The sun set an hour ago and the air has gotten cool – a wonderful change from the heat and humidity of the mid-Atlantic day. It’s no longer 90+ degrees in the air, though it still has the clinging heaviness that comes with being near the water. But the bricks of the old buildings around you still hold the heat from the day – radiating out as you pass your hand near them.
Your own personal sunset as you walk down the street
I’ve been exploring at sunset more and more, walking past buildings that have been home to generations of families, a church that sheltered soldiers during war, graves spanning centuries. Turning down streets with more modern building, condos and townhomes costing more than I’ll ever make a block away from low income housing, children in playground from both sides of the tracks screaming in the summer delight that they don’t have to go to school tomorrow.
So much history here, so many people. I sat and listened to an opera singer as she hit the highs and lows of a great Italian master. What is she singing about? What is the story being told? You can hear happy and sad all in the same song – longing and regret alongside joyous reunion. People pass her by, a few stop to listen – she becomes just another sound in the backdrop; along with buses and cars, music from shops and blasted from speakers, overheard conversations from tourists. She finishes, red faced and sweating in the dying heat. Walks a small circle around her tips bucket and then takes a deep breath to start anew a fresh song.
Across the street are three crusty young punks – they haven’t showered in weeks it smells like – tourists avoid them and they smell like hikers do after a long stint out. I know the smell, and their needs. I give them some cigs that I was carrying, a pack I never smoke but have for when I go to bars. One offers to swap shirts with me “You’ll get more of a story with this one my friend!” I decline the offer but borrow his guitar for a song, singing about people left behind and the places we wish to go to.
On the walk home the lightning bugs lazily drone over the large field in the park – a city block in size. The twinkle and shine, pinpoints of light in a sea of darkness, alone from the streetlights and windows. The bridge across the river shines into the water, as headlights reflect out into the night. Airplanes come in on approach to land every 3 minutes – the last few of the night. A fat third of a moon shines down, reminding me that somewhere, someone else is looking up and wishing to be somewhere other than where they are.
But even when you’ve known it forever, somewhere you know isn’t that bad at times.
I went from sleeping in a hammock or a shelter every night (the hammock was always preferable – so comfortable) to being in a bed.
I wasn’t happy with that.
The novelty of the bed lasted for a week or two. It really did. Hell the novelty of Everything lasted for a week or two. And then it didn’t.
So where does that leave you, if you’re not even comfortable in your own bed anymore? Obviously I can’t hang my hammock up in a basement (yet) but I can sleep on the floor and get some of that shelter feeling back.
So I did. I got better sleep on the floor then I did in the bed. My back felt better, I was more rested and I fell asleep faster. I’ve become accustomed to the “hardship” the average person avoids.
It’s odd how little space you need after hiking. You’ve lived your life out of a 60L pack, keeping it to a weight you are comfortable with because you’re carrying it on your back. You come home and you’ve got all this SPACE! Even something as “small” as a 9×9 room is gigantic to you.
How much space do we actually need as people? I’m currently living with my mother and step dad, in a suburban monstrosity. A 4 bedroom + separate downstairs apartment monstrosity. I had hosted a bunch of hikers here during late June, while my folks were out of town, so that the hikers could see DC, and never ran out of space. A dozen hikers.
Hell just the basement could fit a dozen people with room to spare. I’m living the life right now. And I am in no way happy with that.
I truly think we do better with less. What we lack in choice with less is made up for in ingenuity and happiness. Society it seems places a great value on “stuff” – all the things that show we are successful. For me, the most successful I’ve ever been was when I had everything I needed to survive on my back and under 40lbs. Being able at the end of the day to let it all explode into my tiny little space was the most rewarding thing.
Admire the ladies beachwear sandals there for a minute too. Because you love how awesome they look, and how comfortable they are.
As E.T. would say – do less with more.