Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cabin Life: Seeking Comfort When Tragedy Strikes

The SyrupI made my maple syrup yesterday, and it turned out really good.  I know because I drank more than a couple shots of boiling sap and syrup during the process.  I did not mind the taste-testing.

Due to the incredibly windy conditions up here and the fact that there’s a residential burn-ban in effect, I decided to boil down the sap at Amy’s.  I ended up with about five and a half gallons of sap which boiled down nicely to about a pint and a half of syrup.  Not a ton, but enough to enjoy and even share.  Making and tasting the syrup was a much needed break after the events of the past week.  I think most of us needed a distraction or two this week.

For the last few days, I’ve felt like I was constantly fighting back tears.  The heartbreak in Boston affected me more than I expected.  I had no family or close friends anywhere near the scene of devastation.  I have never come close to feeling the type of fear and panic that those who were there must have felt.  I had no connection to the tragedy whatsoever, yet I’ve felt like crying for a full forty-eight hours.

I have always been an information junkie, and following the bombing I was once again unable to tear myself from the news.  I don’t watch TV news, but was plastered to the internet with a morbid curiosity that I would not be able to explain.  After a day of taking it all in, I wanted to not read about the tragedy anymore.  I was burnt out on the news and was starting to get to a point where I needed to read about other things.

I turned to an online running community that I belong to for a distraction, and found that there were quite a few of us in the same boat.  We were not marathoners or victims, just people who go running sometimes and were having difficulty processing the events.  Then I started to hear about the “anger runs.”  The more experienced and dedicated runners were going out for a run not because it was in their schedule, but because they were angry, and running was the only way they knew how to deal with it.

I took this advice and went for my own anger run.  I was angry that this had happened.  I was angry that so many runners didn’t get to finish their race.  I was angry that so many people were injured.  I was angry at the people who were already blaming whole religions and races.  I was just angry.

I went to the gym to go for a run in the hopes that I could watch a little TV and take my mind off it.  My usual program on the treadmill is to run for an hour and watch Sports Center.  But even they were talking about Boston.  It was a sporting event, after all.  About ten minutes into the run I started to flip channels.  I found some old Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns and zoned out.

As I started to sweat and breathe hard I couldn’t help but feel a little better.  Burning off some pent up energy and getting exercise was doing me good.  I could start to think back on the events and my response to them with a little less emotion, and a little more insight.  I began to realize that it wasn’t the anger or sadness which had been bringing tears to my eyes.

The tears were being caused by a sad joy.  Amongst all the tragedy, I kept seeing pictures of people rushing in to help.  I saw all the posts about strangers being put up and fed by other strangers.  Pizza places handing out free food.  Restaurants opening their doors to charge a cell phone or use the Wi-Fi even if you didn’t have the money to buy anything.  These are the things that were bringing a tear to my eye.

I moved out to this cabin and drastically altered my lifestyle in an attempt to eliminate stress from my life.  It has not been entirely successful, but for the most part my simplified life is a pleasure to live.  However, it’s hard not to be affected when something of this magnitude occurs.  As Mr. Rogers famously said, we have to look for the helpers in times of tragedy.  Luckily, the people of Boston and all of us, directly or indirectly affected, will never have to look too far.  That’s what I’m taking comfort in, and I hope you can too.

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Justin A Levine

Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.







2 Responses

  1. John Jongen says:

    Excellent post Justin. The headline drew us in since our first thoughts were that something tragic happened to Pico. So we were soon relieved when you began by telling the story about your successful maple syrup experiment. Your dread may have been because of the fear that some of these terrorists often escape to remote places like where you live. I particularly liked how you ended your post on a positive note of knowing that we are a community of fellow Americans who reach out to help each other in times of need. That is the correct take-away from this Boston tragedy.

  2. very sad news there in Boston but the news in Tx is bad too with so many lost in the explosion. I feel the times we live in are troublesome but we must continue to live our lives with help from the man upstairs protecting us. So glad you did so well with your maple syrup. I pay so much for it here as I do not use sugar but only maple syrup or honey. I feel exercise is the best to release stress as I am a swimmer and swim laps three times a week and health is paramount at my age. I envy you living in the woods as I would be a good candidate for that type of living.

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