Relaxation

I probably won’t be able to note on Facebook that I’ve written this, because despite years of promises to the contrary, the phone company or whoever is in charge of these things has yet to bring high-speed internet out to my Nana & Papaw’s place in West Virginia to replace the dial-up that they’re still using ten years after the rest of the world switched.

I spent 2½ days in the woods in Maine, in Camden Hills State Park on top of a big rock outcropping near a winding up-and-down trail. One of those days I sat there in the thick carpet of fallen oak leaves and just meditated on how nice it was to be in the woods with birds chirping incomprehensibly around me. But what I did more was I went on walks. All barefoot, of course, and as I walked I constantly looked out for edible plants. I found a fair few, too—bunchberries, blueberries, raspberries, milkweed, white lettuce, Solomon’s plume, old acorns. Trouble was, I was such a temporary visitor that I arrived out of the season of most of them. The bunchberries were barely more thatn swollen flower buds, and the blueberry flowers must’ve only just dropped off; the raspberries were still in flower. The white lettuce, meanwhile, had mostly already gotten too old and bitter. Last fall’s acorns obviously did me no good. I did enjoy the one Solomon’s plume root I dug up, and I was set to boil some milkweed stems too, but then I ran out of time. I read a book while I was there, called A Small Farm in Maine, and though I got annoyed by some of it, I’m glad I persevered to the end, because the author came to a conclusion that I was coming to too: that familiarity with plants really only comes from years of living with them and getting to know them through the seasons. As such a temporary visitor in these woods I couldn’t hope to learn anything about how to use its plants in a serious way; all I could maybe get would be a cursory survey of some of the plants that grow there that I could maybe build relationships with later on. So, put “learning edible plants” on the long list of things I can’t do ideally until I settle down.

You may have detected a certain wistfulness about me in the past few weeks, for when I eventually do settle down. As much as I love getting around and seeing new things, I do wish I knew where I’m going to end up, and I’m really looking forward to calling someplace home. I just don’t want to make the wrong choice. Of course, I could make myself happy in a lot of places, but which one would be the best? Why settle for something that isn’t? That’s the question that keeps driving me on. And I am getting closer, bit by bit. Maine impressed me a lot. It has a strong independent bent to it, with farmers all over the place providing Maine produce for Maine residents, who buy the stuff because they like Maine and because it’s good stuff. A woman working at a coffee shop in Portland gave me a lot of perspective on this, and explained that for a long time Maine was basically an island, or the Wild West, and had to develop that spirit, or I suppose become a depopulated ghost state. At the same time, there’s also a lot of youthful energy and a drive to keep things going, not modernize away all the good traditions. I met a goat farmer who’s just 31, and thrilled about her work—she says that after working a few other jobs, now that she’s had this one land in her lap, she finds that she can finally feel good saying what she does: “I’m a farmer!”

While I was in Wisconsin at that campsite with the wild food trail, I met a couple who had also come up for the trail; she was permaculture design certified, and he thought the issue was interesting but, I think, was less invested in it and kind of just followed along with her. At any rate, though, he was the one who had the insight that I thought was most salient: that permaculture and local farm sorts of things are the building blocks of the new society that needs to emerge, but they can’t function as those building blocks yet, because it’s only the haves who are starting these, just to prove that they can, and the movement won’t start building its own momentum until the have-nots start doing permaculture because it’s a practical way to stay afloat nutritionally and financially in the real world. Well, the goat farmer I met says she and her peers are headed back to the land not just because it’s a good thing to do philosophically, but also because “we’re just too damn poor.” Got a little land? Turn it into something besides a property-tax suck. With those words she made Maine look even better to me. Though it’s entirely possible that people in Wisconsin or Colorado or any other state are also moving back to the land for the same reason. It’s one more thing for me to gauge.

Sadly, Maine is really far away from everyone I know. For a while I thought of West Virginia being in the same general sort of region, which I conceived of as a sort of “the colonies and the states that broke off of them” region. But of course, the thirteen colonies, though way smaller than the country we’ve got now, were still a really big place, and span a huge range of latitudes, and so from Portland, Maine, to Nana & Papaw’s house is about 12 hours by car, or 2½ days by thumb. (It could’ve been less if I hadn’t chosen to take the quaintly wooded but unfortunately deserted US-50.) To Ohio add another several hours. I haven’t decided yet how heavily to weigh proximity to all my folks in the search for The Right Place. But however I decide on that, it’s one of the few strikes against Maine. (Having given Maine such a glowing review, though, I’ll also point out that its ocean culture is something I don’t feel very connected to at all, whereas Wisconsin’s lake culture feels homey to me, thanks to all the formative time I’ve spent at Crowduck and Manito-wish.)

Anyhow, to get to the present, I made it safe and sound to Nana & Papaw’s as you’ve already deduced, and now I’ve commenced a nice long period of mentally relaxing. It gets exhausting after a while, all this planning the next move forward and trying to memorize things about new places. I’m going to be pretty content over the next three weeks to have other people in charge of each new thing, and arranging all my transportation for me with nary a minute spent by an onramp with my thumb in the air. Out here I’ve gotten a good old feeding for my travel appetite, and we’ve sat out on the porch watching the sun come down behind the hills and talking about everything we need to catch up on. And I’ve still got days to relax in the woods here before anything else really happens. This is me sighing contentedly: Ahhhhhhh.

File under: Year of Adventure, hitchhiking, family, permaculture · Places: West Virginia


Anonymous

History

An interesting Blog, of which I will comment on only one of your questions. Where will I end up? I will answer it of course from my perspective of having gone through this at a time of my life, not completely unlike yours, i.e., wondering what is going to happen to me. Well that is the adventure, not knowing. That is the fun having new items to chew on daily. Finally, it doesn't matter, it is all attitude. If you have the right attitude that your going to enjoy it all, you will have a fulfilled life. If your a grump about everything, it does not matter
where you end up, because there is no right place. Enjoying life, in my opinion, is all attitude.

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Anonymous

History

Don't get too relaxed. We need lots of help with boat driving and dishwashing and baby sitting at Crow Duck. Hope you have lots of energy. Ha. Grandma

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Chuck

History

Ah, but that's physical effort. I can handle that. It's just the mental effort that's been exhausting me lately. And even more specifically, the mental effort of planning out a completely different day every day, with no such thing as a routine, and no one else to figure out the day for me. I think I might even be able to handle a change of gears to the mental effort of babysitting, though I'm sure that would start wearing me out after the same sort of amount of time.

Enjoying life is mostly about attitude, but I've taken approximately the same attitude to different places and enjoyed some of them more than others, so I think there's also something to be said for finding the right spot. I'll enjoy life wherever I end up, but I think there are some places where I'd enjoy it even more than in others.

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Anonymous

History

I don't know how you can decide 'where' you are going to live until you decide 'what' you want to 'do' with your life.

Permaculture is mostly contradictory with the vagabond lifestyle. Globetrotting without an agenda sounds fun and exciting, but philisophically speaking, it is an exercise in narcissism.

Sounds like what you're searching for and missing in life is permanent functional community. From what I've read, permaculture sounds like agrarian village life. Life without the intrusions of empires, macro scale politics, and modern information age saturation. In other words, a small 19'th century european or american village. It worked for centuries, even millenia. I'm sure it still works in many areas of the world.

Dave

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Anonymous

History

Perhaps reassessment is in order. I onl did that about 4,342 times in my life. First you decide on three or four things you would like to do. Then you decide what can I do t make myself interesting to a prospective employer. If nothing works, go back to school and become a professor.

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Chuck

History

I'm fully aware that globetrotting permanently will, philosophically, get me nowhere. Which is why I'm planning on setting roots. Permaculture is in some ways the opposite of what I'm doing now, but in other ways I'm doing useful things for it. Permaculture tries to draw on the brightest environmental ideas that people have come up with around the world, and I'm gathering what I can of those while I travel around, and also communicating with people on this leading fringe of the new society. But you're right - before I can do anything that really fits under the permaculture umbrella, I have to settle down.

Besides the agrarian part, you're not too far off with what permaculture aims for socially. Everything should be as local as possible, and the community should be the central organizational structure of life.

Grandpa, I'm in a more or less constant phase of reassessment while I'm on the road - I'm perpetually coming across, or up with, new ideas that I can add to myself. Sort of like in one series of Calvin and Hobbes strips where Calvin builds a snow goon, and it comes to life, and he tries to kill it with snowballs, but they just stick to it, and it gets the idea to pack more snow onto itself, and it grows. I'm that snow goon. Though if you ask me explicitly what I've learned, it's hard for me to say. I only realize what I've learned much later sometimes, when it comes up and I realize, "Yeah, I know something about that - this knowledge changed the way I think about the world."

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Anonymous

History

It seems you have latched on to something that is worth keeping in some form. I wish you all the best of luck…..

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