When I was a child, I could not wait to go to bed. I am sure my parents will remember plenty of times when I protested, but I distinctly remember being eager to go to bed so that I could dream. Dreams occupied a large part of my mind in the daytime and the night. Toys, sticks, forts, and all the trappings of youth were springboards for fantasies of all kinds, of what I might be or do. Rarely did those dreams have to do with heroics or greatness: most often it had to do with having the ability to do certain things, with being a good person. At times, I ventured into what I now know as lucid dreaming, where one gently directs the subconscious—a skill I might recover, if only I had the time to lay in bed that I once did.
My mind was clear, and, there was space to think of what I might become, while I played at learning (learning all the while) all the things I wanted to know. It seemed as if the world, and my life, was a vast buffet from which I might take a taste of everything, and still have the time to truly enjoy and savor every bite. I am fortunate, of course, to have had the chance to become many of the things I might have wished to be. Yet, being those things offers little solace when I put my head to the pillow. As an adult of nearly forty, the night is far less a friend. The responsibilities of the day, those things undone occupy far too much of my nighttime mind. Instead of wishing night to come, I chase the darkness with work and reading, filling my head with thoughts until exhaustion overcomes me, and I pass out. I prefer exhaustion to drink, but it catches up with me just the same—following me into the day. I am learning still, but unlike the studies of my youth, I am learning to escape.
I understand now why my leather jacketed nemesis, with his disgusting greasy hair and foul breath never went to bed, sleeping instead wherever he lay when he run out of steam. I understand why another beautiful blond chose to inhale vast amounts of powder so she could sleep by the dawn, avoiding the night. They are running, always running. They are running from a life that it catching up with them—from a life of potentials turned to actualities. For my own part, the actualities are far less disturbing then theirs, but, under it all is the sense that the future is not a limitless resource, but a precious length of thread that unravels a little more every day. There comes a point when we give up beginning, and choose to be; the desire to become, however, never leaves us.
This is the second post written from the tipi; the night is cold, below freezing by many degrees. No fire tonight, no fire last night, or the night before. I am learning to stay warm in the very cold. I am a little embarrassed now at the number of fires I burned this last year—it seems unlikely that my ancient forerunners would have burned wood every night that it was cold, especially where buffalo and elk skins could be had. I do love a warm fire, and it even sounds good now—but the quiet dark and cold is also intoxicating in its own way—to be utterly warm and still, surrounded by the cold—to feel the harsh air enter your lungs, but be in comfort. To see the stars normally hidden by smoke.
The sun broke through the clouds this afternoon, and finally, I was able to take to the wild. A short ride on pavement, and I am on the Gem Trail. That mud coated my tires and left a stripe on my back is small consequence of the freedom I felt being able to pedal in the fresh air. My mind of course began to race, and, I was able to experience the creativity that endorphins bring. Even being stopped by a clog of mud on my tires was a pleasure. To be out, alone on the broad steps, looking up to the deep canyons of Kolob signaled a deeper homecoming.
My home full of groceries, I returned to my kitchen, finally, and spent the evening cooking: roasting, rendering, making preparations for the week to come. Listening to the radio, and simply enjoying the pleasure of a solitary domestic evening.
To bed in the Tipi, watching Orion’s belt through the smoke flaps. Awake in the cold, tipi door frozen stiff: Matilda and I burst out like strippers emerging from a giant conical cake.
Last night was spent at a Christmas Party. A friend, Tim, asked about my homecoming post, and noted that I did not describe the tipi, which is where I have spent the majority of my nights for the last year. I had not mentioned it because it was a soggy mess, having been un-lived in for three weeks. The first night back I spent with my girlfriend, at her house, I should say for more reasons than thermal comfort. Between reunion and working, there has been scant time to return life to my lodge: a task I undertook today.
I am embarrassed to say that it was remarkably easy, and, even jet-lagged, I might have done it a couple of days ago. I pulled my bedding out, and lit a fire, which I let burn as I set about the business of washing what needed washing. There was a puddle on the floor, something that I never resolved in the past, but, with everything out I brought in some gravel and raised the low spot. With steam rising from the canvas, and a fire large enough to roar, the tipi quickly became warm and dry once again. There was virtually no smoke, even with the unusually large fire—partly a result of the way the fire was constructed, and partly a result of the incredible draft coming in the open door. I love, very much the feeling of the cool air in my lungs as I lay next to the radiant warmth of the fire.
It is odd to most people that just having built a new building that I have yet to put a bed inside. Odd that I elect to forgo the ease, quiet and comfort of the most modern technology for snakes, mud, and cold. I moved onto my land and into the tipi before the building was completed; that is how eager I was to be rooted in my own place. The tipi, while an artifact more relevant to the plains than to the mesas and valleys of Southern Utah, was my house of choice, if only for the beauty of its geometry It is not entirely conical, and is canted such that the fire is closer to the door than the back. The things I have heard and smelled, felt and sensed in the tipi are humbling—I have had all manner of visitor—a tarantula, a great white owl, lizards and confused squirrels.
My dog Matilda and I fall asleep to the howls of Coyotes, and wake to the songs of birds. We listen to the music of the night: the wind, the rain, the weather nobody knows about, and even the sound of rats chewing through my windshield wiper wires. The sound of a shocked rodent blended with the action of swishing blades is unmistakeable to me now, though I will admit I thought I might have been visited by an odd specter until I saw what was happening with my own eyes. Still, much better to know I had to repair the wire than to discover I was driving blind in the rain.
Now, I am eager to sleep outside again. And, having fixed the puddle in the floor, am looking forward to keeping my feet dry. I have only to finish my washing, and life will return to the tipi. February will be the anniversary of my move in. I have yet to assemble my more conventional bed in my building. I wonder, however, how eager I will be to do it. Tonight is a stormy and rainy night, the yard is a sea of mud. I want nothing more than to be in my tipi: to be by the warmth of the fire, to breathe the cold night air, and to sleep amidst the sounds of the rain. As I approach the new year, I wonder if I should not start the clock again on my year in the tipi, and live it once again, more completely. Whether time away was spent in a short hard Chinese bed, or next to a warm and loving companion, something inside of me is ready to breathe the air of the wild again.