November 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
I am now living in a cabin, a little cabin on a lake in the woods on the prairie in Minnesota. The geese are migrating, the leaves have just finished their annual mass suicide, the days are growing short. It is a bit like something from a Garrison Keillor production.
I drove here in Suzy, my ’93 Toyota Camry with 220,000 miles on her that has, among other things, hit a free range cow in Southern Utah. With maybe the exception of my saxophone, Boey, I’ve never felt such a companionship or attachment with an inanimate object. This hylozoism admittedly makes me feel a bit silly. Still, I mean it when I say I love her.
Every time I drive across large swaths of the country I am surprised by how organic the state lines seem. When you look at a map, unless they are formed by a river or a coast, the state boundaries seem arbitrary. But when you cross them, you know exactly why those early settlers chose to demarcate the states where they did. When I crossed into Northern California from Southern Oregon, the rain seemed to stop immediately, the landscape became greenish-yellow, the mountains became rolling hills. When you leave the Sierras of California and enter Nevada, the desert begins to show itself, in the way that an audio file looks when if you stretch out the waves to slow it down. You can almost hear that when you travel West to East across America, a voice starting at a rapid tempo and a high pitch gradually becoming slower and lower. It becomes long and squished. When you enter Utah the desert becomes immediately more pronounced, redder, shorter but with more severe spikes. When you cross into Wyoming the desert mountains of Nevada and Utah are stretched further into long plateaus, as if a great hand just pushed down on the top of those mountains to the West. The wind becomes high. You could tell you have entered Wyoming just by the wind. And then when you enter Nebraska, the plateaus are stretched once again into salt flats and the plains. The whole thing feels a bit like driving down the side of one giant mountain, and in a way it is. The stretch of 1-80 across the Western half of the country is a great gradual shift, where everything gets a little shorter, a little farther apart, a little more red and then yellow and finally brown.
The United States of America, for all its fucked-upedness, is a gorgeous piece of land.
I’ve been here in the cabin, alone save for my cat Wittgenstein, for a few weeks now. The only thing I’m genuinely surprised by so far is how lonely I often feel. I longed for this; many people long for this. A respite, a break from the world, a place to hide. But days and days on end without another single human interaction begins to make one feel desperate and sad. You realize that no matter how much of a misanthrope you fancied yourself before, the human is a social animal. It needs to laugh. It needs to be touched. It needs to work things out through conversation. Perhaps I only feel this way because society is in too recent memory. Perhaps this will fade. But the amount of Sinead O’Connor and Explosions in the Sky I’ve been listening to does not bode well on that front.
There is one pub not too far away. One night feeling a great need for proximity to others, I went up there. It was me and two other guys at the bar. They were drinking well whiskey and they were wasted. They were arguing about the best material for axe handles. Here I am, on the northern prairie.
Here I am.