My weekend in Rapid City turned out to be spectacular. It included craft beer, watching hockey on TV, a pleasant conversation about religion (yeah, those exist, and it was with two non-Catholics), learning to snow-shoe, homemade lattes and a cabin with no electricity or running water.
Monica and I met up with Pete and Karen (you might remember them from the 80th birthday we crashed a few months ago), and they invited us to their cabin in the Black Hills where Monica and I learned to snow shoe. This cabin consists of a single room, perhaps 10×20 feet. Any heat comes from a wood burning stove and a wood burning oven. It’s beautiful. Our first trek out into the woods was slow and labored, but I enjoyed it and later, as Pete, Karen and Monica relaxed in the simple escape from modern existence, I took to the hills by myself.
And while I shoed, I day dreamed.
I developed a fantasy wherein I move to my own primitive cabin, even more secluded than this outpost of tranquility. I would live there for a winter or perhaps for a year, bringing with me sacks of rice and beans and crates of books. Days would be spent snowshoeing, skiing, hunting, and fishing. Nights spent reading by lamplight. I would make occasional trips on snowshows to the closest small town to check books out at the library, eat a steak dinner, reassure my parents I still breathed. Friends would visit as they pleased, escaping reality with me as their commitments allowed.
It would be like Walden, only less smug and artsy. A bit like Into the Wild, but not so selfish, delusional or self-righteous.
My front porch would support an enormous stack of firewood as well as an ice box with several flavors of ice cream. I would subsist off rice, beans, frozen vegetables and ice cream, devouring books and the immensity of my surroundings.
And then it started to get dark and I had to head back to the cabin and away from my own wandering notions.
Out here on the prairie, I’ve begun not just to tolerate my seclusion and isolation, but appreciate it and seek it out. When I was writing my thesis during my junior year at Davis, my advisor (a professor I greatly admired) told me to take an hour and just think about the 40 page paper I was trying to shape out of heaps of research. At the time, the concept seemed overwhelming and impossible. Now it seems alluring and beautiful.