I started greentangle ten years ago today and added Hard Wood to Whittle almost seven years ago. There have been many changes since in my life and the blogs, and there are now a lot fewer posts, readers, and comments, and I expect that to continue as I lead a more inward life and write with less frequency and less ability. Emotionally, my favorite period remains the early years’ frequent focus on animal rights issues with a couple regular commenters with whom I felt a strong connection. The creative quality of my blog writing probably peaked a couple years later, and certainly the opportunity to include four years of photos from Yellowstone made for an interesting period.
I used to do an annual post listing my favorite posts of the year, and back in 2014, after I had finished my Yellowstone period, I created a document on my computer of all my favorite posts from both blogs, perhaps wondering if some sort of book could come from it all. When I saw today how long ago that was compiled, I decided that I will go through the past few years’ posts and update the document. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of anything I’ve written since which would be included except possibly some of the Autobobography series, and then I read the last paragraph of the last post already in the document, which mentioned that I’d made a rough outline for that very series. So that will be a short new project for me.
I don’t feel that any drastic change has led me to spend less time adventuring or writing, just age and a continuation of the path I’ve been on all along. I am in the early stage of a possible new round of plantar fasciitis and since I can’t avoid being on my feet about five hours a day for my two part time jobs, I’m certainly avoiding any extra walking, but I’d already mostly stopped hiking before this foot flare-up.
I’m sixty years old and have never owned a car; I’ve already done a lot more walking than most modern people will do in their lifetimes, including over 700 miles in Yellowstone alone. The pleasure I got from hiking came from two main sources—first, the combination of getting away from the hectic human world and slowing into the rhythms of the natural world, and second, seeing wildlife. Here in Duluth, the wildlife which provided the strongest encounters for me were deer and bald eagles, but they were rare sightings, not like the everyday elk and bison and much more of Yellowstone. I’m certainly less connected to the natural world than I used to be, but I don’t feel any regret that I’m no longer capable of doing everything I once did.
These days I mostly get away from the human world by staying in my apartment, which has always been a needed strategy for me at times. Although I’ve seldom disliked anyone as an individual and even enjoyed the company of many people in small doses, being around people has generally been an experience I felt I needed to recover from via solitude. No doubt there are many factors contributing to that, including being an only child and the type of childhood I had, but I also think the major factor is simply that I chose to live differently from most people and felt I had very little in common with them. The company of nonhumans always gave me more satisfaction and pleasure than that of humans.
I still appreciate the creative output of humans and I probably should have developed my own artistic side more deeply in my life. I feel content these days to stay home and listen to music, watch films and television programs (though I haven’t owned a tv since it went digital), and read books. At times, I also read my old journals; I’m currently on 1990, almost half my lifetime ago, and honestly enjoy reading my words more than most books, though I don’t think that would be a widely shared experience.
At that time, I had started working for the college in Boston which would become the longest employer of my life (ten years) but still hadn’t moved to the immediate Boston area. I was taking the commuter train but had already become actively involved in city life, seeing a Boston counselor, taking writing and other classes at adult education centers in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, as well as at Harvard Extension. I was talking with the manager of my favorite Harvard Square bookstore about a job there and to city residents looking for a roommate. It was the time of the Robert Bly version of the men’s movement and I went to some of those classes as well. I had just discovered a new New Orleans restaurant in Boston--Dixie Kitchen, run by future great singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier. I’d often take a midnight train home from the city. That sort of questing is still part of who I am even in my physical inactivity—I bought a couple translations of the Tao Te Ching, important to me long ago, a few months ago.
Reading my own long ago words today provides a warm mix of memory and anticipation, knowing what was still to come during that fertile Boston decade of my life—moves and relationships, exploring more natural areas around the city, a new period of running, time spent with a group which got disabled people out for experiences in the natural world. I’m very glad I lived that life, and glad that I wrote about it so I can recall it more clearly, but I have no desire to be living it now. I’ve reached that point with my Yellowstone memories as well. I think it would take a lottery win for me to ever take a distant vacation again, but if that happens, I’d much rather see Boston or New Orleans again than Yellowstone.
Regardless of where I spend my time, I still care more about the natural world than the manmade one, and of course am disgusted by the current government’s contemptuous attitude toward nature and other species. But the only thing that surprises me is that it’s happening already. I’ve never had any doubt that this civilization would destroy everything else to continue, but it doesn’t even need to be happening yet--this is just evil and childish greed. Wildlife’s salvation still lies not in an election but in collapse.
I recently had a physical with no major problems. One test result estimated that I have a 13.5% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years, which frankly seemed low to me—I would have guessed at a higher risk. So we’ll wait and see if any of this is still around for the 20th anniversary.