Monday, November 12, 2007

Not Even A Concierge Can Save You Now

I am grateful to everybody that reads, and comments, and links, and especially everybody that buys the furniture over in the right hand column and helps me to feed my family. We're up to two meals a day now.

I happen upon my name and pseudonym here and there on the intertunnel, many times in funny little places. The blog "Never Yet Melted" has an interesting list of links, and a fantastic masthead quote from a man that understood Americans a little.

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted. — D.H. Lawrence

Well, some Americans. We'll get to that. Isolate, used as an adjective and not a verb, is a word I use all the time. I feel it separates me from other people to use it.

That's a joke, son.

Anyway, Never Yet Melted has me in their roll, for which I am grateful; but that's not the end of it. Their roll is neatly partitioned: News; Culture; Astronomy, you name it. They've parsed it by continent and country alike. And there I am in the middle, with the most accurate and welcome assessment of my offering I've ever seen: "Defies Categorization." They don't pay for ink and paper on the internet, or perhaps they would have shortened it to: "Dude, WTF?" At any rate, I adore it.

I'm ten miles of bad road in a five pound bag of mixed metaphors. I'm a rabid ladybug. I'm an interior decorator with a machete. I'm the left cloven foot of Satan's My Little Pony. I'm a limp-wristed UFC champ. Learned barbarian. I'm a mess, neat. But what I'm not is: afraid to go outside. If you need a laugh, read this, from an article in the New York Times my D.H.Lawrence-loving friends have linked to:

When Evan Gotlib and his fiancĂ©e, Lindsey Pollack, bought a three-bedroom cottage surrounded by pine trees in rural Sharon, Conn., they couldn’t wait to flee their cramped Manhattan studio on weekends to spend their days dozing in a hammock and barbecuing on their brand new 42,000 B.T.U., 60-burger-capacity Weber grill.

But being city people, they did what anyone looking to “get away from it all” would do first, before they even spent the night: they paid $3,000 for a home-security system complete with motion detectors, a one-touch intercom that connects to fire and police dispatchers and an emergency hand-held remote-control device they could leave on the bedside table at night. “I know it sounds ridiculous now that I talk about it, but I just feel safer sleeping with the remote control,” Mr. Gotlib, a 32-year-old corporate sales director for Time Inc. Media Group, confessed, “because those deer are aggressive.”

For many urban sophisticates who trade the big city’s drunken crowds, blaring sirens and claustrophobic living spaces for bucolic second homes on weekends, the very solitude of mountains and forests that drew them in the first place can turn into a nerve-jangling — and sometimes costly — source of anxiety. As much as they adore their country houses, these harried homebodies quail at the thought of stepping out into the pitch-black night or meeting some wild animal or armed local in the woods.

Some armed local? Oh brother. In Sharon, Connecticut? People -- in Sharon Connecticut you lock your doors so your friends will know you're not home if they come over unexpectedly and you're out. They know where your key is anyway. William F. Buckley was born in Sharon Connecticut. Do you really think he's coming in the window at night with a dagger in his teeth and darkness in his heart for you because you're so Vegan you only eat things that don't cast a shadow? Get a grip. Of course it's true that a fish out of water works both ways; but when those "armed locals" go to the big city, they are timid and suspicious in return, but only because they're worried they're going to be charged fourteen dollars for a cup of take-out coffee if they're not careful. They don't wet themselves if they see a pigeon acting hinky.

I'm not a farmer or anything. But I do live out in the country. Let me offer you nice folks afraid of your own shadow some perspective. Nature is messy and unpredictable and maybe a little dangerous and that's the point:

The Woodpile At Night:

You're out there on the edge of it, you know.

You can smell it of course. The winter's just a hand on the shoulder, not a fist in the face, and the dull swampy flavor of the place washes over you when the wind shifts. Rotten and fecund. When it freezes over, the wind tastes like metal, or an ice cube that's been in the freezer too long.

It rustles from time to time. A bird in a branch. A squirrel in the leaves. A possum or a raccoon or a bear or a griffon or a tyrannosaur, for all you know. They never announce themselves.

The good wood clanks when you drop it on the splitting stump. It sounds ceramic. You know it'll split along the medullary rays in one quick stroke, a few stringy tendrils left to cleave the splits together until they tumble to the hard packed dirt and wait for the stack, the gentle arc of the bark side always up to shed the water that sneaks under the pile cover.

The raptor goes overhead. In the winter the sun is too low in the southern sky to put you noticeably in their shadow. The first you know of them is the shriek they emit, cruising way over the tall pines. No fish today. Something soft and furry that the cat missed.

Come out here at night, with the chilly stars pricked in the slate firmament, the wind abated. Come out to the edge of the forest and fen to the woodpile. That edge has moved with the sunset, and you realize the new edge of the wild was the doorknob. You're in it now, not at the margin of it.

You can stand there a quiet minute, and all the sound is gone but the blood in your veins. The air is redolent of woodsmoke already, but something else, too. You're just another beast, without claw or tooth to speak of, and you're among them. You're not afraid; you're attuned to the place your kind once kept in the order of things. You turn back to the path you crushed in the frosted dormant turf, and know the stuff of the cave.


Ruth Anne Adams said...

Sui generis, Sippican.

[I learned that in law school. It cost me a lot. No charge for you.]

SippicanCottage said...

Hmmm. That's pretty good.

I was kinda hopin' to be the ne plus ultraof something; but I'd settle for being the shiznit, too.

Anonymous said...

Yep, defies categorization. They got it exactly right.

Anonymous said...

"Something soft and furry that the cat missed." Aren't we all?

Anonymous said...

deer are aggressive?

Yeah, they'll get into your flowerbeds and eat stuff, but they won't put a gun to your head and demand your wallet. Not only that, but it's legal to shoot deer and they make great summer sausage.

My aunt and uncle have a ranch in the mountains in Colorado. A city person bought a cabin near them, then complained to the authorities that my aunt and uncle's horses were leaving horse poop on the dirt road.

Jerub-Baal said...

Growing up in (what used to be) rural New Hampshire, we could always tell the people who moved into town from the city.

They had street light installed over their driveway and front yard.

For years, the only streetlight within 3 miles of our place was over a house trailer down the road....

Anonymous said...

You left out some of the major dangers of living in the woods...those agressive deer and grouse.

There's nothing like enjoying a quiet walk through the woods, only to have a ruffed grouse explode from the ground a foot from you, and thunder off through the brush and branches. I've been heading off to my deer stand at oh-dark-thirty, and had a completely invisible deer get up from his bed next to the path, and go crashing through the brush (and twanging off the abandoned barbed-wire fence).

THAT will get your heart thumping.

Windyridge said...

Re what Class Factotem said, I live in the country too (for the past 14 years)and new X city slickers here will sometimes complain about the smell of manure when the farmers recycle. I don't mind the smell myself being a producer of same.

Wonderful post!