A non reflection on my time not alone in the woods
When you go off into the woods for 14 hours by yourself, you might expect that you’ll have ample time to do all the things people say make you a more thoughtful and balanced person: mediate, journal, bird watch, walk softly, sit quietly. At least that’s kind of what I was expecting when I was asked to go off into the woods for 14 hours with nothing but a sleeping bag, ground pad and 8x10 tarp. In addition, I had 10 matches and matchbook, a piece of birch bark, a journal, and 1 and half sausages swaddled in a corn husk. I also had a wedge of cornbread slathered in 1/4 inch of butter and bacon grease, an apple, and two handfuls of beef jerky, walnuts, dried apples, and dried plums. I also had three sweaters and three pairs of wool socks. And a knife. And a lot of rope. And water. And also the base camp was a 10 minute walk away. In other words, I wasn’t really worried about not being able to meet my needs for food, water, and shelter during this one night alone in the woods.
And yet during this time, I found I had very little time to do all the quiet reflective activities I imagined were associated with time alone in the woods. I spent most of the sunlit hours trying out different methods for roping out a tarp between trees, gathering firewood, washing in the creek, and organizing myself within the forest space. By the time I had myself set up, the forest was grey and inching toward darkness. This is when I realized I needed to start a little fire. Once I got it going, I still was not free to stare off into space (or whatever) because I had to be actively tending this new flaming being. It was hard to think about anything beyond what was right in front of me, except maybe what was 20 feet away from me, rustling around. I heard a four legged being moving around out there, and realized that I was a guest in their home.
—this reflection is not finished because I cooked dinner for the house—