This summer, I posted about a project I am planning to work on, called, tentatively, The North Project. Since then, I've been going through a phase of rediscovery, especially as the days have gotten colder and shorter. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I used to hate winter with all my heart. But this season has been a different flavor. This time around, I am actually enjoying the cold, and when I'm not enjoying the actual cold itself (let's be real: the cold can get super friggin' cold), I'm at least enjoying and appreciating the opportunities it provides. As a result, I have been doing things. Lots of things. I just haven't been doing any kind of official documentation. I'm still figuring that part out.
Actually, I've been figuring a lot of things out. What am I passionate about? How to I want to relay those passions into meaningful action? The idea for The North Project was born simply because I wanted to get excited about my the place that I am from, a place that I've always taken for granted. Its purpose was to get me out and exploring the beauty of this region of the country, just as I did, with gusto, when I was living in California. I wanted, and still do want, to document the field trips I take and the things I learn about the north country along the way. But when I really think about it, there's a topic that has been cropping up over and over for me throughout the past couple of years, one that can be blended with the idea of embracing the northern culture but that really applies to everyone, everywhere: self-sufficiency.
The photos and videos in this post (more here!) are from a trip to northern Minnesota I took a few weekends ago. Not only is that area of the state breathtakingly rugged, it's also a draw for people, visitors and residents alike, who want to get out of the city and spend time in a place that requires a little bit of fending for themselves, whether it be spending a day out on the trail or living off the grid. My friend Dan's parents happen to be participating in the latter activity, near Grand Marais, and they were kind enough to let me stay in their guest cabin for the night while I was up there. The trip was spontaneous, so being able to get a little first-person experience with off-the-grid living was a serendipitous opportunity, given that it is a great example of self-sufficiency at its finest.
When I think about being more personally self-sufficient, I still don't quite know how to define it. At the very core, I want to be able to take care of myself. I want to depend less on outside sources for the basics; the things humans used to do for themselves but now find themselves passively consuming instead. If there is something that can be grown or hand-made, I would like to learn how to do it, or at least try it out. I am in awe of those who build their own furniture, raise or hunt animals for food, or teach themselves how to live off the land. I have learned, at a very basic level, the joy and satisfaction that can come from creating something with my own two hands, or wading through the messiness of fostering a project or new skill, and I would like those feelings to apply to more than just the occasional occurrence; I would like them to apply to my whole life.
I function in a world of feelings. I don't remember many details, because what sticks with me are the abstractions; the color a memory creates in my brain, the emotions a particular situation makes me feel, or the ambience of a room. Different phases in my life have different feelings attached to them, so vivid that they are almost tangible. California sparks different brain waves than Minnesota; years or months spent with one boyfriend emit a completely different color than those spent with another.
When thinking about the future, my feelings have skin in the game as well. I rely strongly on my intuition, because I trust it above all else. It has never let me down. Quite the opposite, in fact: the biggest mistakes in my life, the times I made a decision that was untrue to myself, or stayed in a situation too long, or did something I regretted, have been the times I was pretending my intuition didn't exist. I could hear it whispering to me the whole time, but I allowed myself to ignore it, because if I took it seriously, it would mean making a big change, or doing something that scared me. But when I do turn up the volume and let it speak to me? Glorious, magical things happen, and my life ultimately gets ten kajillion times better.
Which brings me back to self-sufficiency (you thought I totally switched topics, didn't you?). As I've gotten older, and gotten to know myself better, my intuition has only grown stronger. When something vibes the right way with me, I know to take a step back and give it serious consideration. Sometimes, if I look back down the path I've taken, I can see a trail of vibes following me right up to this very moment in time. And this self-sufficiency stuff? It vibes with me. I've been interested in food and eating well for years. I've been slowly (slowly, slowly, slowly) becoming more intentional about my consumption habits. Being outside makes me happy. Doing things with my hands makes me happy. Getting shit done all on my own makes me happy.
So here's the scary, idealistic, probably naïve thing that my intuition is doing a crazy dance about right now: I want to buy land. I want to build a house. I want to build other buildings, too, because I want to learn how to do things like woodworking and pottery. I want to use the land to learn how to fish and hunt and garden and forage. I want to learn to be a better cook. I want to educate myself on regional flora and fauna. I want to spend the majority of my days being active and outside. And most importantly, I want other people to have a place to learn how to do and enjoy those things as well. I want to find and meet and interview and become friends with people who have amazing skills and talents and knowledge, so that they can spread the joy of what they love doing. I want to do all of this, and I want to tell stories about it, and I want it to be my life.
There. I said it. As of right now, I have no plan. But I think an important first step is to toss crazy dreams out into the universe to percolate and simmer a bit, while I do the best I can to move things forward in the meantime. Much thanks to my best people (you know who you are) who have encouraged me to stop thinking so much about this and to just start. Doing is becoming, amirite? Yeah, I know, this post got a little hippie dippy.
Happy weekend, friends.