My Uncle’s house in Connecticut has central heat and flush toilets, two full showers, a dishwasher, a pool table, spare bedrooms, a weekly visit from a Maid, and a television bigger than a walk in closet. Compared to my cabin, this house feels like a seething factory of both efficiencty and waste, comfort and gluttony. I am at once physically at ease yet tense in the hyper-modern environment. I am simultaneously grateful for the refuge and family, yet I remain uncomfortable with the lack of physical and mental activity amongst family members (myself included).
I am used to stimulation, engagement, activity of the mind – not Operation Shutdown.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my family. My Aunt and Uncle work their petite, athletic asses off at very dignified work (one teaches graduate level biology at Yale, the other is a top terminal illness doctor). My cousin Evan worked with me for several hours today on his dreaded college essay. He is ADD and collegiate lacrosse team bound (we reviewed his folder of personal letters from coaches all over the East Coast today). The other cousin, Blake, is growing into a handsome young man, a fine writer, and a soccer and lacrosse goalie with regional reputation. There is a lot to be proud of here.
But three televisions in one house? All on at the same time?
Computer games with machine guns?
Three cell phones, a pager, and the constant flow of seventy-five degree pre-heated air?
My brain is starting to go numb. My back muscles have now woven a taught sailor’s knot extending from the base of my right shoulder blade up to the base of my skull. I am not walking or moving my body anywhere. There is no wood to chop, no half a mile walk to the mail box, no excuse to move much more than a few inches to get another piece of chocolate, another glass of wine, another meal when I’m not even hungry.
Have I really become such a fragile creature, like a salamander touched by salty hands, now slowly melting from the outside in, eventually resulting in total pH meltdown? Can I lift only my fingers to type, but not to open the door – go on a walk, jump-start the brain, kick up some snow? Where are my midnight sky and snowflake stars, crunch-crunch oak leaves and cakling squirrels? For that matter, what about some nice, family-friendly Christmas Eve traditions? I have become a total creature of habit, my mountain cabin a bubble ecosystem, my breath of creativity tied to Carolina hemlock boughs with finely spun wolf spider thread. Spin me home, spin me home, spin me home!