Posts Tagged With: home

Castaway Part 4: Halfway Heartbreak

Our crew has finally been blessed with the knowledge of our departure date. The boat to deliver us from Johnston Island will purportedly arrive June eighth. Five days of shattering social contact will then take place between my crew and the new CAST, known affectionately as “the changeover,” in which we will train the newbies on all things Johnston. Then we will leave the poor saps behind and head back to Honolulu.

This puts us almost exactly half way through our stay here. In many ways this makes it easier to grapple with, seeing as we’ve already survived as many months as we have in front of us. The finish line is finally in view and we can stop making jokes about being abandoned here to eat radioactive coconuts for the rest of our days. But initiating the countdown has also drawn emphasis to the time we have left. Though I still enjoy the Johnston lifestyle, I have finally identified some things I really miss, such as couches that don’t have ants perpetually crawling across them and beds not made of air.

Still, the material desires are completely inconsequential and could even be ignored, if it weren’t for the looming shadow of what I really miss. My people. I am not alone, but I am lonesome. I feel an ache that can’t be placed, a desire to search for and ruminate over some unseen affliction. Originally finding it easy to still my mind in the early weeks, I now struggle to meditate. When left unoccupied, my attention bounces erratically from past to future, picking at emotional scabs and obsessing over possibility. It often seems as much a task to focus on the present as if I were in physical pain. I imagine unlikely hazards befalling my loved ones whilst I sit on this bizarre, impossibly far away hunk of rubble. I make plans and change them. I play the movie of my reunion with my family, partner, and friends over and over again.

Tranquility still surrounds me. The birds still fly in from the ocean every evening. The Milky Way still stretches above. But sometimes majesty is lost in the absence of love. I want to believe I have the capacity to appreciate beauty regardless of company. That it is inherent in my nature. That all else failing, the intimacy between I and the earth will buoy me when I have no one to turn to. But there is a certain sadness in the moment shared between a single human being and a single shooting star. Between a vast ocean and one heart. Perhaps beauty is not a benevolent gift of the cosmos, but of the complex and conniving machinery of natural selection. Perhaps we only revel so that we may draw another closer in our ecstasy.

Or perhaps I am weak. Needy. Perhaps my inability to focus on the beauty that surrounds me displays codependency. Perhaps the desire for the physical proximity of certain individuals is just another aspect of the hedonic treadmill. To say so would be valid considering the life history of the species I belong to. We need one another to survive but our nature does not exactly program us for tranquility and peace, even when we get the things we most desire. But if attachment to the people in my life makes me just a cog in the machine, then so be it. There is no force in the universe I’d rather be beholden to than the love for my people. If I’m destined to always grasp for something, I’d rather grasp for humans than objects, places, or ambitions.

As I stare down the line at that somehow close yet somehow so very far away finish line, I repeatedly tell myself to savor this time. That I will look back and miss the days spent hiding in the ant cave from the midday heat, baking brownies and watching stupid TV comedies with my island sisters. Or seeing the adorable fluff of a tropicbird chick peak out from under it’s striking parent. Or the vastness of the ocean and the silence of disconnection. Though I may have left a lot behind, I’d be remiss to forget how lucky I am to be here.

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Red-footed boobie and chick

 

***This is a personal blog and the opinions expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Categories: Blog Series, Humanity, Thoughts, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Residential Unit

There’s a sign in the elevator of my downtown DC apartment complex that unabashedly refers to my 600-square foot dwelling as a “residential unit.” I looked at the sign for much longer than it took to read the simple arrangement of words, trying to decide why it made me feel strange. Perhaps it’s because the phrase “residential unit” bares hardly any resemblance to the word home. “Welcome to my humble residential unit.” “My residential unit is your residential unit.” Nice.

I’m sure there are others who would find discomfort in the utilitarian nature of the phrase. It does conjure some Orwellian images; humans living in simplistic, identical cubicles packed into an aging brick facade. Yet these notions really don’t bother me. Simple, condensed housing is affordable and sustainable and can be made beautiful.

The sign unsettles me ever so slightly because it reminds me that I live in an epicenter. A human hive. My apartment, though I consider it my current “home,” is one unit of hundreds contained within the same monolith structure, neighbored by countless other monolith structures, creating a man-made landscape that blots out the horizon.

It’s not that I necessarily object to this arrangement. If ants and termites didn’t arrange themselves into hills and towers, their presence would likely overwhelm the spaces they inhabit. Living close by one another, where we can easily access the goods and services we need without burning long-dead organic matters and releasing toxic fumes, is the most sustainable, logical way to support our populations at their current numbers.

I don’t mind my residential unit. It’s the perfect size for two human beings and a cat and requires minimal maintenance. Were it to serve as my entire world however, it would be in desperate need of what a zookeeper would refer to as “enrichment.” Sure there are books on the shelves, a TV, and implements for my various hobbies. But living solely within the confines of any space becomes difficult after too long, regardless of the opportunities for amusement.

I suspect that I am overly aware of my captivity in much the same way that some pets are. While I am not explicitly kept in doors and on asphalt against my will, I am a prisoner of my nature. Just as a golden retriever does not want to be abandoned on the side of a dirt road, I don’t long to escape the shackles of civilization for a proud life of shitting in the woods and eating rabbit meat. I like baths, coffee, and live music as much as the next girl. I have been designed, by both nature and nurture, to exist in this framework of human existence and find little romanticism in the idea of wholly “returning to nature.”

Still, I often look over the railing atop my 11-story building and revel at how exceedingly easy it would be to initiate the fall that would crumple my body and end my brief experience with this world. The image is both a nightmare and a fantasy.

Perhaps someday I’ll find the proper balance of “nature” (this word is it’s own conundrum) and practical human existence. Maybe the lingering, sticking sensation of living in a hamster cage would evaporate if I were to achieve my dream existence in an earthship in the woods, or nomadically wandering the continent in a comfortably compact van. But deep in the recesses of my brain I suspect that wouldn’t be the case. You can always make your dog happier, but you can never make it understand what it means to no longer be a wolf.

Categories: About me, Humanity, Lifestyle, Sustainability, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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