An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of January 5, 2003
issued from the woods just south of Natchez, Mississippi, USA

COLD DAYS AT PEACE

This has been a chilly week with several frosty mornings. With the plastic tarpaulin over my trailer, the windows plugged with Styrofoam boards, and blankets draped over the ill-fitting door, inside the trailer I remain comfortable, even cozy. With windows and door-cracks sealed, it's dark inside and feels like a small cave.

At night I remain toasty inside a good sleeping bag and during days the heat of my computer and my own body keep the trailer's small space warm enough. I wear several layers of clothing and often work at the keyboard in fingerless gloves. My main problem is that sometimes the oxygen runs low and I must let in fresh air. Then heat escapes like a frightened wren.

This entire last summer I never once turned on a fan (most days I wore clothing only for jogging and working in the garden), and I'm hoping to make it through this winter without once using the small electric space-heater kept for emergencies. Some years I've managed, others I've needed the heater, though never for more than a few minutes each day. This week last year we had a 14° (-10°C) morning and I was glad to have the heater then.

I used to keep quiet about my living style, especially about my insistence on not wasting energy. I know that most people who see how I live regard me as being either despicably miserly or else mentally unstable. When our hunters meet me on a road some of them address me as if I were a child, or the village idiot. Though they can hear that I speak normally, they haven't the resources to interpret my appearance in any other way.

When I am in a regular US home and either the air conditioner or heat pump drones on and on, it weighs upon me. I cannot but keep thinking of the vast environmental destruction being caused in the name of my physical comfort. Land lost to coal mining, the production of greenhouse gases, radioactive wastes... all to produce energy to have me feel cooler or warmer without needing to add or remove clothing.

When at night I turn off my energy-efficient computer and my little 40-watt, high-intensity reading lamp, not an electron flows in my trailer. While I sleep, no ecological violence is committed on behalf of my comfort, and maybe that's one reason I sleep so soundly and awaken so glad. Facebook Icon.