An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of February 10, 2002
issued from the woods just south of Natchez, Mississippi, USA

ON THE BEAUTY OF HUNKERING DOWN

Much of this week has been both cold and wet -- a painful combination in an unheated trailer. Sometimes I had to crawl into my sleeping bag just to keep it together. In times like that, you can't be very creative. You just have to "hunker down" and wait for time to pass. I am glad to have had these days. Let me explain.

First of all, the other day I was discussing this matter via email with my friend Rengyu in Bangladesh. I said that once such a trial is over, it's as if you have acquired a new measure of inner strength. Rengyu could relate to what I was saying, especially because at that time he was fasting during Ramadan.

By undergoing physical hardships and denying my natural instincts to flee to warmth, and by stubbornly following a secret star even when from the outside what's going on looks appallingly dreary, I gain something I can't quite explain to someone who doesn't already understand, but I know that in the end I have acquired something internally of great value.

Second, last week when I described the effect on me of sniffing a Yellow Jessamine blossom, the point was less that Yellow Jessamine really smells good than that by exercising self control most of the time I am priming myself for later forays into a realm of sensuality that no debauched hamburger eater can imagine. When these cold days finally pass and cascades of golden sunlight gush over me, who do you think will FEEL the return of spring more acutely than I? One reason I live the way I do is simply because I love to FEEL alive, strong, hungry, aggressive... I like to feed my senses. There have been times in my life when that meant eating a lot, other times when it meant being with special kinds of women. Right now it means priming myself so that the odor of Yellow Jessamine just knocks my pants off.

A third reason is this: I am convinced that there is no greater Earthly "sin" than to needlessly abuse and endanger the living system -- the ecosystem -- with which the Creator has graced this good Earth. And I know that when I flip a switch to warm my feet I am ordering electricity to be produced, which increases greenhouse gasses and radioactive wastes. I will not belabor the point. Every human appetite translates into environmental destruction, and it is up to each of us to identify for ourselves how much destruction we wish to be responsible for. Facebook Icon.