Henry David Thoreau: Walden Pond comes to Vancouver
In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, here is an excerpt from IN, AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas, describing the construction of, and profound experience with, his own Walden Pond cabin.
"The Kerouac of the new millennium." Frank Wolf (author of Blind Bay)
    ...I was looking towards the north shore mountains from the pit of the tangled and tortured east-side of the city, and I suddenly realized how much wilderness lay just beyond Vancouver itself. I had lived clandestinely in the forest while I was working in Alaska, surely it was possible to find a place to hide somewhere in the vast expanse of woods near the city; a little piece of flat ground to build a small shanty and live like one who exists in two worlds for a while again.
      ...I had fallen in love with the earth with such intensity that men and their ways came to take on ever darker and darker shades to me. My eyes came to need the gnarled and inexplicable trunks of ancient cedars, my feet the soft and unpredictable step of futon-thick moss underneath, my ears the play of the wind and the songs of the birds, and my lungs the crisp moist tickle of the west coast air. How soothing the true wilderness was to my soul compared to the riot of mankind's ubiquitous pandemonium and all the noise which came with it.
     And so I stepped onto a city bus that day, headed out of town, and got off at the last stop on the line- as far as the public transit would take me. Off I went with sledge and saw, rope and tarp, ardor and victory, and thundered up the nearest trail a short way, then turned off of it, through the bush, up a ridge, over a rise, and onto a small level area where, instantly, I knew I had found my home- a place to be near and not near the city, in and not in the wilderness, alone and not alone, a part of the world and yet apart from the world. It was quiet, beautiful, soothing and ...free.
     And so I hacked out a little area near a bluff overlooking Howe Sound and the Georgia Strait, built a small pole-frame, hung a tarp over it, built a bed out of some twine and six-foot cut branches, created a stone and mud fireplace, hauled up a sleeping bag, some candles, and a water jug, and within half a day I had a hidden hut with a million dollar view, no rent, and, more importantly ...no noise.
     This little hermitage would come to serve me well over the next few years as I came and went from the city. It became my Thoreau's cabin, nicely tucked away from society, convention, money, and all the ills these are kin to.
     When people eventually heard about this and about my regular pilgrimages out into the bush alone, occasionally a friend or acquaintance would offer their admiration that I had developed the skills necessary to be so self-sufficient, and then they would go on to generally bemoan their own incompetence which kept them from such liberties. This type of comment I would quickly rebut, declaring that the only skill necessary to survive in the wilderness alone was the ability to endure oneself, everything else one could learn in a minute, for wilderness living required nothing more than a tent or tarp, sleeping bag, lighter, compass, and a bag of granola and raisins. Because to be in the wilderness meant to
be in the wilderness. There was no need to go on an extended hike or paddling trip; the shortest distance required to get away from the hubbub was all that was necessary, it was far too simple.
     I reckon this observation of mine- that the only talent one needs to be in the wilderness is the ability to be alone- and that means lonely- is why a certain well known wilderness school ends each of its courses with a three-day solo session, in which each person must not only apply the practical skills they have acquired during the course, but must also be wholly alone, which is a different type of aloneness altogether, out in the bush, instead of in the city where, devoid of company, one still has books, radio, television, newspapers and all the rest of the cosmopolitan clutter which never allows one to fall back into the abyss within themselves.
     It was that abyss I would enter, up in my hut, sitting alone, watching the glorious sunsets over the strait, sipping port or whiskey... and wondering, as I always wondered, where everyone else was; wondering why the million and a half other souls down there in the city were content to sweat their lives away only so as to own or rent a crumbling piece of the tormented ant's nest? Where were the others- and there must have been others- who also had been driven like spiritual lepers from the herd? Was I the last man alive from a lost tribe destined to wander unbelonging amongst the children of men? Forever banished, forever outside, forever longing for a world in which our spirits mingled in a singular dance? Where was my tribe, my people, my peerage? Where were the ones who, like myself, belonged to another life altogether?
     I was determined never to be harnessed, nor blend-in, nor lose myself in the traps of mankind's errors. I would only dissolve, and live, and become whole in the remaining untouched wilds of our sick and agonizing earth.
    I had no home, no responsibility, no bills, no future. I lived in the cold and rainy forest, ate beans and bread, drank cheap wine, made love to wise and beautiful women, learned my own lessons from my own heart, and spoke with God occasionally. I would not trade that period of my life for the whole world. ...
To see more about IN, AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey, click here.
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