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Since my hasty retreat to the backwoods, I had found myself slipping into a routine–or more, a ritual that focused on my own survival here in this unfamiliar world, and after a time, an appreciation of the time I had to work on my own projects. It was what sustained me through those lonely early months of what I first considered a sort of imprisonment, despite the natural beauty of the place I now called home.

I am off the grid, as they say, and the cool mornings even as I arrived in the summer prompted me to begin my day by lighting the fire in the old stove. I had used one like this during my years in the north country, and always hated the mess of the ashes all over the kitchen floor. But here, this was my only chance for daily caffeine, and I was thankful for the fix, even now. And the cleaning was no longer such a burden without the rush to get out the door that had plagued me when I could still remain in urban settings unnoticed. I soon found that my daily routine now would revolve around care of the garden, then of the harvest and other winter preparations, laundry, lettering, and cooking.

Calligraphy seemed a necessity now as words and images came into my head, compelling me to give them shape and substance, to set them free.  Cooking, on the other hand, was one of the sole pleasures I could award myself now without music. It was a celebration of all that was still possible, even here alone in the woods, and it would remain my true source of happiness as the arsenal of staples remained in the pantry.

The cool mornings became longer, and I began lighting another stove some days, a procedure that varied in time, depending on the quality of the wood: the clean, dry pieces lit up like matches themselves, but the green wood, the damp wood required more patience, a quality that was necessary, if painful in the early stages of development.

It seemed at first here that I waited for everything. I waited for Thursday, the day every week when I could follow the intricate map that I kept folded in my pocket at all times. The crease lines and smudged ink already made the paper look like a relic, and so I had painstakingly traced the trails onto thin paper that I glued into the front of my writing journal, in case I ever lost the original. In the weeks so far that I had made the trek, I wrote down details of landmarks, and then began to notice the week-to-week changes in the foliage, in the footprints I found on the trails, in the sky, and the weather. These were splendid moments I awaited now, as if I were meeting a lover, though what I found at my destination was so far from the encounters I used to know, so far from the human touch that I continue to crave.

I want to hear your voice. It is so quiet here, and I think I might die to hear the honey drip from your throat and into my ears. I have imagined this sweetness sometimes so much in my loneliness that I used to think I might go insane as I wondered if you ever doubted my feelings for you now months after my retreat. I have missed you. I have missed music. I have missed the comforting whir of a refrigerator, the technological clicks that I never noticed before. I have missed the ring of a telephone, the you’ve got mail, and I have missed my heart beating when I could look and see that it was you, you, looking for me.

The packages at the end of the trail contained all the necessities agreed upon before I disappeared, a few regular extravagances like the coffee, and every once in a while, a luxury that could bring me to tears: chocolate-covered orange peels, Irish butter packed in dry ice, fresh figs, the Chanel perfume I used to wear, French lingerie. These small items were the only indications I still had that you were anywhere in this world still beyond my own imagination, and yet each time I opened the sack to find items precious only to me, I could feel that rare warmth of desire, your scent throughout all of the contents. My load those days then was light as I hiked back up the hill, if only to fall into the featherbed and into the fantasy that other days I could not bear.

(to be continued)

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