I was surprised by my reaction to spending a weekend deep in the woods of Vermont. I’ll admit that I’m a city girl who finds Central Park’s foliage more intimidating than its performance artists. But while I admired the extraordinary beauty of the endless woods surrounding the small wooden cabin where we stayed, I was not accustomed to my subsequent feelings of isolation. Even in the most secluded depths of Central Park you can still buy a hot dog. It’s difficult to find an area in the woods of Bard’s campus that has not been previously discovered and marked by territorial beer cans.
These woods did not kid around. They began to get dark around 4 p.m., which meant that for the last six hours or so of my day, my body was gently insisting that it was time for me to go to sleep. It was the same feeling I used to have during an afternoon of double biology in high school, except with more miles of birch trees and darkness and fewer DNA strand models made out of gum drops. (I wish more teachers tried to generate interest in class material by presenting their students with candy analogies or candy-related subject matter. I would be much more interested in doing my philosophy readings if the main arguments of the text were spelled out with mini-marshmallows.)
I’m glad I made this trip with someone I know and trust, because there’s something about the knowledge that the nearest telephone is a winding ten-minute drive away that can really bring out the creepy side of innocuous statements like, “Good, here’s an axe! For chopping firewood.”
Being in a cabin in the woods gave me a lot of time to think about being in a cabin in the woods. It seems I achieve the same level of philosophical introspection observing a beautiful sunset that I do watching the Home Shopping Network. Living deep in the woods and surrounding myself with the natural world would, I believe, waste the time of all involved, plants and wildlife included. Rather than recording thoughtful observations about life and nature, I would record thoughtful observations about the TV shows I was missing. I would spend my time checking to see if my pants were actually wet from sitting on the muddy ground, or if they just felt cold. I’d rather leave the solemn examination of man’s relationship with nature to those whose prior experience with woodland creatures is not limited to Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons: dedicated individuals who can distinguish between an animal and a Pokemon.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t have a good time this weekend. What I wouldn’t enjoy doing for a long winter was fun for a couple of days. I discovered fire. I chopped wood, vicariously. And most importantly, I came back alive to share my story so that I might someday, somehow, profit from it.