Life as a Hermit – Day 7

I miss Chet. Even a staring, expressionless punching bag is better than being utterly alone. Well, maybe not. At least I have my dog.

I spent the morning cutting and sanding one of the larch stumps that came out of the cabin footprint when I built it. It sat outside over the winter but has dried up nicely this spring, so it was ready to become something completely new. I’m not sure what it’s going to be yet. At the right moment it will look like something other than a stump, and then I will just follow its lead and take it where it wants to go. If only humans were so prescient.

I will go into town this afternoon. It is time for some human contact, some time on my laptop with free wi fi, and pick up some supplies. Maybe a drink at Charlie’s, then back home for an evening fire outdoors. It is still cool enough for a fire in the evening. I can play fetch with my dog, Kaiju, and tire him out that way.

I am starting to lose that antsy feeling that I should be somewhere or doing something other than what I am doing. I can’t remember when I last felt this way, at least besides holidays. Sometimes I find myself just sitting, letting my mind wander, and minutes later I have been sitting in one spot, contentedly fiddling with a stick, or a flower, or adding wood to the stove. This is one of the things that I am here for: for time to pass at its own pace, instead of wrestling it to slow down or speed up or whatever my whim of the moment demands.

 

Life as a Hermit – Day 6

Chet is getting a little irritating. Even my dog has started to find him creepy, and I have had Chet around for awhile. He just sits there and stares. Chet, that is. My dog is actually animated, as though by a brain. It’s like Chet’s eyes follow me as I walk around the room. But then I look, and it’s like he hasn’t moved…at all.

I miss people. I miss my girlfriends that I used to go for coffee with. I miss the man who broke my heart. I miss my kids who have gone away to university. I miss being part of a world that isn’t of my own making. I miss turning on the tv and just sitting, mindlessly, pretending that I am doing something when really I am just filling my brain to keep it from wandering places I am tired of going.

What would I be doing, if I was back in the city, I wonder. Sitting in my house and wishing I was somewhere else, probably.  At least I have that, now. I’m somewhere else. How long will it be, I wonder, before I begin to accept my new reality. I love many things about it, but it remains somewhat foreign. It’s a little bit like leaving a relationship. You don’t really miss the things that are gone, you don’t really miss the person, but you miss the stability, the constancy, the predictability of your days. Sure, some of them are horrible days, but at least you don’t have to plan them from the moment you wake up in the morning until the minute your head hits the pillow at night.

Get out of bed, try to avoid an argument before leaving for work. Enjoy the job you hate because it’s a break from all the tension at home. Begin to feel that heavy, toxic dread in the pit of your stomach as five o’clock approaches. Think about whether you can have a few drinks every night and still get work done the next day. Cry, wipe the tears away as you drive into the garage. Take a deep breath and wonder what you’ve done wrong today, what you will argue about. The arguments are better than the silence. The silence just threatens to abandon you unexpectedly, and when it does, it’s rarely good.

I guess this silence is good. It is my silence. I chose it. But sometimes it makes me want to abandon it, and see how it likes it. I think I’m going to let all the air out of Chet.  I can’t deal with his staring, accusing eyes anymore. See how he likes being drained, empty, flattened.

I think I’ve been reading a little too much Nietzsche. Even my dog is starting to look at me like he expects my head to start spinning around. I’ll make us some pizza in the cob oven, that should cheer him up. And maybe a trip into town tomorrow for a little lunchtime Jack and Coke, and pick up some new books.

 

 

 

 

Life as a Hermit – Day 5

Today is quiet. Too quiet. I wonder if I should head into town today. It is sunny but cool as spring days can be. I could check on the bees or work on the henhouse but I feel more like going to sit at a coffee shop and letting the idle chatter of other humans wash over me so that I feel like part of their tribe.  It would be nice to have a neighbor. Someone close, but not too close. I could drive over and lean on the fence as we commiserate about the weather, what we will be planting, maybe even what we are reading.  Chet doesn’t really have strong views on any of these things. Or at least he doesn’t verbalize them.

What to do. It’s only been five days without human contact. I don’t even like most people. Why do I miss them? A person can be lonely in a room full of people, or solitary but not lonely. I’m here because I was lonely surrounded by people. Maybe I will stick it out alone today. See how I feel tomorrow. I can always immerse myself in a book. Perhaps something whimsical and fun like Nietzsche or Tolstoy. Or make something out of one of the tree stumps we pulled out of the cabin footprint.

Life as a Hermit – Day 4

It’s raining today. I have a lot of things I can do inside. It’s weird. I actually feel more like going out and playing in the rain than I would if I were still in the city.  It is so pretty, and I love the sound of the rain on the roof. Maybe I’ll hike down to the river and just sit and watch the circles form and expand on the water.

The dog didn’t want to come. He’s more of a cat than a dog. He won’t even get his paws wet, unless it’s in snow.

It’s beautiful out here. I love the silence. It isn’t real silence. At first you think it’s quiet. But then you notice the soft clatter of the raindrops on the undergrowth. And then  it’s the sound of the grass scratching against your jeans. And the squish of the grass under your shoes as you walk. Then there is a bird chirping. But only one, because it’s raining, and they go somewhere when rains.

The burble and hum of the river reaches my ears when it is still out of sight through the trees.  I slow down as I begin to take measured steps down the wet path, so that I don’t slip.  Now the swish of tree branches add to the “silence.” I laugh because it’s not silent at all. It is the kind of silence I love. Full, and enveloping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life as a Hermit – Day 3

 

chet

I suppose it is misleading to suggest that I have no human contact. Chet is here with me. But he is not much of a conversationalist. He mostly keeps to himself on the couch or in the corner near the kitchen table. I suppose he may be better cut out for this kind of life than I am. It’s just as well, I suppose. He used to get so clingy when I was leaving the house all the time for work, or to do errands. Now he seems much more content, knowing that I am around virtually 24/7. He is a good listener, though, like he has always been. Being outside in the cold is quite deflating for him.  But when it’s sunny and warm he becomes himself again. Constant. Firm in his beliefs. Ever present. Creepy.

Life as a hermit – Day 1

Well, here I am. My dream is finally a reality. I have a cozy, warm home surrounded by my possessions that bring me the most joy. I am miles from any other human. Just me and my dog. I can do whatever I want all day long.

I woke up this morning to the sun shining in the window onto my face.  I lay there for awhile listening to the silence. And by silence, I mean rustling leaves, birdsong and the sound of wood crackling in my wood stove.

It was a little strange not to see another human face all day, but not that strange. Even when a person is surrounded by people sometimes you go a day or two without seeing anyone.

It is social media I will be most glad to leave behind. It is a little weird to get used to. I have no internet, no data on my cell phone, and no wi fi. So my usual habit of checking Facebook and Instagram throughout the day will have to give way to other habits. Crunches and planks maybe. There wasn’t much on there that made my day better, anyway. It actually made me feel more isolated in a lot of ways. More isolated than I feel now. Isn’t that strange? Maybe it will change. We will see.

 

 

Goodbye, Missoula

Ch-Paqu'un Peak, Mark Mesenko

Ch-paa-qn Peak Sunset
Missoula, Montana
©Mark Mesenko

Romancing Hard Drinking with Hugo and Hemingway

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
–    Ernest Hemingway

“You could love here, not the lovely goat
in plexiglass nor the elk shot
in the middle of a joke, but honest drunks,
crossed swords above the bar, three men hung
on the bad painting, others riding off
on the phony green horizon. The owner,
fresh from orphan wars, loves too
but bad as you. He keeps improving things
but can’t cut the bodies down.”

–    Richard Hugo, The Milltown Union Bar

When I read “The Milltown Union Bar” for the first time, I actually looked around furtively, wondering who had been watching me that day last year when I walked into an empty, but welcoming bar in Missoula.  There were the same cheesy dioramas etched in glass above the long, dark-stained wooden bar, a smattering of honest drunks, and a stranger’s warm invitation to sacrifice your own cares at the same altar that has served so many others before you.

Fifty years ago, Richard Hugo walked into a different bar after moving to Missoula.  Fifty years later, I, too, find myself in a strange city, the same city, fearfully staring down a brand new life.

And I bled along with Hugo as I read the poem once, and again, and again.

Now it is politically correct to shake our heads and deplore the brilliant writers of the past for their drinking habits, without which, surely they would have shown even greater genius? Surely now, in the twenty-first century, we are more evolved.

What was wrong with Hemingway, or Hugo, drinking his way to the other side of the pane,  so that he could continue to live, to write, to hurt.  To bleed.  Now we are expected to do yoga, eat kale, and bond with nature on long hikes to keep our creative demons at bay.  I like most of those things. But I also like walking into a bar where I don’t know a soul, and leaving with a new story, or a new friend, or an inexplicable connection to place and time.  Or simply enjoying the exquisite burn in my throat and sweet, charcoal aftertaste of my favorite elixir – the sweet brown nectar of both Lionel Hutz and my inner voice.

So the next time I walk into my Milltown Union Bar, I will look around. And perhaps Hugo will be on my right, and Hemingway further down the bar to my left. And we will live, and hurt, and drink, and bleed.  Because sometimes, a person knows suddenly, and inexorably, that “you could love here.”

originally published at:

http://mtpr.org/post/romancing-hard-drinking-hugo-and-hemingway