It just occurred to me, as I sat down to write, that I haven’t left my house in five days. A by-product of having a decent Internet connection and of not having a permanent, full-time job since 2008, this has actually happened to me quite a few times over the years. And I’m okay with that.
I enjoy spending time at home. My family and I live at the end of a dusty gravel road, two miles outside of Ashland, on two and a half heavily-wooded acres that are bordered on all sides by large tracts of mature, deciduous forest. The location is quiet, secluded, and beautiful. There is a fishing lake behind our house and hiking trails throughout the woods. On clear evenings, with no light pollution to obscure the view, one can step out on the deck and see stars and planets and even the occasional satellite in the night sky. And when the weather turns cold, our wood pellet fireplaces are a delightful way to keep warm.
A lot of folks would pay good money to vacation in a setting like ours, to get away from it all for a few days. Imagine that: people paying money to live like Travis Naughton!
Living in the woods as I do means that during these extended periods of isolation I don’t have many interactions with other human beings (other than my unfortunate wife and children). But that doesn’t mean that I’m alone. Raccoons, possums, coyotes, deer, squirrels, rabbits, birds, lizards, turtles, snakes, spiders, at least one skunk, our cat, and our two dogs also call our slice of Southern Boone County “home”.
Despite the fact that I haven’t left my home since last Tuesday, I’ve managed to have face-to-face interactions with quite a few people during the holiday break. Thirty to be exact. That’s how many there were in my house on Thanksgiving Day. Interestingly only two of those people—my father and my son Alex—were my blood relatives, which proves that love is what makes a family, not blood.
Regardless of how many people I’m in contact with, it’s not unusual for me to lose track of the days when I stay at home for long periods of time. Last week was no exception. However, the unusual and slightly disturbing thing about last week was that I apparently lost track of the years as well. On two separate occasions I thought myself to be 45 years old, when in fact I am 46. I suspect this problem may become more frequent as time passes, but eventually I’ll be too old to notice or care.
As much as I enjoy the peace and quiet that goes along with living a private life in the sticks, I am, by my nature, a social creature. I do need to get out once in a while and mix it up with other human beings. Facebook is not a replacement for in-person contact. As powerful as the social media platform is, it cannot replicate the joy I feel from hearing and seeing my friends laugh at something I said. It cannot provide me with the comfort I get when someone I care about gives me a hug. Mark Zuckerberg has yet to figure out a way to make scrolling through Facebook as satisfying as standing before a classroom full of second graders and watching the expressions on their faces as I play and teach them about homemade musical instruments.
In two weeks, I will have the opportunity to interact with the outside world on a temporary, full-time basis while I cover a long-term subbing assignment teaching art at Southern Boone Primary School. (It’s a safe bet that plenty of material for this column will come from that experience.) Until then, you can find me at home sitting in front of a cozy fire, steering clear of skunks, spending time with my family, and losing track of the days.