Journal: November 7th, 2009

It snowed last night. I spent most of the evening in my hut because it was too wet to start a fire, which is the only tolerable way to be outside after dark these days. Some time in the evening, when I went out to pee, I noticed swirly white flakes dancing in the air. It was too warm to stick, but it was snow alright.

This morning, when I got up, everything was all frosty and frozen. Drops of water from yesterday’s rain had frozen in place. Droplets hanging from pine needles. Puddles on my trailer roof. A pool of water on a plastic bin. Condensation on a sheet of plexiglas. All frozen, and glittering in the clear sunny morning. It was quite beautiful, and added to the joy of seeing the sun again, after a couple of cloudy and wet days.

It’s cold again tonight. I wanted to do more work inside the hut after dark, but the cold just numbed my mind. I took a couple of measurements, but just couldn’t muster the energy to chop a piece of two-by-four. The dark seems to affect me more than it did before. Maybe it’s the cold, or maybe it’s the hut. I’m not sure what, but the darkness seems unsettling to me in a way that it wasn’t before.

Having given up on productivity, I got a fire going using wood I’d gathered earlier in the day. I tried to read, but found that I had to move around constantly to keep some body part or another from getting uncomfortably cold. After a little while, I got hungry, so I warmed up a can of chili by putting it by the fire, and ate it with a slice of toast. I was hoping to do some cooking, but my gas stove was in the hut, and I didn’t feel like leaving the fire. I think tomorrow I’ll build a fire in front of the hut, instead of in front of the trailer, which is 20 yards or so from the hut. In absolute terms, it’s not far, but when you don’t want to wander farther than 6ft from the fire, it’s far enough.

I could tell it’s going to be cold tonight because a pool of water on top of my plastic bin had frozen solid, and it wasn’t yet 8:30. In the absence of ice, liquid water doesn’t actually freeze until something like -5C IIRC, so, yeah, it’s cold. I got a couple of hand warmers on my supply run yesterday, just in case I need some extra heat. I put one of them in my tent for tonight.

By 9, I’d burned most of the wood I’d gathered, and with a steady cold breeze blowing from the south, I decided to retreat to the hut. The hut isn’t very well insulated, but it does block the wind. I boiled some water with the gas stove, and lit a couple of candles for warmth and light. Between the candles, a hot cup of tea, and the laptop, I’m reasonably warm, though my toes are freezing. I might need to double up on socks, if it gets much colder.

I noticed that I eat a lot these days. When it was warmer, I didn’t eat much when I was here, and lost a lot of weight every time I came out for a longer stay. But these days, I seem to be eating constantly. Today, for instance, I had a couple of packets of instant oat meal for breakfast, a can of fish a little before noon, a scrambled egg & cheese sandwich for lunch, a can of turkey chili for dinner, with snacks of grapes, almonds, and cups of hot beverages scattered in between. I guess it makes sense, though. I’m doing a fair amount of physical labor, and on top of that, my body is burning calories to produce more heat, even when I’m just sitting around. I also wonder if my body is instinctively preparing for the winter. A little more fat may very well keep me warmer in these climates…

Earlier, I was thinking about how cold it was, and realized that even though I was cold, I wasn’t miserable. If I had to pick, I’d say I’m happy. Though, I’m in a weird mind state, similar to one I was in when Nikki and I went backpacking in Joshua Tree a couple of years ago. It was either too cold or too warm, our packs were heavy. We were lost half the time. We focused on the basics. Set up camp, eat, sleep, wake up, eat, strike camp, walk, eat, repeat. I was too busy staying alive to worry about whether or not I was happy. I wonder if happiness, and for that matter, the lack thereof (depression), is a luxury of the idle mind to some extent. But then, it’s not like I’m in a survival situation. Yes, if I were stubborn or stupid, I could probably die of hypothermia. But my car is a 10 minute walk away. I can walk out any time I want, night or day. Get to my car, crank up the heater, and I can be warm in inside of 30 minutes. Yet, here I am. I’m still here. If I had to describe how I felt, I’d probably say: I feel alive.

2 thoughts on “Journal: November 7th, 2009

  1. Ever thought of cutting out a little hole in your wall and attaching a simple brick fireplace to the outside? I’m sure you could figure out a way to make the benefits outway the dangers.

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