Finding Solitude for the Creative Introvert

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Things You Do When You’re an Introvert

We bought a cabin five years ago. When I tell people that it is “off the grid”, they pretend to know what I mean. They don’t. It means, no internet, no cable TV, no electricity, no running water. And sometimes, it means impassable roads, except for the very determined risk takers with 4x4s trucks or quads.

We love our cabin and anybody who has been there says it’s very comfortable, but if somebody is looking to throw a frozen dinner in the microwave, or take a ten minute shower, it’s not gonna happen. We have to think ahead which means starting dinner sooner than we might at home, by putting it on the wood stove, or heating water up a few hours ahead of time for a bath, not a shower. It means using Coleman lanterns and solar lights. We do have an indoor flush toilet, but we have to fill the tank on the back with water, whenever we want to flush. At midnight, when the coyotes are howling and I have my choice between the outdoor ventilated pit latrine, and the indoor toilet, I don’t mind filling the tank.

What Do You Eat At An Off-Grid Cabin

“What’s for dinner,” my husband asks.

“Bone-in, New York steaks,” I answer. He fills the portable grill with briquettes and lights them up. For the record, there isn’t much in the world that tastes better than a grilled steak, out in the middle of nowhere, with an ice cold drink while you sit on the deck and watch the elk herd go by in the valley below.

There’s also pancake batter and syrup and things like tequila, and candy bars, and oatmeal, that I stocked in the Fall. We bring fresh food in our ice chests. Sometimes we fire up the propane refrigerator. Sometimes we don’t.

What Do You Do At An Off-Grid Cabin

We write books.

We make improvements to our cabin.

We walk out onto the deck, sometimes for no reason, and look out across the valley.

There’s nothing there. Nothing, according to some. To us, the vacancy is alluring. The clouds hovering at the same level as our cabin are, oh I don’t know, cumulus. Nerds think like that. We notice the beauty, the white ghostlike fluffiness, but we also categorize them, or argue about them.

“Really? I thought they were cumulous nimbus,” I sometimes add stuff like that just to be annoying to my weather-obsessed spouse.

“Those pine trees are fabulous. I wonder why that one is different from the others.”

“Because it’s a male. I Googled it after the last time we were here.”

“That Tanager is magnificent. I had no idea that birds that color migrated here. It looks downright tropical. ” I photograph and document the yellow and orange bird into our bird book. I verify that my husband knew it was a tanager. He was right.

“The House Wren is certainly loud for his size. I wonder if they’ll have babies in the elk skull again. Maybe we should move the skull away from the front door.”

“Do you think that is bear scat? Surely it’s a small bear, by the size of it.” I definitely look that up when we get home.

“Get up! It’s 4am, and you were wrong about the lunar eclipse. It’s not over yet. I just looked. Get your shoes on.” He wears sandals and shivers while I photograph the eclipse by putting binoculars up to my Canon Rebel.

When We Can’t Get There

We hadn’t been to our cabin since the Fall, which means it had been five months and our cabin has been calling to us, like ice cream and pizza when you’ve been on an egg and grapefruit diet for a week. But, not all Spring seasons are the same. This is our fifth year, and for four years we’ve gone to our cabin any month that we wanted to, but this year it rained and snowed so much that we had to forego our Winter trips. The road in was buried in six feet of snow.

A lot of people live on the first twelve miles of back road leading up to our cabin. Here’s our logic; if they can get in and out on that road, that has had deep ruts carved into it from the melting snow and torrential downpours, so can we. We decide to venture in after the snow melts. Those folks are hard core! We find this out, as our Titan in 4-wheel drive climbs through with no problem, but starts to bottom out clear up to the bumper in one particular rut. I decide that we like our vehicle better than they like theirs. Later, I understand why when we see a Jeep Cherokee with it’s rusty fenders, and dirt that looks like it was painted on three winters ago, with no intentions of ever being washed away. What’s the point? Maybe we should buy a crap truck for times like this. I wonder.

 

We make the ascent upward, through the first twelve miles, then we turn right onto the logging road that nobody maintains. Most of the snow has melted but the treacherous stuff is still lurking in the shade. There are no tire tracks, which means nobody has driven this road in quite a long time. Do we want to be the first, after a the worst winter in five years? Everyone after us will assume we made it and they can follow. It’s a big responsibility. My husband switches another knob on the dashboard, now we’re down to 4-low, and something about a differential lock comes into play. I have visions of us sliding sideways in the mud, over a cliff. Okay, not a cliff, but an embankment. We keep climbing and feel pretty good about the condition of the road, then we hit one of those patches of snow. We’re stopped dead, our tires spinning. My husband is rocking our truck back and forth, trying to get it unstuck. It’s not happening and he starts to get upset. That’s my queue to get out. It’s always better to do that before he starts with the expletives. I say I’ll walk on up ahead and get a shovel from our storage container about a half mile away, uphill. I know after ten years of marriage that it’s always best to leave a man and his stuck vehicle, alone. Inevitably, when I come back, he has the problem solved, which I knew he would.

I get to the cabin and open the door. It’s like coming home after being on a long trip. Everything is the way we left it, except for half of the chimney stack that blew off in the last wind storm. We’ll fix it the next time. We park the truck and hike in with whatever we can carry. Later that evening we enjoy our steaks, and beer and tequila, and do a little writing, and watch a movie on my iPad, then stoke the fire and go to bed. The fire crackles and the wind blows, and we get up in the morning and have pancakes cooked on the propane stove, with warmed syrup and coffee. The dog chases a squirrel, and rolls around in mud puddles, and I sled down our steep driveway on a Costco styrofoam snowboard, instead of walking, because my knee has given out. Before we leave, I sacrifice my 40 year old canner to serve as a chimney cap until we can fix the pipe. It will keep the rain out until we get back.

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Why Do We Do It

When you’re a creative introvert, distractions at home are hard. Mine keep me from being creative or really relaxing. I have lived my life for others; my spouse, my children, my home. I have no regrets but my creativity has been put off, quite a bit. By having a remote cabin, I can be alone with my thoughts, and let new creative endeavors incubate. I can be creative without my daughter calling me for a ride home from work, or having to pick up kitty litter because we’re out again. It’s not for everyone but it’s heaven to me.

 

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2 thoughts on “Finding Solitude for the Creative Introvert

    • Thank you, Jamie. We thought about making it a writer’s retreat. We are converting a shipping container into a guest cabin. It’s really quite wonderful but I am amazed at how many people cannot appreciate the solitude.

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