Journal: March 6th, 2011

I think today is Day 18 or something. Anyway, I would’ve thought that by now I’d be tired of being alone in the woods and be ready to pack up and go back to the city. No such luck. As time goes by, things only seem to get better.

Yesterday was my best day yet. It was all rainy outside so I spent the better part of the afternoon indoors… doing some shooting. Several days ago, I set up a target stand about 50 yards from my cabin. There’s a big match coming up in April, and since I haven’t shot much in the past year, I wanted to get as much practice in as I can. Being able to step outside and shoot significantly lowers the barrier. But it’s indescribable how happy it made me to be able to shoot without even stepping foot outside, from my own home. For me, if this isn’t a dream come true, I don’t know what is.

Then, later in the afternoon, in another burst of motivated productivity, I set up my kitchen in Hut 2.1. Up until last night, my gas stove, most cooking implements, and spices were still in Hut 1.0 where I did much of my cooking. Some meals were cooked entirely on the wood stove, but it wasn’t uncommon for me to run back and forth between the two huts carrying pots and pans. Also, since I only fire up the stove at night, breakfast and mid-day snacks were all prepared in Hut 1.0. It was a bit of a hassle, but given that I’ve been using Hut 1.0 for food storage as well, it wasn’t too bad.

Having cooked two dinners in Hut 2.1 now, it’s unbelievable how convenient it is to have my kitchen all in one place. The Hut 2.1 kitchen also just generally has a nicer layout, with the gas stove against the far wall, a prep counter to the right, and the wood stove right behind me. I can seamlessly switch between the gas stove and wood stove, and even use both at the same time. The Hut 2.1 kitchen also has more “storage shelves” (in reality, semi-structural 2x4s), though I’m also thinking of adding another set of shelves to the left of the gas stove. All that’s left to do is to set up the sink, and I’d have myself one sweet kitchen.

So, shooting and setting up an awesome kitchen were great, but I think part of what made the day particularly joyful for me was that it was a day in which I did all the things I love doing. Shooting was one, and the construction work I did was the other. While doing the construction work, though, I also had loud music playing, to which I’d occasionally sing and dance along (if flailing with a circular saw in hand counts as such), and that turned out to be incredibly uplifting.

The things I did that brought me so much joy are also things I have a hard time doing in the city. I used to have to drive 45 minutes to go shoot. I couldn’t listen to loud music any time I wanted. I couldn’t use a circular saw and hammer nails late into the evening. And being incredibly shy about such things, I don’t generally dance or sing if I know there are humans nearby. So, between prohibitions and inhibitions, when around people, I am unable to do the things I love, and be the person I want to be. No wonder I felt like a caged animal when I lived in the city. But, here, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I can step outside (or stay inside) and shoot my rifle. I can play music, music I like, as loud as I want without anyone even hearing. I can use my power tools and hammer nails at 11pm if I want to. I can sing badly and loudly if I want to. Nobody cares. And because nobody cares, I don’t care. It’s an incredibly liberating feeling.

It’s what freedom feels like.

For my “mid-term report”, I’ve been trying to summarize thoughts buzzing around my mind, but unfortunately those thoughts are buzzing too quickly to be captured in any coherent manner. From what I can gather, however, many of the thoughts have to do with my relationship to people. I’ve known for a long time that I’m introverted, but the depth of my introversion is only becoming clear to me, having spent almost 3 weeks in physical isolation. Based on how liberated I feel in my isolation, I am only starting to understand how conflicted my relationship with fellow humans really is.

With ample time on my hands and mind, I also find myself contemplating big questions, like, “What the point of life?” I find that being here and doing what I’m doing renders some previous answers obsolete. If the point of life is for me to realize dreams, I’ve done that (and this isn’t the first). If the point of life is for me to be happy, I’ve done that. So, what’s next? One thing I’m starting realize is that attaining happiness for oneself isn’t a goal; it’s a stepping stone.

An image that comes to mind is of safety briefings on air planes, where they say that if you’re traveling with a child, you should put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping your kid. The hidden implication I always saw in that message was: save yourself first, then others. Maybe happiness is like that. There are a lot of people sacrificing their own happiness for others, but that seems contrived. If you can’t be happy yourself, how can you help others attain happiness? Now that I have my secret lair, my fortress, perhaps what’s next is for me to engage the world again. After all, what’s the point of a refuge if I don’t occasionally venture out and find something to retreat from?

23 thoughts on “Journal: March 6th, 2011

  1. Outward Bound does this thing they the the solo. Basically they put you in a small location alone for some amount of time (some ratio off the length of the trip) Mine was 3 days. It was very refreshing but it did remind me that people are handy to have around but in moderation.

    I am thoroughly jealous of shooting from your front door. I spent the 4 hours at a cold range this afternoon. It would have been nice to do it next to a nice fire.

      • Wow, it kind of hurts me to say this but I used to shoot there in the late ’60s when I was in my early teens… Geeez.
        My next door neighbor best friend’s father was the rangemaster at Lockheed in the bay area back in the day. They actually had a range for the employees. I started out in 4 position smallbore and his son went on to be the Cal. state jr. champion. I went with him a couple of times to Camp Perry. He went on to shooting high power and we used to go to Coalinga for the weekends.
        I shoot sometimes at Sacramento but I haven’t been there in awhile because my right shoulder has been hurting and I’m having surgery on it soon.
        When it’s fixed I’d love to meet you somewhere and go shooting.
        Hope to see you in the spring and go fishing… Keep your feet warm.

  2. Wow Ryo, looks like you are adapating to life in the wilderness quite well!!! I always used to feel great on a camping trip, after a few days “away from the world” I can only imagine how it is feeling for you now…

    The only drawback being the more time you spend happily “dancing” with you circular saw, the more “adapting” you’ll have to do when you need to go back to the world for work/supplies!

  3. I hope you are using fully jacketed ammo, because with unjacketed ammo, a cloud of lead dust erupts from the muzzle. This is enough of a toxicity problem outside…

    They use mercury free primers these days, right?

    Honestly, I might own a gun myself, by I don’t like the idea of exposing myself to all the lead involved. I know some people think lead is not that toxic, but the science is quite well established, in fact lead is one of the most studied substances there are in toxicology. It is quite nasty, causing reduced cognitive capacity in the few tens of micrograms per day dose range for an adult.

    Micrograms are *awfuly* small.

    • That’s a good point. Most of the stuff I shoot is FMJ bullets, though some of my .22 ammo has exposed lead bullets. My muzzle stuck out the door, so I’d assume most particulates would be propelled away from the cabin. I’m sure I still have a higher exposure to lead than most people, and some shooters will get tested for lead poisoning regularly for that reason (I haven’t yet, but I probably should). But then, I also used to play with lead when I was a kid. Like, melt it into moulds and make my own air gun pellets and such…

  4. Ryo,

    I’m really enjoying your blog and photos. How fun to be able to be target shooting out the front door.

    I have a couple of questions – where did you see the those big paw prints (mtn. lion/cougar) ? How far from your huts? Are you concerned about being in a compromising position when toileting? I mean, what if that critter showed up then? Are there other animals (like bears?) you have to be concerned about? I also wondered if you were using a composting (sawdust?) toilet?


    • The tracks (the big ones) were on the other side of the fence, on public land. Distance-wise, I’d say at least 300 yards. From what I’ve read, mountain lions are shy and hermit-like (hey, like me!) and attacks on humans are pretty rare.

  5. cool entry. been reading your blog for a few weeks now. stumbled on it after searching for stuff on google like tiny house blogs and people living in air stream trailers. something about the simplicity of a small house and the freedom of the outdoors and the escapism of it all is so appealing. love the house building process you’ve been going through.

    i like the philosophical part at the end. never heard it articulated that way, it’s refreshing–about what gives a refuge it’s refuge-like quality.

    keep up the nice work. i feel like i spend all my time working–sites like yours give me a little break and some food for thought on how to live deeper.

  6. Ryo. Hello!
    I’m real interested in your viewpoint of OTHERS.
    My husband and I are artists of a sort, and live not far enough outta town (a trip there once a year’d be just fine) in a prettysmall yurt complex 800sq’ with an empty room, it’s too big… we dubbed our farmstead Hermit Hollow.

    As a child I played alone in the woods/my room to avoid all the hassles involved in relating to my family & schoolmates.

    But by writing the first workbooks on the first innovation in the fiber arts since the Stone Age, I inadvertently got myself shoved out into the fiber world. Notoriety!! and all the sorts of weird flows that go along with that…

    I’ve taught a lot of workshops all over the place to all sorts of folks. To summarize my experience with them all, & jumping to the point over a lot of misgivings, misinterpretations, & mis mis misses: I find that people just want to know that they are okay and that you love them. Love is the most important thing in the Universe. Things go really well for me when I can get over myself and just outflow Love to whoever’s around.

    I hope I hope I hope for you that something might KLIK in your solitude, with the solitude that we all feel most of the time even in crowds, and that you might come to see others as the same as your self.

    Sending you lots of love & a bigg hugg. The trouble with Solitude is, it’s real hard to get a hugg there…

    Best of joy on your journey!

  7. In regards to the airplane/oxygen mask instructions: A parent who is panicking because they can’t breathe won’t be able to help their child. Therefore, it’s imperative for the parent to get themselves under control first so they can tend to the needs of their child. So, it isn’t about saving yourself first, it’s about making sure that you’re in a mental state to be able to help your kid.

    I’m also an introvert and I’ve sometimes wondered how I’d function in isolation. I’m generally happy with my own thoughts and frequently go days at a time without any contact with anyone other than my spouse. Your thoughts on your isolation are very interesting and hope that you’ll write about this further.

  8. Your choice of the AR-15 is an interesting one for a backwoods gun. I’d have gone with .357 S&W Magnum or .45 Colt, to simplify my ammo requirements, for both my sidearm and rifle. .357 Magnum is more then enough cartridge for everything short of buffalo, grizzly or moose. You can always get a 9mm or .45 ACP for your AR. The new .30 Remington AR cartridge is supposed to create more muzzle energy than a 30-30 WCF but less than a .308 Winchester. Accuracy is reported to be outstanding. It will also fit in the standard 5.56 NATO magazine with a new follower. You can probably take whitetail deer under 150 yards with 69 grain ammo but it would marginal for wild pig or mule deer except at very close ranges. I’ve drive about 2 hours every month to shoot my guns at a private range. Several of us make a weekend of it and just stay at the range. I’m looking for at least 12 acres of land here in the Texas Hill Country to build my homestead. Got to get rid of all of my credit card debt first.

    • Lol, that’s my match rifle, not my “backwoods gun”. I shoot in NRA/CMP Service Rifle competition, where we have to use one of the standard issue US military rifles or their civilian equivalents (M1903, M1 Garand, M-14/M1A, or M-16/AR-15 are the options) with their original chambering. AR-15s are the most popular because of their ergonomics and light recoil of the .223/5.56 cartridge, and with 75-80 grain bullets, they can shoot accurately out to 600 yards (the matches consist of 4 stages shot at 200 to 600 yards).

  9. As I’ve never made a lot of money, I shoot Air Rifle and Air Pistol Silhouette, Air Rifle and Air Pistol Field Target. Like most shooting sports, sticker shock hits you when you first start but unlike rimfire and centerfire competitions, my ‘ammo’ costs are under $100/year! I use a Precharged Pnuematic airguns now but I started with spring-powered airguns. It has really improved my shooting skills tremendously. Do you still get any ammo through CMP? I used to shoot a 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser in a Vintage Service Rifle Postal Match league over in AZ. We’d shoot out to 900m/1000yards. I once shot a 5x at 1000 yards on one notoriously still day. Even reloading my own ammo I’d spend at least $1500/year in ammo.

    • Yeah, I hear air rifle shooting really improves your skills. My dad first taught me to shoot with an air rifle in our basement, but I haven’t shot air rifles in a while. Creedmoor Sports recently came out with air rifles shaped nearly identically to ARs, and have been marketing it to Highpower/Service Rifle shooters. I think they’re made by Anschutz, so they’re pretty pricey, but probably cost effective in the long run. I load my own ammo, but even then, it’s about 25c/round. For practicing on my property, I got a .22 conversion kit for the AR, so that’ll help lower ammo costs. The conversion isn’t super accurate (shooting .22s down .223 bores), but it’s better than just dry firing.

  10. You can get a Benjamin Discovery Kit(gun and high pressure air pump for under $500 including shipping from Midway right now. The Crosman Challenger 2009 goes for about $650 and has the same style charging handle as the AR-15 but the only come in .177. The best bang for the buck is still the Benjamin- Sheridan guns tuned by MAC-1 Airguns. 5-6 pumps are more than adequate for most of your close range shots on the ever-present rodentia as you’ll find out once spring comes.

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