Misplaced Planets and Acid Rain

Something was wrong with the world. It was night time up above and late afternoon on the ground. Snow was covering leafed trees in mid-august and the sky was littered with stars; too many to count, too many to be real.

Hannah and I were standing before our rustic mountain cabin marveling over the strange natural phenomena we were witnessing. We felt incredibly small under this vast sky, somehow able to see its entirety and every detail at the same time. Gazing upwards, a novel formation caught my eye. This, my intuition reported to me, is a collection of planets, clustering close to one another due to my own planet´s wild behavior. I felt awe mixed with fear and this nearly undefinable sense of reality “dissolving”. Everything I had ever known suddenly appeared uncertain. The universe revealed its hidden realities and I dreaded the idea of humans´ inability to comprehend its meaning. Neither our minds nor our bodies were made for this. Like a one-dimensional creature sensing and longing for the three-dimensional world without any hope of success.

As it got darker, Hannah and I slowly made our way back inside, hoping to hear from someone who could tell us what on earth was going on (pun intended). I remained near the windows observing the mad sky above our heads, while Hannah grew more and more unsettled. The planet formation was in constant movement, as if that part of the sky was bottled up in a cheap bottle of rum carried by a drunk man. Occasionally, planets sped from one bottle wall to another, not unlike shooting stars, while leaving a trail behind them.

Hannah appeared to suffer from a sudden onset of cabin fever and restlessly marched from one window to another. It was raining a sparkly substance of a previously unknown silverish/goldish color. These sparks hit the ground fast, yet not sound was heard nor vibrations felt to indicate their impact. Wary, I discouraged Hannah from going outside. “This can´t be save”, I communicated nonverbally. In a brave attempt to understand, or maybe challenge reality, she opened a window and peered outside. The air felt humid and heavy, filled with particles never before seen on earth. It wasn´t long before Hannah was hit by sparks, which were, not surprisingly, of toxic nature. She suffered some minor chemical burns before managing to pull her head inside and slam the window shut. She looked defeated and sad.

The world fell into an extended state of emergency. Very few people were left in our town, but where could they have possibly gone? The acid rain had long since stopped. However, the sky refused to change and the world remained stuck in its stubborn night-afternoon imbalance. With our eyes pinned to the floor, we made our way to the grocery store. We arrived at noon, just before the store closed. The seriousness of the situation hit us at once; there was no food left in the first several isles. The thought “We are running out of food” ran through my mind and my mood changed to a melancholic state of disbelief. The end was certainly a lot quieter and more peaceful than I had envisioned.

We quickly grabbed a few bags of various food items off the shelves before being thrown out by the hurried staff. Everything looked cold and unreal. Quietly, we headed back home. We never arrived and maybe, somewhere, we are still walking through the fog that marks the space between reality and dream. But then again, what´s real anyway?

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Blind at Night

With the sun setting earlier this time of year, I find myself in relative darkness as I take care of evening business inside my tiny mobile home. Not wanting to alert my housed neighbors, I refrain from lighting a candle and instead rely on my other senses to guide me.

I know all my clothes by touch and purposefully arranged them. Daytime clothes on the upper shelf, nighttime clothes on the lower one. Both shelves are organized the same, starting with shirts and ending with pants. Easy. Only difficulty are same-kind-different-color-socks. Can´t discern those via touch. Needless to say, I wear mismatched socks a lot. Even funnier, I own two pairs of Converse and yes, I´ve mismatched those before. People thought I was trying to be fashionable.

I know all my hygiene products by touch and those who share the same-shape travel containers I know by smell. No problem here. Brushing my teeth is a whole other ball game. I either brush using a mountain of toothpaste or barely any at all. That is, if I manage to actually get toothpaste on the brush. Eye-hand coordination is much trickier if you can´t use your eyes. Keeping your unusually large mouthwash bottle next to your unusually small laundry detergent bottle can lead to “clean cotton” breath, which sounds a lot better than it tastes. Trust me.

All important and much used items, such as my car keys, phone, chap stick, and pepper spray, each have their own spot. That doesn´t mean that each item actually makes it there. There is nothing more fun than searching for you phone in complete darkness!

I spent a large portion of my day reading books, working on my computer, and writing papers. If I could, I may be tempted to spend my hour before bed doing even more reading! Instead, I frequently download audio books and meditation music. It is very relaxing to look up at my glow-in-the-dark universe while listening to Edgar Allan Poe.

I´ve gotten so used to the darkness, really, now it´s part of my routine. It´s a time of relaxation, reflection, and contemplating the universe´s mysterious ways. Darkness can appear threatening, cold, and overwhelming. Over the years, I´ve found that darkness doesn´t provide cover for dangerous creatures. Rather it reveals the creatures that roam your own mind.

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Doing a Bad Job at Staying Alive

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I am no doctor; so really, I can´t tell how close my friend came to death. However, from my perspective he was very very lucky.

My three friends Karim, Adam, and Lucy, and I went for a camping trip in the northern part of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Except for some wind, the weather was fantastic and the changing trees provided the perfect backdrop for some serious rock hiking.

After a fun Friday night at our camp ground, we headed for a lake about 25 minutes north the next morning. I´d been to this particular lake many times and explored quite a bit of the area in the past. The road had recently been fixed; what had once been a barely passable level 6 road, is now a relatively smooth dirt path through a remote forest. To my friends, I am known as the one who plans fun mountain adventures and thus I was excited to take them to this beautiful valley.

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My friends immediately fell in love with the lake and we quickly began exploring the area. We decided to head around the lake for a little while and then continue straight up the mountain west of us. The hike up is difficult as the mountain is rather steep and littered with boulders of various sizes, some too big to climb over without equipment. In addition, we had to deal with lose dirt and rocks, random tree trunks, and an army of cacti that seemed too eager to teach us a lesson or two.

After climbing over and crawling under massive boulders for approximately 45 minutes, we finally made it to the top. The view was spectacular. Adam found a spot that protected us from the wind and we settled down. After we caught our breaths and refueled on water and snacks, we began talking about everything and nothing. In the end, we decided that life is good and nature is beautiful. What a great day!

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We began our descent about 30 minutes later. It was getting pretty warm and I knew I´d get burned to a crisp if we stayed much longer. Adam took the lead on our way down and we followed alerting each other about lose rocks and angry cacti. We made it about 1/4 of the way, when I suddenly heard a sliding noise next to me. Karim had climbed onto the boulder next to me and had lost his footing. With nothing to grab a hold of, he quickly slid down the rock. When he fell over the edge, his backpack caught the rock pushing him forward. He hit a boulder 10 feet below; first his body, then his head.

“Karim, do not move!” was all I could get out. From my position it was difficult to get to him, but I forced myself down the rock as fast a humanly possible. I got there first and assessed the situation. Karim appeared dazed and confused. Adam and Lucy joined me seconds later. Since Karim had already managed to get up onto his knees, we decided to sit him down in the shade. There was no even ground anywhere; just boulder after boulder and we did our best making our wounded friend as comfortable as possible.

Initially, it seemed as if his wounds were our top priority. He denied feeling pain in his back and neck and he didn´t seem to have any broken limbs. I was in charge of his profoundly bleeding finger, which had gotten crushed upon impact. Lucy and Adam took care of his forehead and nose, which were both bleeding badly. I was just about done wrapping Karim´s finger, when I heard Adam say “Oh, no no no my friend, you don´t get to sleep!”. Karim was leaning back, slowly closing his eyes. We couldn’t keep him sitting up for long before we had to let him rest on his backpack. For 5 minutes we did our best at keeping him conscious; we talked to him and asked him questions about his hobbies and school. His condition was rapidly deteriorating and when he stopped responding to pain, we knew he was out cold.

It became clear that we needed emergency help. Without a signal for miles, Adam rushed down the mountain to call 911. Karim´s skin was turning cold and clammy and I was unable to find a pulse. I had been calm and collected the entire time, but was losing my cool quickly. I pressed my hand on his chest, neck, and wrist; still nothing. I could see his chest moving slowly; he was still breathing. “Found it!”, Lucy proclaimed holding Karim´s wrist. “It´s really faint though”.

While Lucy continued to care for Karim, I perched on top of a boulder holding a mylar blanket up in the air. I could no longer see our vehicle at the bottom of the hill; Adam must have not been able to get a signal in the valley. As I rhythmically moved the silver sheet through the air, I  wondered how far Adam would have to drive before he could call 911.

Karim slowly opened his eyes. He was dizzy, felt nauseous, and his vision was blurry, but he was alive. Our friend was very confused and began muttering about not needing a helicopter or an ambulance. “You got to be freaking kidding me”, I thought. His finger had bled through the wrap, there was blood on his hands, head, and on the rocks around us, and he was still bleeding out of his nose. “Your ass is going to a hospital!”

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The emergency response was amazing! I can´t tell you how long it took for the first cop to show up, but the man ran up that mountain as if he was being chased by a bear. Overall around 25 people arrived to help: an ambulance that drove over 60 miles from the nearest city, two search and rescue people, half a dozen EMT´s and cops, as well as every resident within a 10 mile radius. Adam, fueled by adrenaline, ran back down the mountain to guide the remaining rescue personnel to us. He even carried their first aid bags. Everybody was there, except for the helicopter, which had flown to the wrong lake and didn´t have enough fuel to make it to us. Fantastic! We had no other choice but to somehow transport Karim down the mountain.

With Karim conscious we made it down the mountain rather quickly. His busted foot did not allow him to walk very far and thus he spent the majority of the way sliding down rocks and dirt. Once we arrived at the bottom of the hill, the EMT´s assessed Karim´s condition once again, before we were allowed to take him to the hospital. It took just under an hour to get there; not bad at all.

We placed Karim in a wheel chair and stormed through the emergency room entrance. We were  stopped by a bored looking security lady. “Do you have any weapons on you?” We looked at each other, shrugged, and began shedding weapons left and right. 4 knifes, 2 pepper sprays, 1 hatchet, and 1 gun later the security guard looked at us as if we were crazy. Needless to say, we were not allowed in unless we removed our arsenal from the building.

Once inside the hospital, Karim was put into a fashionable hospital gown and neck brace. Doctors, nurses, and EMT´s gathered around him like an army of ants. Initially, I was the only one allowed back there, but once Karim´s most immediate needs had been taken care of, all four of us gathered in the tiny room. I could feel my body coming down from its adrenaline fueled high and was overcome with hunger and thirst. All of us looked tired, dirty, and disheveled. What a day! When a nurse walked in 20 minutes later, she stopped immediately, looked at us, and exclaimed: “My goodness, what is this smell?” We hadn´t showered in two days, had an incredibly exhausting sweaty day behind us, and reeked of campfire. Adam made an attempt to explain our situation; the rest of us just grinned.

Karim spent roughly 4 hours at the emergency room before being released. They scrubbed his wounds clean, applied gauze and bandages, and took a variety of x-rays and CT scans. The final verdict: a concussion, a sprained ankle, multiple bruises, wounds on his head, nose, knee, and arms, and one badly crushed finger.

“Man, you really gotta do a better job at staying alive”, I said before we headed back into the wilderness.

Nature´s Pantry: Acorns

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My first reaction to “Acorns are poisonous” was “Well, that´s bullshit”. I spent my childhood stealing them from the neighborhood squirrels and enjoyed them as a healthy snack for years. After consulting with the interwebs, I found out that in large quantities acorns can cause an upset stomach. Not quite the same as poisonous, yet good to know!

Acorns are rich in protein, vitamin B6, and fat and thus make the perfect wilderness snack. Although you can pick them green, you should wait for them to turn brown before eating them. Make sure that the acorn is free of any imperfections as this may indicate the presence of insects. Also, don´t literally steal a squirrel´s acorns. Instead of plugging empty an entire tree, take a few acorns here and there.

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Depending on the type of oak tree you gather from, Acorns are more or less bitter in taste and thus you may wish to further process this nut as illustrated on this website. Personally, I enjoy them raw, but there a ways of making acorn flour, spread, and even coffee! Additionally, by boiling acorns in a particular way, one can even take bitterness out of them.

Enjoy!

Dream On

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During one of my many discussions with my family regarding my lifestyle (“Houseless? What´s that supposed to be? You are homeless, whether you´d like to admit it or not!”) I realized that really, I only have one issue: People. My tiny mobile home is comfy and very much a “home” to me. I am well-fed, warm, healthy, clean, and happy. I am employed, working on my Masters, and am self-sustaining. In short, I have everything I need and I am everything I want to be.

For many of us, the trouble starts when we are trying to find a decent place to sleep. Society decided that living on the wrong side of those four walls is utterly unacceptable. So we have to be quiet and invisible. I´d love to do a little reading before bed, but any light would give me away. How relaxing would it be to sit outside my car, or even just roll down a window, to watch as nature lays itself to rest; can´t do that either. It´d be nice to be able to open my doors in the morning to let in some much needed air, but, as you´ve probably guessed, that´s not a good idea either.

Even worse than being frowned upon, is the fact that my lifestyle can get me in trouble with the police. Society decided that living outside of a house or apartment is such a horrendous act that it should be against the law! Somehow I imagined freedom to mean something different… I´d very much appreciate being a full member of society instead of living in the shadows.

This leaves me dreaming of a society in which I can freely admit to my lifestyle without being judged and prosecuted. Oh how nice would it be wave a hello to my housed neighbors and watch the sun rise without worrying about being seen.

The city, boobs, and lots of colorful people

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The city! What can I say? City life is exciting, fast, loud, overwhelming, fascinating, delightful, filthy, eye-opening, and, and, and. While I most definitely wouldn´t enjoy being a full time hobo in a city like Denver, I do enjoy coming here to people watch, check out novelty stores, go to events, and walk through parks and market places.

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Although I had been planning on attending an international sister cities event, I found myself so intrigued by the pagan festival downtown, that I ended up spending most of my day there. It seemed like every last hippie, goth, nature lover, shaman, eccentric Joe, witch, and herbalist gathered and celebrated diversity and mother nature that day.

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Much to my surprise, I also encountered many men and women who in observance of the “National Go Topless Day” did exactly that while marching down the streets and hanging out at parks.

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Before leaving the city, I went by my second favorite museum in the world, the DAM (Denver Art Museum), to check out their new modern art exhibit. I wasn´t disappointed! The “Women of Abstract Expressionism” event was filled with beautiful, grotesque, intriguing, and stunning paintings. Below is my absolute favorite! Painted on metal, it has this nice metallic shine to it that reminds me of the industrial revolution.

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That´s it. A day in Denver in a nutshell!

(And yes, these are individual plush fries in their plush fry box)

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Minimalism 101

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I could (and will) give you plenty of advice on how to manage your resources wisely and save money left and right. However, as I was planning this post, I realized that a large part of the minimalist lifestyle is about why you do it rather than how. Confused yet? Allow me to explain.

As previously mentioned, my family is quite the opposite of excited about my lifestyle. My grandmother in particular frequently regurgitates a list of “inconveniences” and “hardships” the houseless have to deal with. “I wouldn´t want to go to the gym to shower” or “Isn´t that so much trouble to keep food without a fridge?” are only a couple comments on her list. Sure, it isn´t always easy to live life houseless, but what kind of life is easy? She sees troubles, I see savings. She sees hardship, I see adventure. She sees a lack of “home”, I see freedom. What´s all this got to do with my initial statement? If you truly are a person who needs an air conditioner, new fashionable clothes, the latest smart phone, and cable television, then minimalism is going to very very difficult for you. If you, however, can do without these things, enjoy finding new ways to reuse and recycle, and feel proud when your self control kept you from buying unnecessary junk, then minimalism is an easily obtainable goal.

In other words, minimalism is a mindset.

Clothes

I can´t remember the last time I purchased new clothes from a store. I almost exclusively shop at second hand stores and am amazed at the many dollars other people regularly spend on clothing.  I can walk out of Goodwill with a pair of pants, three shirts, a belt, and a pair of shoes and still pay less than what others pay for a shirt at Kohl´s. Now, it is true that Goodwill doesn’t always have an abundance of fashionable clothes. For nicer clothes I typically go to stores such as Plato´s Closet.

  • Shop second hand as much as possible
  • Buy new clothes on sale
  • Resist the urge to throw out old clothes simply because they are old
  • Use old clothes as rags or make a blanket out of them
  • Choose short and cool wash and dry cycles as much as possible; your clothes will last longer
  • Let your friends and family know that you will take unwanted clothes

Groceries

There are many ways to save money when it comes to groceries. I tend to save between $2 and $9 for each major shopping run just by using coupons from websites such as this one. Additionally, I save around $10 by purchasing cheaper brands and by only buying necessary items such as fruits, vegetables, and bread. Whether you´d admit it or not, items such as coffee, candy, soda, chips, dryer sheets, and energy drinks aren´t absolute necessities and should be viewed as little luxuries that can be purchased every once in a while (if at all).IMG_20160802_165243[1]

 

  • Buy items you have coupons for but only if you´d save money as compared to your usual buying habits
  • Avoid buying well known brands; compare labels to ensure that the no name product´s quality is reasonably high despite the lower price
  • If at all, buy unnecessary items on sale
  • Avoid going grocery shopping when hungry
  • Eat your leftovers (just do it)
  • Don´t buy bottled water
  • Don´t buy preportioned produce
  • You don´t need fancy meals every day; a good soup once a week is healthy and inexpensive
  • Avoid buying soda, iced tea, energy drinks, flavored water, and similar drinks; all your body really needs in terms of fluids is water

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Utilities

Although many people take their access to running water, electricity, and gas for granted, it is that thoughtlessness that could cost you a lot of money. Every household has at least some potential for great saving and resource conservation. Personally, I´ve been using community facilities for quite some time now and don´t pay for personal running water, electricity, or heat.

  • Collect the cold shower water while waiting for it to warm up
  • Treat your electricity, heat, and water like a valuable resource; remember your last camping trip and how precious every last bit of these resources appeared to you
  • Avoid (over-)using large appliances such as dryers, dishwashers, and washing machines; wear your clothes until they are actually dirty, and hang them outside to dry
  • Use candles for some evening light and reuse unused wax
  • Get rid of/unplug unused devices such as DVD players, game consoles, that second fridge in your garage, and desktop computers.
  • Regularly go to the gym? Shower there!

Check out this site on how to lower your utility bill.

Stuff

Most of us own a whole bunch of stuff and by stuff I mean things that may be somewhat useful and nice, but aren´t a real necessity. Egg slicers, camping chairs, baby wipe warmers, phone stands, fancy dinner ware, jet skies, vases, automated air fresheners, and decorative everything are only a few of the many things we own, but don´t really need. However, more often than not, things are unnecessary simply because you already own one of it or it is overly fancy. Do you really NEED two or more can openers, pencil sharpeners, glasses, cars, purses, pillows, or hair brushes? Do you really NEED fancy shampoo, $200 bed sheets, or that expensive drill set?

Now, you might say, “Well, most of those things are pretty inexpensive”, which is true. As mentioned previously though, minimalism is a mindset. Not only does getting rid of stuff (and not accumulating more of it) free up your living space and your mind, it also teaches you to value your belongings. Imagine what life would be like without that one hair brush you own, and suddenly the $5 hairbrush lasts for years because you take care of it.

  • Ask yourself “Do I really need this” before buying anything
  • Avoid going shopping as a past time activity; there is more out there than the “joy” of consumerism
  • Enjoy and appreciate what you own
  • Unless an object is unusable, dangerously defective, or extremely difficult to use, it doesn´t need to be replaced
  • If a knick knack doesn´t fit in the category “beloved” or fills your heart with an excessive amount of joy, it´s not worth having.

Reuse and Recycle

To me, this is the fun part about minimalism! Be creative and think outside the box! Pretty much anything you own can be reused in some way, shape, or form. An empty milk container can carry water for your camping trips, old shirts can be used to make a blanket, grocery bags can be used as trash bags, old socks can be made into stuffed animals and dog toys, old electronics make for great art projects, empty grape bags function as strainers, used tea bags still have enough herbs in them to be used for beauty products, and, and, and.

Recycling pretty much stems from the same willingness to get the most out of our resources. Paper, plastics, glass, and many other materials can make a come back instead of slowly rotting away in a landfill.

  • Before throwing trash away, ask yourself if it can be repurposed
  • Try dumpster diving! You wouldn´t believe what people throw out.
  • Shop at markets and stores that allow you to bring your own containers
  • Donate unwanted items to charities

Check out this website for 101 tips on reusing and recycling

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That´s it fellow free spirits! Do you have more ideas in regards to reusing and minimalism? Comment!

One person´s trash…

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Over the years I have found quite the collection of random items in the woods. The picture above depicts my most recent findings I collected during my two-day-stay near Buffalo Creek, CO. In general, the busier the camping area, the more you will be able to find. I enjoy repurposing the things I gather. My most memorable findings include intact clay shooting disks I repurposed as candle holders, fishing line, which is very durable and useful for all kinds of tie jobs, and a discarded camping chair that I used to hold up my shelter.

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It took some serious muscle power and the help of a discarded belt to get that trunk wedged in between the trees.

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The chair, which is on the far right of the tarp, holds up the center log of my rain shelter

 

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Bonus! Build in cup holder and storage sack!

Although it is great to find little treasures here and there, I am actually opposed to littering of any kind. As I was roaming the forest, I found an area that looks like it has served as a dumpster for quite a few years. Approximately 60 cans lay scattered around the area; most in various states of decomposition and covered in rust. Many looked like soda cans, but some may have very well held paint. What´s wrong with people? I simply cannot comprehend how anyone could spend peace filled days in the woods and then treat mother nature like this. Shame on you who deliberately left the camping chair and shame on every single person who thinks it is OK to contribute to this can collection in the middle of this beautiful forest.

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Take care fellow hobos!

 

Celebrating Peace and Nature

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Spontaneous Road Trip! I am currently hanging out at the Canadian border to get some rest from society and remind myself of my freedom in this world. It has been pretty warm for the most part and I am really enjoying the fact that it´s light out till 10pm here.

The other day I went on a trip to the International Peace Garden, which is located right on the border between the U.S and Canada. Considering that there is a whole lot of nothing out here (which is great!), I was surprised at the size of the Garden.

Since I am a huge fan of succulents, I took plenty of pictures of cacti and other plants belonging to that family.

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I really enjoyed seeing the little peace chapel, which was build right on the border. The music inside was very calming and the quotes engraved into the marble walls made think, if just for one second, that maybe humans can live at peace some day.

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As usual, the weather report didn´t hold true and it was raining pretty much all day. Since it wasn´t terribly cold though, I still walked around in some areas of the park.

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And last but not least, this curiosity. As I stopped by a lake for lunch, I came by a little outhouse. My first thought: Ew, I´d rather pee in a bush. My second thought: Why the hell are there two seats right next to each other? My third thought: The image of a couple sitting next to each other in said outhouse holding hands.

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What makes us human?

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Sometimes I don´t want to go back. Who needs society, right? I am tired of traffic, people, dogs, stores, advertising, and cement. I could just leave. I could!

Of course, it is not that easy. No, I am not talking about a mortgage, partner, children, job, house, or whatever else might tie me to the man made world. It´s not about the conveniences either. I do just fine without a shower, a bed, a house, manicures, and television. No, it is about something so basic, so deeply embedded into our DNA, that I doubt I could ever fully get over not having it: Human Connection.

Now, the question that plagues me, is this need a curse or a blessing?