Tomorrow, I take off for the Lochsa River. This is a trip that has been in the planning for months. Yes, it will be high. Yes, someone died there on Tuesday (in the upper section, which no-one but an expert boater should be on). I don’t row the Lochsa. Too high. Too cold. Too scary. But, Emerald does. And my friends do. I like to watch. These are my people. I’ve done my part. I got the boats out of the warehouse. I had Les Schwab repack the trailer bearings. I fed a 4# pot roast and a lot of wine to some of Emerald’s rafter friends to help me load boats. Cheap, and very entertaining, labor.
When I got back from boating last weekend, I started thinking about tribal living. It was late when we got done on the river. One member of the boating crew stopped for fast food on his way home to his empty house. Another went home to unpack…perhaps his wife made him some supper. I got dropped off next to scramble some dinner together for Jasper and me. Others went home to empty houses, empty rooms, their own food to gather. Why?
We are primates. We are not that far removed from picking the nits out of each other’s fur. Yet our society values the individual, strong independence. “To thine own self be true.” “It’s not about me”…and as an after thought, “You are never alone.” Where has it gotten us? We are a people of the nuclear family (however broken that might be), of individuals pursuing their own passions, and then we wonder why we are so lonely. We do Facebook, and twitter, and write stupid blogs like this one…just as an effort to connect. And look, all these solo people, in all these solo houses. Everyone needs their own lawn mower, everyone has their own vehicle (or 2 or 4), their own 1600 or 5ooo sq. ft of living space…and land. It has put our earth in a fragile state…and us as highly evolved, yet lonely, primates. Why?
Tribal living. One group goes to hunt while the other sows and gathers. A mother feeds her child, and others if need be. There are communal fires, and meals, and stories. Or, in our modern world, one helps with math homework while another makes a dish for the potluck. One backs a trailer while the other packs the lunches. One loads boats while another cooks and does the breakfast dishes. Each member brings their strengths….to support the other’s needs. It’s how we should be living.
Going solo. “Rediscover who you are. You cannot offer anything to anyone until you are a whole person in and of yourself.” As a widow, I have gotten so much advice about how to do this life solo. I have, and have had, an abundance of solitude. Jim was an adventurer. He left me alone… a lot. Yes, with little kids…but also when they got bigger, alone. He took them on “daddy trips” in the summer. I was working. He was not. I got to stay home, work, use power tools…and then hear about “how I shoulda been there”. Bliss. I loved my solo time.
If I learned nothing else during Jim’s illness and death, it was how utterly dependent I am on my family, my friends, and the other people in my life. I don’t have to go it alone….and I don’t want to. I am luckier than most. Because Jim was gone a lot, I learned to lean on my friends long before he got cancer…and they swooped in and became a nest for the hard times. Now I am a widow…and suddenly I am supposed to be strong on my own? Hogwash! During the first 6 months, when I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stand my own skin, I could’ve walked down the hall (or across the tepee) and crawled into bed with someone else. Not for the sex, but for another human body to sleep next to…just to hold me. Someone else would’ve helped with the daily work. Widowhood would be so much easier in a tribe.
So, tomorrow I take off for the Lochsa River. Jim rafted for the white water. I put up with the white water for everything else that goes along with rafting. One person is bringing the gumbo, another is bringing the wine. I will wash dishes and put wasabi on sandwiches for lunch. Emerald will bring appetizers, and I bought good scotch. I have a boat for Emerald…and another for anyone who wants it (if I can get the trailer out of the driveway again). They will deposit some of Jim’s ashes in the grotto as per his request. There will be a campfire. If I am too tired to set up a tent, there will be a big one with someone’s cot to crawl into with coffee in the am…or in the middle of the night if I need it. This is my tribe. It is the best thing about boating. Tomorrow I take off for the Lochsa….