. It’s also really freaking beautiful because how could a dream realized, twenty years in the making, not be? The beauty feels easy and obvious but the way I am missing my people, and feeling lonely (at times) is unexpected. I say unexpected because of course I knew I’d miss them, but the the way in which I miss them individually, is specific, and that surprises me. Without Adam, I do feel lonely; he is my partner and the person who is most interested in hanging out with me and hearing about my day to day minutia, as I am with him. We listen to each other's fleeting thoughts and random ideas with the kind of unbridled enthusiasm that only comes from the one who loves you most. He’s got my back day in and day out, and while I hope he feels the same about me, the reality is he’s the bedrock of this relationship and I’m the untamed flora that keeps sprouting up in unpredictable ways, under less than favorable conditions, and is probably a lot more work than is reasonable. He tells me that’s what he likes about me, but I don’t know, seems kind of exhausting if you ask me. Anyway. He and I, we are in it for life. So the separation feels unnatural and there is something incomplete about our days when absent from one another. The only reason I’m giving this such deep consideration is not simply because I’m away for a few months and how will I (we) manage in that short time, it’s because being here is testing the waters regarding what it would feel like to be here year round with him maintaining his career in CT 3-4 days per week, and coming up here on the remaining days. Which brings me to my next thought: what I feel most strongly, and somehow it ties into the notion of loneliness, is guilt. It bothers me that his work does not have the same geographic freedom as mine, and I’ve attached a level of guilt to this that is illogical, I know, but the source of guilt and logic do not always appear rational. I feel guilty for what I have, as I wish the same freedom for him but know it is not realistic in his field. The guilt adds to the acute awareness of separation which adds to the loneliness. And so it goes. But also, have you ever been to Vermont on a perfect June day? There's nothing like it. The idea of me giving this up would break his heart more than the endurance of our brief separation each week. ("Break his heart" is a little much and not the right term to use there... I'm drawing a blank for something more accurate.)
When it comes to Emily, I don’t feel "lonely" in her absence, but I miss her in a way that can’t be described and is different from how I miss Adam. She is my daughter and I am here for her in a way that does not expect or need reciprocation. Does that make sense? Plus, she is 18 so like it or not we are in the beginning stages of nests emptying and wings flying. But, I probably would have driven back home already if it weren’t for the fact she’s working full time so her days are already occupied. The last thing she needs is me hanging around making meals and doing laundry. Oh wait, that’s probably exactly what she needs. Soon enough, that temporary summer job will wrap up and she’ll be spending more time up here so I’m holding out for that. I’ll also be heading down there to knock a few things off her summer bucket list. Anybody care to meet up at the American Museum of Tort Law or perhaps join us on a trip to Plum Island? What, no? I can’t imagine why not. (Do they even allow people on Plum Island?)
I miss her desperately but not in a way that finds me lonely, and it's also fair practice for what will be our full time reality in a couple of months. I gotta tell you though, so far I'm not a big fan of this reality.
I guess that went pretty far down the rabbit hole, but as suspected, there seems to be some clarity here on the other side. Maybe it's not the feeling of loneliness that I've been thinking about as much as what it takes to not feel lonely. And it seems the absence of loneliness includes connection, understanding, warmth, intimacy, humanity. Miles or no miles, seven days a week or four... I'll do whatever it takes to foster not feeling lonely, both for myself and for him. Bears and Vitamixes come and go, but as already mentioned, he and I are in it for the long haul.
(As for the kiddo, she's stuck with us. I mean, it takes some seriously unconditional parental love to entertain an afternoon at the American Tort Law Museum. Sort of kidding, I'm sure Ralph's museum will be great.)