Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Blogger

By Cam Mather

I came up with this blog title and thought I’d better explain it. “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Loneliness_of_the_Long_Distance_Runner) is a book that I’ve never read, but which I often think about when I’m doing something solitary. Back when I lived in the city and needed exercise I would go running or cycling, and the title of this book spoke to me. I look back on those days now that I’ve got so much “real” stuff to do, and the thought of having to perform some activity in order to get exercise that really doesn’t accomplish anything is very foreign to me.

When I looked up the book I discovered that it was written in 1959, the year I was born! Cue the theme music from “The Twilight Zone”… ‘Do do do do, do do do do… According to “The Celestine Prophecy” it is important to recognize that coincidences may have deep meaning. So I’m using this coincidence as an excuse to buy a lottery ticket for tonight. Now if only my mom would come to me in a dream and give me the six winning numbers all would be well.

But I digress, as I often seem to do in these blogs. So I was thinking about how blogging is a very solitary thing, like long distance running. It’s just you and your train of thought, which in my case is terrifying. It’s just more of “The World According to Cam” which some of my family members like to mock me for. But some of them do read my blog and I think eventually they just sort of assume that since they know what’s going on in my life they don’t have to bother to communicate with me about what’s going on in their life. This is fine. I don’t mind the solitary life. But it can be a very one-way street.

This is why Michelle and I love the comments we get on our blogs. We read every one and we really, REALLY, appreciate everyone who responds, good or bad, and shares their perspective. Since Mother Earth News started reposting our blog our regular readership has gone up significantly, and while that’s great, it’s still the feedback we get from your comments, which make this blog in large part worthwhile, so please keep it up.

For people who take the time to post comments, we are very grateful. We also appreciate everyone who reads our blogs regularly.

I was also thinking about how blogging may be good for my state of mind. I read a study recently that said that writing is a good way to relieve stress for a lot of people. I think this is the case with me. When I blog about being overwhelmed with the garden or some other component of our off-grid lifestyle, we get comments from others going through the same thing or offering encouragement to stay the course and it really helps.

The other thing about writing is that I think it can really help you to appreciate your life. Michelle and I have finished writing our book “Little House Off The Grid – Our Family’s Journey to Self-Sufficiency.” Amazon has it listed already and they are taking pre-orders! We’d better get cracking!

We decided to chronicle our journey from our fairly typical suburban lifestyle to one of independence in the woods off the grid. And as our HelpXer Melissa pointed out, it’s a “Narrative Non-Fiction” which is very popular right now! I know I always read books like this when I was still living in the city and dreaming about moving to the country. My favorite TV show for years was “Northern Exposure” about a quirky village in Alaska and the lives of the people in it. Now I live near a village just like that called “Tamworth” and I know lots of wonderful people in town and you know, it’s pretty great. And of course, many of them know me. I’m that off-grid solar guy who dressed up as Super Solar Man for the Canada Day Parade and an LED-lit Xmas tree in the Santa Claus Parade. I think my most popular idea though was when I pulled a solar-powered bubble machine along the parade route. It’s like I’m trying to become a character on Northern Exposure!

As we work through the final edits of the book before we pass it off to be edited, I am reminded about what a fantastic journey this has been. There have been many highs and many lows, but all in all, it’s been a blast. And now that the systems are all working well and we “get” the whole energy thing, it is one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done in my life. Well, other than raising two fantastic daughters. Oh, and publishing “The Renewable Energy Handbook” which has been a huge motivator for thousands of people. Living off grid is really a dream come true.

One of the most important parts of the book is when we share the “lows” that we have experienced. We have had many “challenges” (see, I don’t call them problems, isn’t that positive!) that have had a pretty jarring impact on our lives. Communication, either via phone or internet has probably been one of the biggest, so it has not been a complete joy ride by any means. But the lows have just made the highs, higher. This is very much like my personality. Michelle is very even keeled, never too up or never too down. Somedays I can be bouncing off the walls with glee one minute and then ready to jump in front a train the next. It’s a testament to Michelle’s temperament that she’s been able to handle my personality for 30+ years.

One thing that I’ll say for a manic personality like mine is that those lows make the highs much better. And since my nearest neighbors are 4 miles away, I can come out of the office on a high and sing “I hope you had the time of your life” by Green Day at the top my lungs with no hesitance that someone will hear me. And I must say, on those days when I’m in one of those singing’ at the top of my lungs days, frankly I wouldn’t care if someone, or a crowd of people was listening. Pavarotti I am not. Happy I am. At least at that moment.

And that was the great thing about writing our new book. I was forced to go back and think about my time in suburbia and how badly I wanted out. And I thought about how many times since then I’ve climbed the small hill where our first wind turbine was and looked down at our house on a cold winter’s night. The house is brilliantly lit up inside with lights powered by the sun that shone that day and charged our batteries. The house is warm from the wood that I harvested sustainably from the property, and the root cellar and freezer are full of last summer’s harvest, and the bookcases are lined with books I’ve read or plan to read, and there is nowhere else on the planet I can possible imagine myself living. “Challenges” be banished from my consciousness. I am living where I want to, how I want, in a place I was meant to live. Tonight, at this moment, the universe has aligned itself perfectly.

* * * * * * *

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4 Comments

  1. Cam – We were born five years apart – and I can identify with sooo much of what you have written above.

    Three of the items you mention in this post are recent happenings for me too:

    I’m also waiting on my mum to visit me in a dream with lottery numbers… we think alike LOL

    Love the picture of singing at the top of your voice because no-one is near – I, too, have succumbed to that temptation recently – it’s a great stress releaser. And solitary singing is imperative, as the voice isn’t what it used to be, used to be…

    And, thirdly, I have just written my first book too – a solar recipe book which gives ALL the details – temperature, length of time to cook, etc. I have tried to eliminate the unknown (fear) that may cause a potential newbie solar chef to hesitate plunging along that path of self-sufficiency. ( if you’re interested you can find the details at http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/p/solar-oven-recipes.html )

    Congrats on your book – I will definitely be checking it out on Amazon once my PayPal balance increases LOL

    Finally, I find I don’t mind the loneliness of blogging – well not all the time. I just love being able to share what I have discovered with whomsoever is interested – and the more the merrier 🙂 As you (the Celestine Prophecy) say, synchronicity is a wonderful thing!

  2. Robert

    Cam I always enjoy reading your blog ( while marveling at the skill of your editor) because you write well and are smart enough to recognize and enjoy the fact that you have riches beyond mere money.

    Too many folks are working to get by, working for the weekend, next payday or next year. You have recognized that sometimes it is the journey not the destination that matters.
    I’ll forward to more profound thoughts and observations about chickens and such.

  3. Sooo glad you found your “Little House Off The Grid” where you did! Always interesting to imagine how our lives will dovetail next. Looking forward to the book…

  4. Mycelium

    Mike and I are where you and Michelle were back when you were in the ‘burbs dreaming of living off-the-grid.
    It’s looking like I might have to order that fancy little book of yours to give me a good idea of the highs and ‘challenges’ that we will likely face.
    What an exciting time!!

    Anyway, keep on posting! Writing can definitely be cathartic, and your readers appreciate learning from you.

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