Jump to content
Dean Pomerleau

The Call of the Wild

Recommended Posts

Over on the cold exposure thread, I posted about how I spent much of July and August living in the forest. Drew asked me to explain why, so I figured I start a new topic rather than clog up the already incredibly long CE thread. So here goes.

 

Drew wrote:

Could you explain your motivation behind your July/August routine?

 

No, not really - not rationally anyway :-), but let me take a crack at it.

 

I really enjoyed communing with nature during our trip to Costa Rica (which was supposed to be a CR mini-retreat, but which everyone from the CR Society except Gordo eventually bagged out on). In particular I fell in love with the location we stayed a (Finca de Vida - or "Farm of Life" FoL).

 

When I got home I immediately started thinking about potentially going back to FoL sometime. They I thought "maybe I can recreate the feel of the FoL closer to home". So I searched the forest near my house and found a beautiful spot. I spent the next several weeks fixing it up, trying to recreate several specific aspects of Finca de Vida. When I was through, I found it was such a enchanting and peaceful place to spend time at that I would hang out there every chance I got. I finally set up a tent and started spending nights there as well. Below is a video I took of my forest hermitage, before I was asked to stop living there by the owner of the property, who eventually discovered it. I bet Gordo will see shades of Finca de Vida in what I created:

 

 

I initially thought of it as a Thoreau thing (from Walden):

 

"“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 

and:

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” 

 

But about ½ way through my time living in the woods, I stumbled upon the Thai Forest Tradition a branch of Buddhism which takes the early teaching of the Buddha quite literally, exemplified by Ajahn Chah (here is one of his great books on the practice). I realized that both the teachings and lifestyle of this tradition resonate with me. In fact, I discovered I was already following the eight precepts of a Buddhist monastic without even realizing it. Below is a short documentary on the Thai Forest Tradition of Buddhism, to give you a flavor:

 

 

I still hang out at my spot in the forest for a few hours each day, feeding the deer, birds and squirrels, practicing walking meditation the stone path you see in the video and generally soaking in the beauty of the forest surroundings. In fact, I'm headed there now.

 

--Dean

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow Dean, its really interesting and somehow comforting to know that the Costa Rica experience deeply impacted you as much as it did me.  Like you, I've been thinking about when I can go back. Amazingly enough, I had even been planing to build a meditation area in the woods behind my house (was thinking along the lines of a tree-house). You were pretty bold to secretly camp out on someone else's property! Haha, that is classic.

 

"I bet Gordo will see shades of Finca de Vida in what I created"

 

Without a doubt!

 

"“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 

and:

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” 

 

Those quotes really resonate with me (especially: and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived).  Like you, I cherish solitude, I think we have more in common than I originally believed.  I am actually typing this from the woods right now, and I've been working as much as possible from the woods lately.  I've been watching the History channel series "Alone" (oddly, my 6 year old daughter can't get enough of it, she even gets mad if I watch it without her). In one episode they put the following quote on the screen which  caught my attention so I took a pic:

forest2.jpg

 

You might also identify with this one:

forest1.jpg

 

(go easy on the losing mind part though, haha). 

 

I told Jody (from farm of life) that I was not yet ready to go back but that I expected to return at some point in the future - I told her that the aya experience we had when we stayed with them was perhaps the most extraordinary event of my life.

 

Regards,

Gordo

Edited by Gordo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fascinating. And congratulations to both of you, for doing what you feel is best. 

 

I can easily see the appeal. I camp pretty much every year, and I love the experience, especially camping out here in CA, where you can camp in some state parks WILD - i.e. you can strike a tent anywhere, not just in a designated camp site - for example in the largest state park of Anza Borrego. However, I don't go alone, I go with my wife, so it's not a solitary experience as you guys have and I'm sure it's qualitatively different - and I admit very, very intriguing. I have camped alone, but that was 30 years ago - yikes, time flies. And I loved it. There is nothing like lying at night looking at the sky with nobody around you for miles and miles. But even just with my wife, I still find it an amazing experience. We pick an isolated spot and strike a tent. I ordinarily have trouble sleeping through the night - I wake up 2-3 times - but not when I camp. When I camp, immediately my sleeping pattern changes - I go to bed when the sun goes down, and get up at sunrise completely refreshed, sleeping through the night. Makes me wonder how our circadian rhythms are affected by living in the city. Just being surrounded by nature is enough to completely change thought patterns. Hike all day, and frequently not encounter anyone else all day - amazing.

 

So yes, camping wild is a special treat, although I admit, I just love camping, period. One of the most memorable summers I spent driving from park to park camping every night from LA to Chicago, staying longer if we felt like it at a given spot. We frequently got prime spots, like at Devil's Tower, right in front, with no other tents around - wake up and look at that amazing structure. I know camping is not what you guys are doing, you're doing more of a solitary retreat, which is a whole other ball game, but I feel that even just communing with nature, as through camping, already has an impact. In fact I saw a study not too long ago that identified many health benefits to communing with nature just a few hours a week at a city park. Although what I personally treasure is the psychological impact - it's almost as if I have two personalities, my everyday city one and the one that appears when I'm out there in the wild.

 

I wish I could pull off something like you guys, but I'm married and my work demands involves physical with people, so that's not in the cards anytime soon. But you guys managed to pull it off. Congratulations!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm a big fan of camping too, last year I did an 8,000 mile roadtrip with my wife and 2 kids, went from Pennsylvania to the Pacific ocean (dipped our hands in) and back, stopping at as many national parks as we could. That too, was a trip of a lifetime and unforgettable experience.

 

I think our favorite stop was Mt. St. Helens (awesome trails and vistas, passionate story telling ranger, wildlife, wild flowers, strawberries, elk, cool ground squirrels). Also really liked Yellowstone (saw bears, bison, elk, heard the wolves howling in the night – we camped in the middle of the park, hot springs, steam vents, etc, it was surprisingly cold, family huddled together in the tent, we brought no cold gear, didn't even bring sleeping bags).

 

Crater Lake (Oregon) was stunning, loved jumping off the cliff into the freezing water, snowball fights with the fam, incredible views.

 

The Badlands -- wasn’t expecting it to be so cool, found a great trail with a huge wooden ladder.

 

Shoshone Falls and the Snake River canyon (Idaho) was a nice stop too.

 

Arches National Park (Utah) was pretty impressive.

 

We didn't spend as much time in Utah as we originally wanted to, so we went back this Summer (after Costa Rica) and hit up Bryce, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks (all were amazing, love that state).

 

 

Kansas was crazy – gotta love a state the lives up to its reputation! As soon as we got there we started seeing ominous storm clouds, I was like “is that a funnel forming on the bottom of that cloud?” We were tent camping for most of the trip including in Kansas. In the 4AM hour we were awakened by lightning, then the wind came and was so strong it felt like the tent was going to blow over with us still in it. The lightning was intense, and trees were coming down around us. We just made a mad dash for the car, didn’t even have time to properly take down the tent, poles and all were just stuffed into the car and disassembled later.

 

Last year's epic camping trip across the USA:

  • Badlands National Park, SD
  • Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, SD
  • Crazy Horse Memorial, SD
  • Devils Tower, WY
  • Grand Tetons, WY
  • Yellowstone National Park, WY
  • Shoshone Falls, ID
  • Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, OR
  • John Day Fossil Beds State Park, OR
  • Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Park, WA
  • Crater Lake National Park, OR
  • Redwood National Park, CA
  • Reno, NV
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Arches National Park, UT
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Topeka, KS
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Chicago, IL
  • Zoar, OH
Planning to hike down into and camp in the Grand Canyon next Summer, not just any old hike, but this extraordinary place in particular if we are lucky enough to get a permit from the local Indian tribe.

 

-Gordo

Edited by Gordo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I too have been trying to implement a lifestyle more compatible with the physical surroundings of our ancestors, starting small cutting back hours around lunchtime for waliking/ nature immersion outdoors. In my 40s every year effortlessly flows to the next, I try to embrace the moment for all it offers and seek out the mindfulness to carry out my days with purpose and compassion. Ms. mechanism and I have increasingly gravitated to hiking and walking and may explore camping a bit too.

 

Dean your forest Hermitage footage was wonderfully sublime; Gordo I continue to be in awe of your boldness and fortitude with your ambitious family camping trip.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, Gordo, been pretty much to all those. So many memories. Utah is stunning. Arches - fantastic night sky and fire ants :), loved, loved, loved Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, also saw a ton of animals, badlands took my breath away, so, so many memories. Also CA is amazing, if I may be a state booster for a second - looking at the night sky while coyotes run right by the tent. Anza Borrego, one night had to get up to pee, and literally maybe 30 yards away from the tent almost got lost - every single cactus looked the same in every direction with a flashlight, and then almost stepped on a rattler. Juno lake, pitched a tent feet from the water, in the morning a bear walked right by the tent and decided to play in the water/catch fish. Life is not long enough to explore all the amazing parks in CA, let alone the rest of the country... Costa Rica can't even imagine what that must have been like... But then again, I've camped a ton on my own all over Europe including Scandinavia back in the 80's. Memories, memories, memories. Dang, now I'm hankering after another camping trip :)

Edited by TomBAvoider

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dean,

 

Thanks for taking a crack at it. I really always appreciate the detail and thought you put into your posts. I believe you (and others in this thread) would absolutely love the book The Stranger In The Woods - it's the remarkable true story of a hermit and is filled with many layers discussed here. I bet you would all read it in a day or two and just get sucked right into it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back in the 90’s after my first wife died of cancer I decided to live in a mobile home on 22 acres. I gardened there and had an antenna tv. I watched the nightly news with tom brokaw and then jeopardy and that was it. No computers cell phones and so I read books and took long walks in the surrounding woods along with tending my huge garden. Many a night I slept outside in a sleeping bag. There was something mystical/magical about that and I also would walk at night to enjoy the nigt air and sky and most especially the natural sounds. My impression was that the brain reaches a very calm abiding condition. I kept the farm after remarrying and often used it as a retreat. I came to understand that my brain would change in about 24 hours or so when I went there. The chattering overactive aspect would slowly give way to a mind that was simply abiding in the present moment

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I still hang out at my spot in the forest for a few hours each day, feeding the deer, birds and squirrels, practicing walking meditation the stone path you see in the video and generally soaking in the beauty of the forest surroundings. In fact, I'm headed there now.

 

--Dean

Out of all of your great posts, Dean, I think this one is inside my top two or three favorites. Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×