Monday, March 29
We Took to the Woods
By: Louise Dickinson Rich
What a wonderful book! I love stories like this - about ditching civilization and heading out into nature. It is interesting from beginning to end. It is set in the remote backcountry settlement of Middle Dam, in the Rangeley area of Maine. Rapid River country.
A favorite quote about their dog, Kyak, “There is no use trying to do anything with him, except love him.” And they had a pet skunk named Rollo, who never sprayed them and eventually went back to the wild.
She talks a lot about how they have to plan for supplies like food and household necessities - it is hard to get in and out of the area, nearly impossible in the winter. So they have to plan and "put up against winter". I picture shelves lined with can goods, preserves, jerky and all, but unless you also have a store of 50lb bags of wheat, rice and supplies of yeast and other baking supplies, you still need to depend in part on the Outside. “This is supposed to be the Independent Life, but as far as getting supplies goes, we’re dependent on quiet a number of things…”she writes. And I get shoved back to reality and realize that it's just the same here. We are dependent, no matter how hard we try to be self sufficient, on others. We do not have a cow. We depend on Wegmans and, when there is a little extra in the paycheck, Pittsford Dairy. We do not have chickens, yet (but they will be here soon!), so we go to Wegmans for the cage free organic ones. Little examples, but it shows that everyone is dependent on someone or something. Is there a thing as being totally self sufficient? Even if it is just the need for human interaction?
A funny realization about 'Smitches and Dabs' – “a smitch of this and a dab of that. In other words, that’s the meal that cleans up the icebox. You dump some odds and ends of meat, any stray vegetables…”. My Mom used to do this every couple of weeks. I would see a pot on the stove and she would be dumping things into it from tupperware she had fished out of the back of the fridge. Meat, potatoes, veggies, rice, beans, and I would see her squeezing ketchup from the bottle in there too "for texture." This was for Dad. It was his dinner. We would be having something like sandwiches that night. I used to think she was punishing him for something.
The book is written in the time frame of the late 30s and early 40s. She bounces back and forth a lot which makes it hard to try and figure out what the year is but eventually it does not really matter. It could take place at any time, really. She mentions the War (World War II) very infrequently. One instance when she did mention it was one of my favorite parts of the book. She is discussing how they get their information - the radio - and how they have to be picky about how often and to what they listen because it is battery powered. They listened to a few programs and a little news and that was it.
“If it would help humanity or the course of the War by so much as one iota, I would gladly sit all day all day long and listen to eye witness accounts of air raids and hour by hour reports on the progress made or not made along the numerous fronts. But it would not help anything and it would keep me in a constant state of turmoil and indigestion. So we have our fifteen minute dose of every-thing’s-going-to-hell each evening, and the rest of the day we try to forget about it."
Perfect. Absolutely perfect. If only we could all be that smart. Even before Connor was born, there was only so much CNN I could take. I can almost pin point the time that my brain flipped and I wanted to know no more. September 11th. We watch the news constantly. For days. For weeks. It was total overload and I decided I really did not want to know any more. I cannot stand politics, local or national. I do not care what golfers do when they are not golfing, or when they are golfing for that matter. I cannot stand to watch or listen to those weekend morning political shows where a bunch of people sit around a table and yell at each other.
After I had Connor, it was more than clear that I wanted to opt-out. I watch the local evening news and the national news while I am making dinner. That’s just about it. I listen to Bob Lonsberry on WHAM almost every day. That’s my radio program. I just don't want to deal with it. I don’t even want to go out to run errands half of the time. Too much traffic, too much distraction. Too much noise. (I am not totally anti-social or strange or anything like that, I just like quiet. And not to have to worry about everything going on in all corners of the world all the time.)
The final Chapter – is it worth-while? – is the best in the book, even though the whole book is wonderful. "I am more at home in this world that we have created than even I was in that vast and confusing maelstrom that we call civilization. Here I dare to be myself.” She goes on to discuss what is and is not now important – all very interesting and quotable.
And, the best quote in the whole book, "If you’ve got sense, you can keep out of trouble. If you haven’t got sense, you’ll get into trouble, here or anywhere else."
If we could all live with this in mind, we would all be a lot better off. Then maybe we would not be stressed out over CNN and the commute to the grocery store.