This morning, over coffee and the sounds of the vineyard harvest humming away in the background, accompanied by bird song (lovely) and the occasional disruptive rumble of a logging truck, the Tall Man and I mulled over the realities of “living away from it all,” which by most accounts, we do. How, for a short stint of our lives so far, we are able to live without all of the usual static and noise: not just of perpetual highway traffic and the hum and hustle of teeming humanity, but of billboards, television, internet, and the undeniable presence these entities assert in modern life. Although there are myriad annoyances that inevitably sprout up from time to time, in relation to the bare-bones reality that is living so remotely, it also somehow feels just right much of the time; although there are elements of it that are completely at odds with who I am, or who I’ve been conditioned to believe I should be.
Even if I feel restless and claustrophobic at times – island fever, though it’s not technically an island – and crave the interactions with peers which are so few and far between here, there is also something about it that sits exactly where it oughta. Even when I know in my heart that the place isn’t quite what I had in mind, and that I won’t stay here for the rest of my life, (because, believe me, there are things I desperately would trade for in a heartbeat) there is some quiet voice inside of me that says Why are you in such a hurry to run away all the time? There’s value in silence and solitude, and when you think about sprinting away again, it’s because you’re just too afraid to look. Even when that “silence and solitude” usually seem to wear the guise of isolation and loneliness with a hint of alienation and the impression that indeed, life IS happening elsewhere. Of course it is. It always is.
We talked about the sigh of relief we exhale slowly, but surely, often unconsciously, as we turn and dip, around the bend on the 128 that signals the dividing line between Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. We talked about how so much laziness and apathy are bred by convenience. And how there is so much we’ve been told that is vital and crucial and important that is really just a fat waste of time and adds no human value to our existence, but actually does so much more of the opposite: to distract us, to destroy us, to take away the short, precious moments we have on this beautiful planet which is summarily being decimated by all this so-called “progress” and “success” we’re taught to strive for.
This quiet, quirky, remote place, although it drives me to the brink of my own sanity at times, as it turns out, is actually something to be treasured and preserved. Not that I’m advocating holing one’s self up like a hermit or a misanthrope and trying to wall yourself off from the rest of humanity’s ceaseless onslaught. I know my fair share of curmudgeons here who espouse exactly that and I think most of them are hiding behind delusion and/or a deeply scarred facade. But for my own part, I am lately finding the moments where I am able to more fully appreciate what it is to find one’s self so-called “above the noise.”
I don’t mean this to say that I’ve moved beyond it, or that I think I’m better than it, or that I have no use for it, and I’m going to live completely on the hinterland fringes of it forever. Surely not. I currently make my living via social media. I’m participating in it right now. I don’t intend to stop. I am talking about taking time out of the panting, shoving, pushing, sad race where you are merely barreling forward without even finding that moment to stop what you’re doing; to take that pause, and languish in that fleeting second it takes to inhale deeply and then slowly exhale. That is, to try to step outside of yourself and your impressions and your beliefs (most of them are wrong. Some of them are right but really… Most of what we think is probably wrong. Or, I’ll speak for myself here: Most of what I think most of the time is probably completely, unutterably false) where your mind can be still – for even just a brief moment – where you can allow those thoughts to recede and allow beauty and silence to overtake you. To perhaps let your eyes and your brain be soothed by the dramatic spectacle in the sky, that we can gaze upon at the start and end to each day, or appreciate some tiny thing that brings you joy or peace or gives you pause. If I can quiet my mind, even for just a moment, sometimes those false impressions and mental static slip away, at least for the time being.