Living “Off the Grid” in the woods gives me and my family the freedom to be ourselves to the fullest. No government intervention, no religious restrictions, and only the limits of nature in her beauty and grandeur to follow our hearts, minds and our own sense of morality and justice. Which, if I do say so myself, enables us to live in peace and harmony with our fellow woods dwellers who have taken up residence alongside us. We relish the smell of the outdoors, living with the Earth, so to speak. Our neighbors are close enough to share our feelings, yet far enough from our home not to infringe on our space. We have our own society here. Basically, it’s live and let live. My parents chose this life, theirs before them, and even earlier generations decided that what “civilization” had become was no longer an option for them.
Not having access to shopping malls and supermarkets, we have to depend on our own hunting skills to find food. But being vegetarians, our family has succeeded in finding grains, seeds, nuts and other edible forms of vegetation that are available, if we know where to look for them. Sometimes pickings are slim, but we’ve managed thus far. Reluctantly, I will admit that there have been times – during those slim pickings - when each of us has sneaked off to a nearby house adjacent to the edge of our woods to scavenge some scraps of discarded food. I’m not too proud of having to do that but when times are hard, one takes what one can get.
Normally, our days are filled with fancy freedom. We play, we wander at our own pace, wake up in the morning whenever we want and go to sleep the same way. But each of us is aware of the existential dangers that we face daily. We have to teach them diligently to our children. No matter how free we profess to be, living our lives as we see fit, we are constantly scanning our surroundings for the giants and flying monsters that are determined to extinguish our lives, often through acts of extreme violence and cruelty. If anyone senses the presence of a flying monster or a giant, they are quick to warn the rest of us. We all depend on that kind of cooperation.
Summers are pleasant. Food is plentiful, water is available and life is easy. But winter months are the worst. It’s impossible to harvest food in the summer and store it for the winter since we don’t have refrigeration. Streams are sometimes frozen but there are places in the stream where the ice has broken and we can acquire sufficient drinking water. These woods offer scarce resources so we mostly live hand to mouth. But that’s the choice we’ve made in this lifestyle. It’s harsh at times, but we still have our freedom despite the hardships. We have all learned to cope. We stay together as a family and maintain loyalty to each other.
Not long after the sun rose, I awoke and stepped outside my home to take in the fresh air, enjoy the forest breeze on my face and take pleasure in the glorious scent of pine coming from nature in the woods. Living in the woods imparts a heightened realization of one’s senses in contrast to the noise, grime and pollution of what “civilization” has become. In the woods, natural aromas are intensified, hearing becomes sharper, food is more palatable. You feel so alive and in touch with the earth.
This morning I was one of the first to step outside and, because it was early and quiet at that hour, I was able to hear the sound of impending doom coming from the flapping wings of a flying monster. Instantly my strong sense of survival kicked in. I dashed between two boulders, crouched silently and held my breath, careful not to rustle the leaves around me or make a sound. The flying monster passed overhead, thankfully, and did not return. My life was spared. That experience, unfortunately, is our way of life in the woods. But, I fear, it’s just as bad in the “civilized world” outside the woods.
As I related earlier, it’s hardest in winter. We have to collect whatever we can find to sustain us virtually every day even when the flying monsters may be watching and waiting for us. We try to avoid going out during daylight in winter and do most of our food gathering in the evenings, by moonlight. If we venture out to the edge of the woods, we have to be extremely cautious about the giants who take pleasure in killing us. Giants, for the most part, live outside the woods. Often, they venture in, seemingly for the fun of it, or just to track us down and kill us. Flying monsters, on the other hand, live high above in the woods as well as outside. Last week my cousin and one of my sons fell victims to the flying monsters. A month ago, my sister, who lives just down the path from our house, became an easy mark for one of the giants. We’re still mourning their loss to our family. But life goes on. We go on. We won’t succumb to the tyranny of the “civilized life” outside the woods. The woods is our home.
Why do they hound us? I don’t understand what we have done to incur their wrath. Taken a few scraps of food? Is that sufficient to warrant our deaths? The death of my family? Apparently, the giants think it is. The flying monsters seek us out and snatch us away. So many of my family members and friends have been carried off to their deaths. Why? Is our belief system so different from theirs that we must pay for it with our lives? Who declared this inter-species war, if that’s what it is? Certainly not me, nor any of my kind. I just want to live my life without fear of hunger, capture or despair. So long as there are giants and flying monsters, I suppose we must resign ourselves to the fact that we may be considered inferior beings.
I always believed that all creatures were created equal, that no one creature is superior to another. That we have a right to live our lives in peace. So why were the giants and flying monsters created? And by whom? Do their size, strength or special ability to fly automatically grant them dominance?
All this philosophizing has stimulated my appetite. Let me put these thoughts aside for a moment while I search for something to eat. After that, I’ll continue my story for you, dear reader. I’m at the edge of the woods now. The light is fading so I think it might be safe to venture out a little further. I don’t see or sense any flying monsters or giants in the area. Ah, I smell the aroma of peanut butter that someone has apparently failed to wrap tightly. I’ll just.. SNAP!!!!
“Hey, honey. Looks like we’ve caught another one of those pesky field mice. I’ll set another trap tomorrow.”