Last weekend Kevin and I went up to a friend’s remote cabin up in the Sierra Nevadas. Three hours out of our boring little suburb, and everything looked, smelled, and sounded different. There was still snow on the ground, though the conifers had melted small bare patches around their bases. Leafbuds and early daffodil shoots were just starting to emerge.
We went there with no plans, and were not sorry for their absence. For two days, we drank sweet, clear well water that had never been chlorinated, woke with the dawn (there were no curtains) and went to bed when it was dark. Nothing but stars broke the darkness that cradled us to sleep. The stillness was punctuated only by the slow drip of melting snow. We ate simply but well; even a sparse meal of roasted root vegetables over polenta was deeply satisfying, eaten with the warmth of a wood fire at our backs. On one afternoon, I started reading, appropriately enough, a book on silence.
I never noticed how constantly I was surrounded by light, noise, neighbors, cars, technology — until they suddenly weren’t there. In the absence, my senses reached out and found new details and experiences. Watching a hawk wheel in the sky above, I could almost feel the individual feathers catch hard against the wind that lifted them. The water smelled cleaner.
I wonder a lot about the price we pay for technology, and whether what we consider advancement is really no more than change, or exchange. I suspect that one of the steepest prices we’ve paid is our sense of intimacy with the planet we live on and respect for its rhythms and cycles. I don’t wish to idealize the past nor demonize what technology has accomplished (I am at least as much of an internet fan as you are), but I feel far from certain that technological advancement is a way out of our current mess.
On a more personal level, being at the cabin, even for a few short days, brought me a new certainty. While I was there, something inside me said, insistently, “I want this.” The last time it spoke up, I ended up bringing home a blind, unfriendly cat — currently lolling around begging for a tummy rub. My instincts are generally sound. I’m at a crossroads right now, wondering whether to pursue the responsible, adult career I always thought I’d have, or freelance and live on very little somewhere far away from the burbs. Both paths, I think, will eventually lead me back to a remote cabin in the woods somewhere. Soon, I will need to make decisions about my life and priorities. But for now, I’m standing still, waiting for clarity.