We are slowing down. In fact, the only thing speeding up around here these days is the rate at which we are slowing down*. This is not news so much as a freshened realization, yet another reminder of our own mortality. But still, such reminders are sometimes rude in their increasingly frequent manifestation.
I am reminded of this more and more, of course, but never so poignantly as just after finishing Chris Czajkowski’s latest book on wilderness dwelling, AND THE RIVER STILL SINGS. Chris is the real deal. She has been off the grid in BC for the last 35 years and doing so in a much more remote and harsher environment than we ever encountered.
Chris had bear invasions, meters of snow, wildfires and bugs galore plus she built everything herself and had barely enough money to buy the minimal parts she needed to get the job done. But she did get it done. She set the bar pretty high for OTG’ers. She is a real inspiration if not just a tad too hard to follow for us. I would have expired by now had I done it like Chris.
In her latest book, CC starts to slow down her pioneering ways. Her knees won’t do the job anymore. She has a few health challenges. She is getting older and without a Sally or Dave to help maintain the pace. Chris recently moved down from her aerie in Nuk Tesli, a remote wilderness mini resort in the high Chilcotins to a lower, on-the grid (barely) residence that is easier to manage. The impression given as the book ends is that her wilding days are over. Chris is roughly my age.
Her wilding days are over at the higher level she previously achieved. No question. But Chris is still doing ten times what most people do at her age and she just considers it normal living. That is one of the legacy benefits of living outdoors. Living remote. Chopping wood when you are in your nineties is nothing to write a book about when you have been doing it your whole life.
Like I said, she is an inspiration.
But she is also a prolific writer. She has written at least ten books on living remote. I recommend that, if you have this kind of interest, you look her up. http://wildernessdweller.ca.
As for us, well, we are playing in a lower, slo-pitch league. The kind with happy hour now and then. We can keep it up, as it were, at the pace we chose for another decade for sure. Our softy wilding days still have some time to play out. And, if Chris is anything to go by, we won’t have to leave our paradise even then; we will just have to get in a bit of help occasionally. And, with a bit of luck, all the BIG projects will be done.
She inspired us, she reminded us of our age and she inspires us to keep at it. And we will. We’ll just break for tea more often is all.
*None of the above applies to quilting. The quilting fever is still burning hot and calories are being expended prodigiously. But, I for one, find it tiring just watching that activity and so I have taken to the occasional nap when the cloth bits start to fly. There is an exception to every rule and quilting is NOT slowing down.
At the gym one meets folks soldering on with knee or hip replacements and I’m inspired. Roughly clinents fall into the svelt group and the infirmed. I’ve surrendered the things of youth to youth and am watching the life force of those with challenges. There is the ex-sergeant bent over several degrees gutting it out at the age of eighty-three. He is waiting for his knee replacements. Then there is the fellow seven years into his recovery from a serious accident that had him immobile for a year. He is standing on one leg balancing on a medicine ball. If you shake his hand you will find it to be cold from messed up circulation. One has a t-shirts that says ‘Old age is not sissies.’ It boils down to genetics and capacity. Some can not wait to get into the supported living home and others gut it out.
There is no question, I am a sissy. A sissy-wannabe, I mean. The reason old age is not for sissies is because it is thrust upon you whether you are willing for it or not. So is living OTG. You gotta do what you gotta do ’cause there is no one else to do it. ‘Cept Sal. And she has a few limitations but not many. She’ll keep truckin’. Sal will hardly skip a beat. That woman has the constitution of granite just like her dad who, at 91, still sails single-handedly up and down the Strait of Georgia. So, I am good. I have a beautiful crutch to lean on. And I will. Having a great partner is a fabulous gift and treasure.
Aging is definitely not for sissies. Old Vet’s soldier on. Did you know the the BC Health has beds in various long term living facilities that are for vets? No choice of staying in your own community though, you go wherever there is a bed and it does not matter that your support system, your friends, your doctor, your family live in the town you once called home. Same for any senior who no longer has a spouse, you can be housed in a bed in a long term care facility anywhere in your Health Care Zone with no choice once a bed is actually available.
BUT right now Beds are NOT available. The senior seniors must be living longer. Stay in your home wherever it is for as long as you can. Dealing with the RULES for senior assistance sucks. You might be guessing that I am talking about my Dad. He is in Independent Living with morning and evening assistance. He needs occasional night help (and right now that is ME) and since the Company Who Owns the facility and has a UNION where union rules about JOBS that won’t allow a person to be hired to be in the independent care facility between the hours of 9 pm until 8 am to give emergency assistance to the many seniors who are paying a good chunk of $ for their rented small suite and 2 meals a day and a bit of housekeeping/laundry (once a week). Those who need that night time brief assistance must get on the list to move to the very restricted Long Term Care and pay a whole lot more for having a night shift LPN on staff along with the care they had before ‘getting a bed’ there.
What does this have to do with living off the grid? Mostly its about planning for ones own senior senior years as much as possible. Just what you are doing.
Well, my plan…such as it is….is to continue on and hope for a mercifully quick exit. I seem to put myself in the place for that every now and again. If I get to 90, I’ll invest in a portable sawmill with an automatic composter attached. That and unsteadiness should do it. But self composting shouldn’t be necessary, actually. I may be the victim of elder abuse. Sal’s eyes grow dark when she occasionally assures me that I will NEVER see 90. (She actually said, 68, but I am sure she was kidding.)
One of my favorite Peter Gzowski moments was when he’d interview Chris Czajkowski. I enjoy her books too.