June 30, 2014 – The Art of Decompression
It’s early summer in Oregon. The garden spiders are still infants, the clouds only break after two or three days of steadfastness, and the nights cool themselves off with light, chill breezes. I’ve been here twice before. Once in the fall, and then again last summer. It’s a place where time seems to stand still and sleep comes easy. A natural transition point from wilderness isolation to peopled places.
That’s what I’d thought when planning my summer. But after nearly nine weeks of being a city of one, I’ve come to a town of 58,000 and the shock of that contrast throws my adaptation gears into high motion. I had no memory of it being so loud. The place I’d remembered as quiet after leaving the bustle of international travel and then Dallas, suddenly roars with noise. Traffic, the airline flight paths tracing through the sky, the helicopters, the long, drawn out horn of the trains, human voices, sirens, slamming doors, the whir of passing cyclists. All the background sound that humanity creates is a far cry from the noise I’d so recently lived with. The rushing of the river, the creek’s chirping, the shrill warning call of the ground squirrels, the rustling wind in the trees.
I feel a little like a deep sea diver stopping along the rope to decompress on my way up to the surface. If I go too fast I’ll get the bends. If I go too slowly I’ll run out of air. What I wonder is, can I stay in the depths? Or, in this case, go back to the wilderness? Would more solitude aid or disease my already reclusive soul? Henry Thoreau made it work.
It’s not that I’m anthropophobic. I’m not. But I’ve found that I crave the loudness of nature over the silence of cities. That I understand the eat or be eaten mentality of animals more than the money-driven aspirations of people. That I like being alone.
This is all true. It’s also only one aspect of a complex personality. My own. For additionally, I want to observe people, behavior, actions, passions, and motivations. I want to visit new places and make new (human) friends. I want to eavesdrop on conversations and spy on interactions. I want to spend time with the people I love. All these things become difficult when I’m living by myself in an isolated valley.
I go up to the next knot on the decompression rope and glance at my watch as I wait for the inert gas in my blood to dissipate. It’s now late June in Oregon. The spiders are perfecting web design. The clouds give way to blue sky and sun more often than not. The nights are playing with temperature control. I spend a lot of my time in the backyard, as I’ve always done when I’m here. It’s a world filled with insects, plants, the occasional cat, and the sound of wind chimes. Maybe not so far removed from the wilderness. Just beyond the fence, is that other world. The world where I can walk to the library and bring home stacks of books to research an idea I have. The world where fresh fruits and vegetables are only a mile or two away (though having to pay for them is a bit more painful than simply walking back to the Lodge from the root cellar with a bag filled with food). The world where it’s easy to make or receive phone calls. The world that’s the stepping off point for my next adventure.I go up one more knot.
The art of decompression is the art of going back and forth between two different worlds and not being destroyed by either one.