When you die, Mummy, we’re going to put you in bags and eat you,” said our four-year-old. He had just seen what happened to the pigs: they arrive, we feed them, they die and come back in small packages labeled Chops, Ribs and Jowls. After seeing a dead fox last week Bob’s been obsessed with time. Are you nearly 100? Can we all become infinity? How long until we leave the woods?
Before we left New Zealand, a friend of my mother’s said “You’re brave taking off” and my eyes welled up. I didn’t feel brave, I was scared. I couldn’t say, “I’m following my husband’s dream right now,” as that sounded like something a wife from the 1950s would say. But it wasn’t my idea to live in a forest. It was the Dimple’s dream to come to Camp, this place he’s returned to on and off since 1987 and bring us with him. A place where he could be his own man, off the grid and bring home the bacon. Literally.
From the moment we landed, if anything went wrong, my emotions reached for my trump card: “I didn’t choose to freakin come here, it’s not my place!” I would be lying if I said it didn’t cause friction.
The Dimple lived in a cabin in these woods for a year way before he met me. It’s the cabin in the painting that hung in our lounge in Wellington, tempting us with a stretched out paint stroke.
I stumbled across that run-down cabin one day. As I pushed on the No Trespassing sign I smiled: my chap values privacy, even in the middle of nowhere.
Inside, the feeling overwhelmed me. There was his double bed, stove to make coffee on, the red armchair – that was on the porch in our painting, a small bedside table for a candle. Maybe a whiskey. There were no windows, just mozzie screens and the sounds of the forest right outside just as he had described. I heard a woodpecker knocking out a flat tune and imagined him: single, living alone, completely free. His sheltered private pool in the river just below, where he swam naked under the moon.
The Dimple’s past was lingering in the dust particles all around me, the place he healed and made peace with himself. The place where he wished for us, his family, in a future he hoped for. I whispered to him in the dusty darkness, “We’re here my lover,” and tears rolled down my cheeks. I had wished for him too from the mayhem of New York City.
We’ve held hands and jumped off a few cliffs, but shifting to the US has been the biggest. It was a leap of faith, for me. When my dear brother, Shaun and his wife, Tania and their three children visited last October – days after the murderer had been shot – I realized, as I proudly showed off our Camp, I had fallen in love with it too. Their delight with where we lived was validation we weren’t totally mad.
We went to a party in San Francisco recently and people said, “Oh you’re the couple that live in the forest, I’ve heard about you.” Together, united in our fruitiness.
One night I told the Dimple how I felt about the woods and he looked at me for longer than usual, “Sounds like it’s not just my place anymore,” he said. Like him, I’ve made peace with myself here; I too am reaching for a dream.Bob wants to be here for infinity and we’ve tried to explain that only happens – for the pigs, fox and chickens – once they die but he’s not buying it. To him, infinite life is all around us. We won’t be leaving because I finally won an argument, we’ll leave when we decide together the time is right; hopefully not in small bags labeled Steak.
Thanks to all of you for reading this blog, you make me want to keep going. Happy New Year.