It is the end of my first full year in the woods. I’ve just made it back to the house after driving through downtown in an ice storm, confirming what I’ve learned this year: I am a hermit. I started this project by specifically saying that I was not a hermit. I was wrong.
I was also wrong about some other things. We did not go to war with North Korea (yet . . . it’s only 18:43 local time). I also predicted that 2017 would bring the first nuclear explosion in anger since 1945. Assuming we make it through midnight, I’m glad to be wrong about that too.
About the hermit thing I am not so glad. How can I be expected to love others when they are so self-defeating? When they are not cognizant of the impacts of their actions? When they brake going uphill in freezing rain?
I will teach my son how to drive in the snow. I will teach him about momentum, gun safety, sexual safety, and personal finance. I love my son, and I won’t have him end up like the rest of those people out there.
I retreat to the Bothy, but even there I’m not left alone. Someone stole the deer skull I found in the valley by the creek.
The day I discovered it was gone, I found a possum skull on the trail home, with only a few minutes of daylight left. I went back and lashed it to the tree. Upon my next visit, it too was gone.
Who steals a skull from a tree in the woods? Someone with no sense of balance, no imagination. Someone who is not afraid of a dry scratching at their bedroom window. Someone who was never told a compelling ghost story over a fire.
I will teach my son not to steal skulls from the woods.
At the start of the year, I had big plans for my time in the woods. Some of them have come to fruition. I encountered three bears, thirty-one snakes, and countless fish, some of which I killed and gutted and ate. Unfortunately, I failed to hunt big game with a club, kill anything from horseback, or chase any colonists away from their settlements.
But there’s always next year.
I’m looking very hard at a deer hunt in the fall, and I may even hunt small game before the winter’s out. If I could mold life with my own intentions, I’d change my whole relationship with food by the end of 2018. No meat unless I kill it myself. But I doubt my ability to follow through with that.
What I can do this: Starting tomorrow, I’ll never spend money in a big-box retail store again. I’m done. And I’m not standing on any moral high-ground about it, I just don’t want to interact with my fellow man. Humans make me less connected to humanity. I can’t explain it.
I’ll continue my meditation. I’m six months in. Might as well keep it going. I’ll keep drawing cards. These things have helped me make sense of what I’m seeing, or at least accept that it doesn’t make sense.
I’m going to have to lose weight if I want to continue. I guess I should make that resolute. I will get a handle on this in 2018. On myself. My own self-defeat. If I could stand outside myself and watch, I’d want to yell WHAT ARE YOU DOING until the windshield fogged up.
Another New Year’s Eve, and we’re all still here. Well, most of us. Those who made it through Vegas and Texas and Syria and Yemen. Who weren’t in the path of this thing with which we refuse to contend.
I confess a bit of disappointment that the Trump administration’s rot and incompetence hasn’t been made more decisively manifest. But that’s my own ego projected on the situation. Let it sit. I’m not going make any more predictions. Given enough time, all doomsayers are right, and what does it benefit anyone?
The revolution of this year has almost ground to a halt. It’s taken all these months for me to feel like I have some grasp on the spinning wheel. Now it’s time to begin again.
On the mountain right now in the bitter icy dark is the skull of the deer that was poached by a neighbor of mine. I have pinned it to the ground with a sharpened sick. I’m waiting for the last of its skin to flake away. Some vertebrae are still attached.
I found it with its antlers sawed off outside the boundary that makes up the Bothy’s woods: The creek and the grassy rights-of-way. That means I can bring it home if I want to. I haven’t decided yet.
And right now there are live deer. Bedded down, I imagine. And live men in their beds, or drunk waiting for midnight, who next season will hunt them, ethically or not.
And way up in the mountains taller than mine there are streams full of wild trout. What do they do in the wintertime? Or the bears and the snakes?
And us? What do we do?