Stone Cold Salvation

Thanks to My One True Love for the title on this one. Muah. Some of my years of splendid isolation in the Rockies were neither splendid nor isolated. It's true there's a certain insular quality that comes with the territory, but that's to be expected when said territory hovers more than 9,000 feet above the nearest ocean. Not everyone has the strength or the will to rise above the ashes of last night's firewood; it's hard enough to breathe at that altitude without staggering through three feet of snow to reach the woodpile. Typically, those who truly enjoy it are Huskies, Malamutes, or Wolves, but they aren't handy with a chainsaw.

The lure of splendid isolation is often particularly strong among those least likely to enjoy it, which is how I came to be surrounded by pilgrims from places with names like Los Angeles, or Cuba. In the case of the latter, the climate did him in long before isolation had the opportunity to ruin his mind. He was the lucky one. The others lingered, ignoring the warning signs until the social deprivation and silence drove them to the edge of madness, and back to the cold comfort of the city.

Feeding at Mother Nature's trough is generally therapeutic, but not everyone benefits from such a simple meal. Some require a more rigorous course to avoid return trips to the drug-rehabilitation centers from which they have only recently escaped. This is particularly important for those fixated on installing a deer pelvis atop every fence post, or attempting to conceal an ax under a coat for those inevitable encounters with angry forest creatures. Other warning signs included obsessive nighttime expeditions designed to prove the authenticity of bear droppings, obsessive late-night phone calls designed to garner support for same, an obsession with domesticating wolves, and speaking to the people who live in our doorknobs.

On the opposite side of the coin, not every wilderness immigrant exhibits the obvious signs of mental collapse, relapse, or outright yo-I'm-a-lumberjack predisposition that spoil the isolationist splendor for the rest of us. For some, it's slow going as the combined effects of altitude, loneliness, and tick-borne illness take their toll. Others simply drown in their own tears during long months surrounded by the tall pines that had seemed so appropriate on the south side of the house when days were warm.

For some of us, solitude brings strength, and not everyone is lulled by sound for its own sake. For others, splendid isolation is stone cold salvation, and Mother Nature's cruelest joke.



  1. "Others simply drown in their own tears during long months surrounded by the tall pines that had seemed so appropriate on the south side of the house when days were warm."

    You never cease to amaze! This particular wavelength of your dry, dark humor is my very favorite.

  2. Thank you, Craig. The sentence you quote brings a tear to my eye even now, having been wrenched from actual, painful memories of that freakish, Twin Peakish chapter of my so-called life.

    It is to pine.

  3. this is an interesting side to you, even the reference to the people who live in the doorknobs ... nice. For myself, i prefer sharing my isolation with another (i find it hard to enjoy nature if there is no one else to point and gasp at it with) and being certain that isolation is only a good hike from the parking lot.

  4. Yeah, but that was many years ago. I'm not so sure I'd want to live that way again, if the option presented itself.

    The doorknob thing was real, though, along with everything else in this one. One of my neighbors actually did see people in his doorknob, just before he wound up in rehab for the third time. Not unlike Twin Peaks, seriously.