Here’s included just enough of the hermit’s story to tantalize you. He lived, solitary, within sound of the occasional lawnmower and motorboats plying waters on the pond below his camp. The author of The Stranger in the Woods, Mr. Finkel, called Christopher Knight’s meeting with people “collisions”— as Anne Morrow Lindbergh used this word, I noticed while reading her journals. Collision.
We went biking uphill and downhill through woods, over sand deposits on trails — sands left by the glaciers. It’s the trail I think of as my free will trail. Sometimes on the trail I think about free will.
First we stopped our bikes just off the highway to talk with R.’s friend working on the machine, a riding lawn mower. Another man was with him we hadn’t met before, our generation maybe, lean, youthful, fitter than anyone present. He was doing the work, it seemed.
There was a brief introduction. I played my role as best I could and we parted from them to take the highway on toward the trail. Yes, I played a role. I pretended quiet.
I don’t know. Hard to analyze. One doesn’t want to parse behavior. I just want to be.
But it’s a social world. Even animals have to –? — parse the behavior (and smells) of their kind. I felt I had passed the test with the new acquaintance — an old Mainer if ever old Mainers there be. Still. In fact, those of my generation, descended from settlers here, are old Mainers, helping maintain the character of these communities. And they are plentiful yet — thank you Lord God Almighty. May I call you that?
It is this conundrum some experience that can make a man who went into the woods when he was 20 stay there for 27 years, at a campsite he made between glacial erratics, those giant huge rocks pushed around and left everywhere by the glaciers. The situation was a bit of an oddity because these rocks were placed just so by that giant glacial hand. They concealed a campsite where no fire was ever lit. Not even in a Maine winter. The hermit himself slipped in and out through a narrow passage between giant boulders. He lived within, careful to make no noise, not even to sneeze.
On our way from the woodland territory back to the town landing where we had parked the car, I saw the woodland structures we discovered a couple years back. We were still in the woods, above the stream and bog. But we could hear sounds of traffic on streets below. We had been on the free will path many many times, and had not noticed the structures obliquely angled there through the trees: old, weathered, rough: boles tied together at the top like tepees. They were fairly dark inside, but light slanted through because trees were bereft of leaves. One had a long dark wooden bench you could sleep on if necessary. We found them while snowshoeing the territory. Now leaves were coming on the trees and we weren’t sailing through on bikes but going slow, looking about — investigating and just being. Being alive.
As always, you can click on these images twice to enlarge fully.
We’re in the red as far as buying books is concerned. But our library has this one! And we’ve both read it.
Michael Finkel’s: The Last True Hermit.