the real world

I came down from the woods last week to spend time with friends and connect with our Carbondale community.  I was sitting with Olivia and Sophia over breakfast and talking about life this winter.  I was attempting to describe how life felt away from a town, away from cell service, with internet access only in specific buildings on the property.  Life where the option for activity outside of work is to read a physical book or forge deep snow on a trail or to create some art or write a letter or try something new with the craft & art of what the land provides.  I was trying to describe how life has become much more located back in the physical realm than it has ever been since probably childhood.  I ended my description, at a loss for more description, rather inarticulately by saying, “…i don’t know, i guess i just feel like i’m living in the Real World again…?”  we all paused and looked at each other.  we knew why it felt weird to describe it that way.  most people would say that where i’m living this winter is exactly not the real world.  that its an escape or disconnection from the real world that is mediated by fast information and constant screen connection and lots of activity and lots of social interaction.  its interesting for us to hold the question today of “what is Real?”

I’ve been reading The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert about Eustace Conway – a naturalist who stewards Turtle Island Preserve in North Carolina.  After describing in one chapter the rapt attention with which a crowd of middle-school children engaged with Eustace at a talk, she asked him why he thought the kids were so enraptured by him.  He replied, “Because I’m a real person, and they’ve probably never met a real person before.” (The Last American Man, Elizabeth Gilbert, p22) Gilbert talks about Conway’s idea that we’ve actually crafted the entire modern world so as not to have to interact with the ‘real world’ - meaning the physical realm from which we gather food & water, craft clothes that we wear, build fires to generate heat, and engage in activity between our bodies and the land that guarantees our daily sustenance & survival. Conway has many thoughts about the implications of this on the quality and engagement of our lives. 

One of the reasons I continue to get online during this winter is to plan the The Guest House Alaska Pop-up on Hesketh Island.  We are planning the 7-week leave-no-trace hospitality village with collaborative partners Set The Net & Evie’s Brinery in Alaska and our distance requires email and phone calls for planning.  The coordination of a phone call between the three of our rural locations and work in our areas always feels like a huge accomplishment and i love that we have to work so hard to hear each other’s voices….it reminds me of how precious the collaborative connection is with them and the value of the ability to connect and work together.  It also keeps us honest with the ‘real world’ and keeps us planning the Alaska site according its nature: disconnected from internet and cell service, connected to land & each other, full of art and wonder about the world we live in, and committedly embodied.

We’ve opened reservations for the pop-up on our website and hope to see you all there.  The experiences will follow themes of Water and Forest – drawing heavily on the elemental influence of the land and the water in our foraging, cooking, art, and time together. 

all the love of the real world to you all and your real hearts.