Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Aroostook County, Maine

The washout beneath ice

I'm back here in the frozen north, the land of cold and restricted internet access. Which means, of course, that I feel the need to reconnect with the universe at large again. It's amazing how distracting the internet is when I'm constantly hooked into it, ending up a barrier to genuine connection. Then when I'm separated from it, I long for it. So it's Wednesday, the day when I trek to Presque Isle for my writer's group, where I'm plodding methodically through the chapters of my book manuscript. Seeing it anew through another group of eyes may excite my enthusiasm to go back for another round of revisions.

I like to stop, while I'm in town, and avail myself of the high-speed internet, but it's funny to me how things that are so common in the south-lands—like going to a coffee shop to drink a mocha and use the internet--here are utterly alien. I've encountered it before. I stop someplace that advertises free wi-fi, and although one would guess that it would be normal for people to stop by with their computers—Starbucks and local coffee shops alike in Chattanooga were packed with people on their iPads and smartphones, working, here everyone looks at me as if I'm a Martian just landed from my space ship. I find it immensely annoying, the constant sidelong glances from staff and customers alike.

Our neighbor, who gathered the mail while I was gone, and collected my Christmas packages from locales as diverse as London and Oregon, said that it was like I was a terrorist. Every other day, a new strange package from a foreign address. So maybe I look like a terrorist here, too. Only someone developing nuclear weapons would sit at the Tim Horton's with a mocha.

It's the culture shock that hits, whenever I land back here in the County. The two inches of ice that coat every outdoor surface don't help. I've been on exactly one walk since I've been back, wearing my mountaineering crampons, while Shadow skidded across the flat sheet of ice like he was skating. I'm supplementing myself with Vitamin D, but winter stretches ahead of me as long and endless as the glassy ice. I'm trying to hold January to myself, giving myself all of the luxury of extra wood, extra clothes, extra layers. It's the waiting inherent in winter, the sense that everything's in deep hibernation. I'm trying to celebrate it, to give myself little bursts of beauty, of sunlight, but I know it's my hard season.

More and more, when I track down the current residence of writers I respect, I discover that they live in the frozen north. Minnesota, Dakota, Wisconsin. If I'd written a bestseller, I'd think about moving to Malibu. But maybe there's something important about this period of coldness, of waiting. I came to the woods to live deliberately. Maybe this is when I can dive deep down inside of myself to find the sap that drives growth into the spring.

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