After downsizing – what next?

by Terry Oliver on July 2, 2011

Ever since we sold the house, we get asked the same question by friend, relative or stranger – what are you going to do now? It’s as if it unnerves people that you’ve popped out of your pigeon-hole and not immediately gone into another. Almost as if you’re vaguely perceived as a threat – a loose cannon. You’re forced into creating plausible scenarios tailored to fit the questioner – from sensible to frivolous according to how you read the level of concern in their voice.

Apart from the stress of having to come up with so many different answers to so many different people, it does have its upside. You’re inclined to re-examine all the options to see which ones seem the most appealing. The result of all this navel-gazing is a lot of fantasy creation – old and new.

For example, building a log cabin by a lake in the wilderness has been an old standby for me; one which I trot out every now and again to embellish and update. When I first started work on this particular fantasy was during my mid-life crisis – one of the longest on record, according to my ex-wife who had to endure it. At that long ago time, I was still living in the UK but seeking escape to a simple life in the wilderness of British Columbia. I bought a plot of land on an island in a remote lake up north. Over the years I persuaded various members of my family to go and explore the possibility of building my cabin there. Each in turn declared that it was just too remote -just a fantasy.

But I could never bring myself to sell the property – although I made a couple of half-hearted attempts. Instead I continued paying the taxes on it, right up to this week when they came due again. So once more I wrote out the cheque. And once more the fantasy of building my cabin by the lake loomed up as a potential plan of action. But this time for a different reason.

Now it begins to appear as a plausible thing to do with the economy and the environment both in a parlous state and predictions of collapse appearing more and more frequently in the media. What better time to dust off all my old self-sufficiency manuals from the seventies, all my back-copies of Harrowsmith, dog-eared from endless thumbing through.

At seventy-five, is it too late to become a pioneer? To clear some land, build my cabin and like Yeats, plant ‘my nine bean rows and a hive for the honey-bee, and live alone in the bee-loud glade’. Will my children and grandchildren come to appreciate my foresight in preparing a bolt-hole for them when the oil runs out? Or will they shake their heads and wonder if Alzheimer’s has finally caught up with me?

As for me, I may take my cue from Thoreau and treat it as my own Walden Pond experiment in a  simpler way of living. Something more modestly suited to our fast approaching change of lifestyle in a rapidly changing world. Perhaps once I’m there I can persuade friends and family to visit – maybe even join me. Start a new community. Now there’s another fantasy of mine…. I’ll start by trying to persuade my significant other.

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