Coming down from the mountain

Words to live by: the paperweight my friends Buck and Patty gave me. It stayed next to my laptop all summer.
Words to live by: the paperweight my friends Buck and Patty gave me. It stayed next to my laptop all summer.

I’m packing up the cabin, cleaning out the mini-fridge and writing a goodbye note for the bear (we had some good times this summer). Tomorrow morning I’m heading back to Austin, where I’ll keep working on the novel.

I’m excited to get home. I’m not at all sure what my life’s going to look like when I get there. Hopefully I can bottle this mountain simplicity and bring it with me.

I know I’m going to be a little giddy at first as I get reacquainted with the wonders of civilization: turning a knob and getting clean water from the tap, the porcelain brilliance of a toilet (don’t get me started, I could write poetry about flush toilets at this point), Internet at your fingertips, cell reception everywhere you go. And more importantly, I get to see my family and my friends.

I’m going to miss the mountains, and living in a world that feels very compact and slow. The days seemed to drip by like winter syrup; I could almost feel my senses waking up again. The smell of pines and spruce and the scrubby little plants that give off this musky, herbal scent when it rains. The shifting shadows on the mountains every evening as the sun sets. The sound of a raven overhead (a raspy whoosh-whoosh, like an old foot-pump loom) or a grasshopper snapping past your ear like stripped electrical wires touching. And at night, silences so deep that I could close my eyes and swear I was in the Michigan woods after a heavy snow.

Living in the cabin never fails to remind me how little I really need to be happy. Even the little slice of my worldly possessions I packed into the Kia for the summer was too much. I could have left half of it at home. Give me my music, books, a laptop to work on, a camera, a few clothes, some favorite DVDs, and I’m good.

I’m looking at the top shelf of the little kitchen cupboard I nailed together 10 years ago – my first cabin improvement project. It’s filled with antacids, Pepto-bismol, Nyquil, ibuprofen, allergy pills — all the stuff I needed in Austin to knock down various bodily bothers that seemed to be coming with increasing regularity. After the first week or so up here, I haven’t touched any of it.

I suppose the explanation is simple: less stress, more peace. I’m doing exactly what I want to do, I’m exactly where I want to be and I control the rhythm of each day.

A little voice keeps whispering, “But this isn’t the real world.” Which is true. It’s easy to lose your mountain zen when you’re stuck in Austin traffic on a 100-degree day and the A/C conks out. But then I remember: I quit my job. Right now it’s very real, and right now is all I care about.

When I go back to Austin, for the first time in 18 years I won’t be going to the newsroom five days a week. I’ll have to find a new rhythm, and it’s going to be a big adjustment. In some ways, it’s going to be like a new city, I think.

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to spend so much time here (big thanks again to Eric and his parents for making that happen).

I could probably squeeze another month or two before the snows come and the cabin is truly cut off from civilization, but the Austin City Limits festival is coming up soon. I go every year, and every year my house fills up with friends for the weekend. It’ll be like a homecoming party.

My plan is to stay and write in Austin through the holidays, then head to a new writing destination early next year. So if people are still interested in reading, I’ll keep writing…

ψ

6 thoughts on “Coming down from the mountain”

  1. As of a few weeks ago I can really identify with the feeling that the days slow down in the mountains, and slow a person down. I was sitting in the dark in Cloudcroft NM, finally reconciled to the fact I was well outside of cell phone range and completely offline and out of touch with the rest of the world (well, except for my GPS, but there’s only so much entertainment one can get from a Garmin). I listened for any sounds in the eerie silence, and was eventually rewarded with the simple symphony of a gentle rogue wind blowing through the tops of the firs and aspens. Came up stage left, engulfed me in sound for a few moments, and then exited stage right.

    Nothing like the mountains to adjust the modern man, especially the fine-tuning.

    But glad you’re coming back brother. Time to ride in all this oxygen down here!

  2. I didn’t want to read this. I wanted another month or two on the mountain. Nevertheless, I have absolute faith that Austin will get the same treatment after your return.

    1. Thanks Rusty, another month or two would have been great, but I had to take care of some things in Austin. I appreciate the kind words.
      Dave

  3. Hi Dave, where is your place in Colorado? And are you going back?
    My log cabin is in Northern New Mexico. We come up each year to spend the summer. Wondering if we’re close enough to get together maybe next summer. 512-940-8880.

    1. Hey John, good to hear from you. The cabin’s in Pagosa Springs, really close to NM. Where’s your place? I’m hoping to go back next summer too.

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