A Room of One’s Own in the Artic
I wonder if it is just me or have others felt as if they are not getting it right at some point during their lives? Because of this “not getting it right” issue people sometimes long for a time apart from the world living alone and without conveniences. Henry David Thoreau felt like this. All the Buddhists at Spirit Rock feel this way. My father felt like this all the time and every place he went he would look for a small, isolated place where he could retreat from the world. Usually there was no phone in these places and often no indoor plumbing. Once he bought a tiny piece of land on top of Mt Mansfield in Vermont where he would go often in the depths of winter. The shack was accessible only by snowmobile or cross country skis. As he was not a cross country ski kind of guy, we would go by snowmobile.
At that point in his life he was on the board of the Bombardier Company in Canada and so he owned the most fancy of” skidoo’s” (as they were called in that time) He would approach one or two of us and enquire if we wanted to go for an “outing” with him. I don’t think an answer was required to this query as everything was all packed up and ready to go and all that was required were the passengers. I think this was one of the reasons my parents had so many children. My father was a big fan of outings and with so many kids in the house he could always find someone to go along with him. Oh Yes, that’s one part of this story that is not completely accurate. My Dad preferred to have passengers rather than riding solo.
On one particular trip to the top of Mt Mansfield, one of my sisters actually fell off the Skidoo but no one knew about it until we were all on the top of the mountain making hot chocolate. My father asked where Susan was and we all looked around in bewilderment. Apparently Susan refused to hold on to the person in front of her as she was fiercely independent and had fallen off the Skidoo somewhere between the bottom of the mountain and where we were now.
After a leisurely sip or two of the hot chocolate, we all traipsed back out to the Skidoo’s to descend the trail in order to find Susan. About half way down the mountain we ran into her and she was walking in a very determined way back home. She seemed unconcerned to have been abandoned on the mountain. I remember that it was very cold that night but we were all wearing the unlined seal skin parkas with no zippers my Dad had bought from his friend, Jules Andre, for a real bargain. We wore these parkas for years as when one child got a little bigger their parka was passed down to the younger child. Putting the parka on often took most of the breakfast hour. You had to lie on the floor and then slide yourself through the wider opening at the bottom of the parka while keeping your arms upright as if you were going to dive into a pool. Once you got your body in, you snuggled your arms into the sleeves. Imagine a roomful of kids in various stages of sealskin parka entry every morning. The scene never stopped entertaining my father which is why I think he secretly kept buying more parkas. The parkas smelled like wet seal which got stronger as the parka got wetter and if you fell on the slope while wearing one you flew down the hill like a joyful but terrified seal let out of his arctic sea. The skiers on the mountain were often accosted by one of us in our flying seal suits.
Anyway…I think the mountain cabin was used sometimes by my father all by himself but he never returned from these outings any happier than when he had left. That’s what I wonder about now. If you can conquer your demons and be able to meditate in solitude will the answer to your question about life become clear? The process is tempting. I think most people give up after a night or two or even an hour as the solitude becomes oppressive. I am wondering if the discipline found in solitude and the work one does there may be more rewarding than anything else in life. I think if one can develop an ability to live independently and happily one’s life is infinitely better. This life is sometimes seen as selfish but I don’t really think it is. I think in many ways it is more selfish to always need to have someone there for you or to be surrounded by others or to have many work commitments. If you spend time in solitude I think you may find compassion more easily as there is no one to judge but yourself. After a while that becomes boring and I am hoping forgiveness arises. I like this plan.