I recently allowed my continuing dissatisfaction with "civilization" to lead me to make some striking changes in my life. As long time readers may remember, for the past two years I was the owner/operator of a small retail shop in downtown Asheville. Yes, I was a merchant. A businessman. A minor league Medici. A Sam Walton wannabe.
Strange thing is, I've always been more of a John-Boy Walton wannabe. For me, peace and contentment have always been found in a picturesque valley or a star-filled sky over a roaring campfire, rather than in stacks of coins. Crickets, rushing water and the wind in the trees do far more for me than the clink of money.
So there I was, living the American dream of being self-employed, in the midst of the thriving metropolis of Asheville. Being serenaded by the dulcet tones of diesel engines, sirens, and late night drunks, my vision filled with pollution, concrete, asphalt and folks too busy getting somewhere else to notice where they were and what surrounded them. Ah, what living hell it was.
There finally came a day when I could take it no longer and made the decision to sever my connection with the world of retail. It was something that I had threatened to do several times and I believe that my friends didn't really believe that I would actually do it this time. Well, I did. I met with my business partner and determined what I could get for my stake in the business, and then went in search of my new home.
Since I was very young I have tremendously enjoyed camping. My family had a travel trailer and we spent about half of summer break in campgrounds, usually along the Blue Ridge Parkway. During my senior year in high school, I lived in the travel trailer. At the time, it was really cool to live "in my own place", and looking back from the present the appeal of compact living was very strong. Therefore, I determined to seek out an RV in which to live.
It didn't take me long to find the perfect one. I ended up with an old Winnebago, big - but not too much so - in very good shape, and at a very good price. I then entered "Walden" mode, and culled my possessions down to a minimum. During this process I made several of my friends and three different local non-profit organizations very happy with donations of furniture, appliances and various and sundry other things. At this point I have managed to cull my worldly possessions down to clothing, books (I couldn't bring myself to get rid of many of those), music, and a few of my more meaningful knickknacks.
Ye gods, how much more free this has made me feel! No longer do I yearn to buy the latest whatever. I have shelter, food, clothing and the company of my cats, and I'm here to tell you folks, that's really all a person needs. I hear folks talking about buying this or needing to get that and I just wonder why they feel they need these things? They are doing nothing but complicating their lives with unnecessary clutter. And their desire for these material things simply drives them to greater and greater heights of consumerism - not to mention further and further into debt.
Most people feel that they need great amounts of material things to make their lives worthwhile. People, please believe me when I tell you that it just ain't so! If you want to experience something that will make you feel invigorated, just go out to the country, find a spot with little to no evidence of "civilization", and sit down. Just sit there for a while. Now answer this, would you rather do this every day for just an hour or so, or would you prefer to earn an extra dollar an hour?
Just the other morning I was sitting at the dining table drinking my coffee (I haven't given up everything) and listening to public radio when my aforementioned cats got all excited, looking out the front windows of the motor home and pacing back and forth. At first I thought they were just trying to figure out how to get at the squirrels (who have been going nuts - no pun intended - with their nut gathering -- it's going to be a rough winter according to their actions), but as I got up to refill my coffee cup and look out the windows to see the object of the cats' attention, I was astounded to see a mountain lion. Not something you see everyday and certainly not something you'd see spending all your time in the city. So take my advice and follow my lead and maybe, just maybe, you too might see something out of the ordinary and rare.
[Direct all comments to Phydeaux at Rapid River, 70 Woodfin Place, Suite 212, Asheville, NC 28801, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.]