Moving Outhouses…

Near my tent, there are three outhouses. Being a single individual, I decided early on that I would only worry about keeping one stocked with necessities (bucket, toilet paper, sawdust, farmer’s almanac). I chose the one the faced East in order to catch the early morning rays.

Last week was my last week of class for the semester. As a celebration, I invited the students and faculty of the program out for a bonfire and potluck. It was a beautiful evening by the way. Since I was hosting so many people (at least compared to the camps’s usual population of one), I decided to open up another outhouse and stock it with a bucket, toilet paper and sawdust (I decided against purchasing another farmer’s almanac). This outhouse faces South. It doesn’t get the early morning rays, but it does get light throughout the day. It is nice to change views every now and again.

A few days ago, I needed to use the facilities later on in the evening. When I opened the door of the first outhouse and entered, there was sudden frenetic activity above me. I fled the outhouse followed closely by a robin. Apparently few beings, whether humans or birds, enjoy sharing an outhouse, at least a single seater outhouse.

The following day. I decided to check out the outhouse in the day and sure enough, in the rafters, there was a small robin’s nest. A robin’s nest? In an outhouse? This is no place for a nest I thought. After all, I am a human being. I certainly should receive preference over a bird for my use of the outhouse. So I picked the nest up, ensuring that there were no eggs in it, and flung it out the doorway.

I used the outhouse then. I was convinced that I, in my human righteousness, had been right in my indignation. As I sat there however, I began to think. Thinking is usually a side effect of using an outhouse.

I have three outhouses. I don’t really need three. I don’t really need two. One would certainly suffice.

A robin doesn’t use their nest for long either. Though I don’t know how long a robin sits on her nest, I know that certainly, it will not be long before she and her fledglings have left it.

I do enjoy the robins. They are a very welcome sight in the springtime, especially after this long winter.

By the end of the session, I realized how unfairly I had treated the robin.

I reached down, gently handled the nest, and returned it to it’s perch, hoping that Sister Robin would forgive me for my insolence and not mind it being somewhat more tussled than she had left it…

Last night, I peeked in the building and looked up at the nest. Sure enough, there was Mother sitting vigilantly in her home. I decided to start using the South facing outhouse only.

It’s nice to have neighbours.

 

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My Three Roommates: Dark

As mentioned in my previous post in this series, I have three roommates who are far from welcome, Cold, Dark, and Lonliness. Last time, I discussed Cold, today, I would like to introduce you to Dark.

We, as humans, tend to try and avoid darkness. It is, most likely, an evolutionary behaviour since our eyes are terrible at seeing in the dark. We prefer daylight. It allows us to avoid unpleasant surprises that may result in death or injury, whether that is a sabre-toothed wolf hunting our early brethren, or simply a hole in the path that we fail to see while dragging a load of wood in a toboggan to our camp… something that has personally happened to me many times. All in all, our preference for light is fairly understandable.

We surround ourselves with light, as much as we can. From a simple campfire or handheld torch, to gas lamps and through to modern electrical light bulbs, we try out very best to overcome the darkness. It is not rare to drive through either a city or a rural area at night, and see a building fully lit, every window beaming the soft yellow glow of electricity, whether somebody is there or not. While I believe this is a massive waste of electricity and a prime example of human folly, I also understand it. We are afraid of the dark.

In our modern cities, light pollution has effectively cut us off from the stars above. Entire generations of children have never seen the night sky, have never learned the constellations, have never celebrated under a full moon, or been awed by shooting stars or the northern lights.

Living in a tent, I do not have to worry too much about light pollution. Russet House is far enough away that even if they were to turn on every light, a fact that is unlikely as they are very frugal about their power usage, it would not impact me in the slightest. Walking to my tent at night, I can see one neighbour’s halogen security light shining through the trees, and I am also aware of a glow in the sky to my south from what I presume to be another neighbour not too far from me. All in all, I am free to enjoy the stars throughout the evening.

And I do enjoy the night. I do enjoy darkness. I have yet to light my pathway going to my camp, even though it has caused me to stumble a few times as mentioned above. As Wendell Berry says, “To know the dark, go dark.” Darkness provides the world with another layer, another way of seeing and experiencing. Trees, snow, buildings, tents, everything is subtly different when lit by a thin crescent moon on a hazy night. And there are few things more wonderful than standing in the middle of an open snowy field, lit by the Full Snow Moon of February, and simply marveling.

But I must also be honest, at times, the Dark makes tent living especially difficult. When one lives in a tent, the Dark disallows much work to be done, even though the body and mind are still fit for doing it. It is difficult to read, to write, or to even see inside the tent. It is unsafe to do much axe-work, though I will admit, I have chopped more than my safe share of firewood by headlamp (I had a rule prior to this year to never cut wood after the sun has gone down. This is a personal rule I am very ashamed to have broken many times in the past two months).

As well, there are times where the Dark can be oppressive. It, like its brethren Cold, is always there in a tent. No matter how much light I have around me, Dark is always there, biding its time until its temporary banishment is over and it can return.

I have assembled, while living in the tent, a number of tools to help me with the banishment of Dark. I have a headlamp that I wear all evening, and an overhead LED light, both of which are more than adequate to light the room while their batteries are strong and fresh. In the cold however, this does not seem to last too long. As this winter has continued longer than most locals expected and has been much colder than anybody has ever remembered it being, batteries have been a bit of a struggle for me.

I tried Kerosene lamps. They give off a nice soft glow and work well with the romantic “pioneer” motif that I have going. Had I spent money on good lamps, they would probably work well too. Sadly, I sprang for the World Famous brand lamps from Canadian Tire. I feel confident giving a review on them. They’re absolutely terrible. I purchased two, thinking I could hang one on each end of the tent, providing me with wonderful light to play my harmonicas and wax poetically by. They both broke through regular use in a matter of weeks days. I should clarify, technically they DO work. They also give off terrible black smoke, flare up (picture having a lantern fully engulfed in fire hanging just a foot or so below the peak of your cotton tent), and leak Kerosene terribly. Living in a tent, I am learning to be content with the risk of fire, but these firebombs were just too much for me. They are now sitting patiently in storage, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them.

Candles are nice. They work well, give off a nice glow, can adapt to my lighting needs (many are lit when I’m entertaining, few are lit when I’m reading by myself) and are quite reliable. That said, they tent to melt quicker than I would like and are a constant expense.

Depending on the evening, I primarily use both candles and my headlamp, though recently, with the warmer summer temperatures, I have also put new batteries in the LED light, making the tent exceptionally bright, at least until the batteries fade out.

As another blessing, tonight is the night to change the clocks ahead. Though this means I will once again be waking up in the darkness, it also means that I will have an extra hour of the day after class with which to chop some wood and do my chores. Or at the very least, it will allow me to see the holes in the path before I fall into them. Hopefully.

I will be blogging little over the next week as Adar will be in town, though I do have a couple of small posts that will be coming out.

Sincerely,

Adam

WB: To Know the Dark

Frequently, I find myself returning to the tent at dark. This will likely change as we gain more daylight, but for now, I am usually traveling the last kilometre or so by foot with only the moon to guide me. I came across this poem recently which encouraged me to continue to refrain from using a headlamp on my evening walks.

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

– Wendell Berry, New Collected Poems