Friday, July 3, 2015

Authorial In Tent

Day 1: It rained. A lot.
This blog post was originally handwritten in a tent beside a lake. I've typed it onto my iPad and posted it a couple of days later. My intention is to blog, occasionally, from the interior of my tent. Sometimes, I'll write after the fact about the experience and whatever epiphanies have occurred. Other times, I'll just post exactly what my thoughts were while sitting out there at various times of day and night.

Since I first wrote this one, just three days ago, I've been in the tent every day at various times, including Canada Day, as the orange full moon was floating above the lake - an indelible image that I'll take with me always.

Sitting beside Walden Pond (2014)
Last night, I recalled I'd bought a lovely copy of Walden when I was visiting Concord, MA last summer, and I thought it would be interesting to read a little bit from that book now and then while sitting in my tent, just to relax and be transported, to transcend this techology-driven, information-obsessed world. It did the trick. I was particularly interested in the introduction of this volume which explained that Thoreau was chagrined at breaches in his privacy as he wrote and lived on the shores of Walden Pond for a short while. The train would go past, apparently, and his cabin, that he'd built, was quite visible to the passengers. Every time a large truck zooms down the highway across the lake where I live, I know exactly how he feels. Isolation isn't easy to come by, but alienation, I suppose, is a different story.

Walden Pond in modern times (2014)
I take some solace in knowing that Thoreau came to the lake to get away, but found civilization intruding quite often. Furthermore, the author himself often went into Concord for meals and company. I do the same in Sussex and Hampton, and always figured there was something wrong with me for not being able to sit perpetually by the lake and stare at the water while thinking deep philosophical thoughts. I also found that Thoreau had never intended to write about himself or his experience, but he'd found that that's what people were most interested in reading from him. I don't know if that's true in my case, but I do find the world interesting enough to write about it, and to try and figure it out. So, that's what I'm doing here.

Beside the lake, beneath the trees
For now, here's my first word-for-word journal entry from my first day in the tent. I'll admit to being vaguely aware of a potential audience, and I'm sure it affects the writing. But I aim for truthfulness - though not necessarily confession - and, as time goes on, I'm sure I'll become more the kind of journalist I hope to be.

June 28, 2015 (Sunday afternoon)
Beside a lake, Southern New Brunswick

I’ve purchased a tent on sale for $125 at Canadian Tire so I can have a room – or, really, an entire structure - outside of my rented cottage to spend moments or hours, or perhaps entire days and nights, if I can get used to it – of living/being somewhere outside of the usual. I plan to do a lot of writing out here, but I'll also be using it as an area for sitting (or lying) and thinking, eating, napping and playing mind games with myself.

I am an interior kind of person. Or, at least, that is how I have lived for the past 30 years or more years.  Even as a kid, I was an outsider, so to speak. I was known to be a reader – a solitary type of creature who enjoyed spending his days inside with a good book. And books, by their nature, lead you inside of yourself and, simultaneously, lead you outside of yourself and into the broader world.

But what people didn’t know was that, even though I was most often found inside my own head, and sometimes inside the house, I was most at home when I was not at home – roaming the woods, trekking the shorelines, hiding in the tall grass – or, when possible, hanging out in a tent or treehouse built in the forest near our home – “home,” though, is a word whose meaning eludes me. Honestly, I don’t know what that is, or is supposed to be.

More on my rootlessness another time, especially as I try to sink roots into the soil of New Brunswick.

For now, it’s my first afternoon of this grand experiment, and I need to record the sensations for posterity, for my own sake.

The rain is pelting on all sides and the roof of the tent, like being inside a Jiffy popper, I suppose. the wind keeps tugging at the nylon sides of the tent, and I do wonder how long it will take before the entire thing comes down in a heap.

I almost used the rain as an excuse not to come out here, but I convinced myself that the tent would leak – or be fine – whether I was inside it or not. So I filled my thermos with hot lemon tea and stuffed a few basic necessities inside my knapsack and ventured out. At that time, it was only pecking rain, not the deluge that’s currently threatening to capsize my tent.

My necessities include:
A notepad
A good pen
A thermos of tea
A camera
Two flea market pillows and a blanket
A cardboard box (to stabilize my cup of tea and, as it turns out, it makes a handy writing desk)

Except for the camera, there is no technology. I brought my iPod (without internet turned on) for music, just in case – and it has a voice recorder for times when I’m out here after dark. But I likely won’t be using it.

(I just tried to get a recording of the rain beating down on the tent, but discovered that the iPod requires a mic. Oh, well.)

The idea here is simple: to be able to “work” in a space that feels like play. And it does feel that way.
By sneaking out to my tent for several hours a day, I feel as if I’m stepping outside the expected box of sitting at a desk or a laptop somewhere sanctioned and appropriate for such activity. I’m creating my own writing retreat and an enforced wireless zone where internet is forbidden and therefore, I already feel that it’s freeing my mind to both wander where it wants and to focus on whatever it wants to focus on.

This could be interesting.

And there are no bugs inside the tent.

And I’m out in the rain without getting wet. Beside the lake.

And when the rain stops, I can open the flaps for more light.

How easily I can imagine what it was like to live without the luxuries of modern life and what a future world – or alternate world -  would feel like without those conveniences on which we have become so dependent.

The stove, the fridge, the toilet, the table, the laptop, the wifi and internet, the big screen TV – they’re all inside, and I can easily go inside and have them back.

But, as a writer of fiction, it’s crucial to be able to imagine and to empathize. And to be able to leave one’s interior world behind for a new and somewhat jolting, but fun experience. I like to travel, but when I cannot, or am not doing so, it is good to have some place to go that will inspire me and allow my mind to wander.

The odd, and wonderful, thing is that I feel, out here, writing by hand and the natural daylight, with the rain beating down, as if I could keep writing all day, and somehow everything seems to matter a little bit more. It’s the intensity of confinement, I suspect, as much as it is the ability to do something different and playful. When the body is compressed, the mind expands.

But I won’t keep writing all day. Time to listen, now. And observe.



  1. There is something about being away from the everyday, the everything we are used to that refreshes both body and soul. Enjoy the rain pelting on your tent and get caught up in its rhythm. It can be hypnotic!

  2. So true, Ceci. Sameness tends to dull the senses, though we might wish it were otherwise. Now and then, it's good to mix things up a bit, and do something different. Oh, and I do love the rain, for lots of reasons.