The first night, a policeman came to the door. "Is Patrick Smith here?" he asked. I looked puzzled. "Is this 338 Grants Lake Rd.?" Thankfully, it wasn't. 338 doesn't exist. "This is the last house on the street," I told him. He looked younger and more frightened than I was to be in this town. This wasn't reassuring later that night when I couldn't sleep thinking of the mysterious Patrick Smith somewhere out there. What was his crime? Why did he give a false address?
As I lay still listening for signs of his approach, I discovered I couldn't hear anything at all. The house was as quiet as a tomb. That's when I realized that after nearly three years off the grid I'd developed animal-like senses. I couldn't hear beyond the triple-glazed windows or rolls of insulation and that bothered me. I couldn't hear the rustle of trees, the sound of the wind. I couldn't even hear that it was raining. My ears strained for a hint of nature but there was nothing but vacuum-sealed silence punctuated by the hum of the fridge. I kept telling myself that someday I would find this peaceful. But for now it felt all wrong. Even dangerous. How would I hear the crack of dead branch, the footfall on damp earth, that would signal the approach of Patrick Smith? How would I know when to pounce?
The next morning (alive and well), I realized I'd developed other off-the-grid instincts. The need to burn things, for example. Beneath the sink, a recycling container awaited my mixed paper products and newspaper. But I was reluctant to part with such perfect combustibles. I piled them in a separate corner for the fire of my future. During the past two weeks, I've caught myself on several occasions with paper in hand turning to open the woodstove door. Then I look at the merry gas fireplace, its tiny licks of flame soundlessly rising above the faux-logs. I try to remember the constant struggle of splitting wood and tending fire. But suddenly I miss the satisfying thud of hitting the grain, the smell of cedar, the crackling as welcoming as the voice of a friend.
Yes, two weeks have passed and life on the grid is already losing its veneer. But we knew this would happen, didn't we? Luckily there are hot baths and frozen peas to soothe a girl's longings for the wilds. There is the invitation from an elderly gentleman for a piece of banana-cream pie and a cup of coffee at the Seniors Centre. There is the hair salon called "Chainsaw Sally's." There is hope that somewhere out there a cabin in the woods awaits my return like Spring awaits the swallow. This is just another season of migration, I remind myself. Another place to nest.
Thank you for reading.