When I was a kid, I used to wander out into the woods and imagine I was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s long lost sister. In the narrative I constructed, I’d bounced off the back of a chuck wagon and found myself at the mercy of the wilderness with no Pa and Ma to guide me.
These fantasies occasionally led to trouble. It inclined me to kindling campfires in my backyard like a pre-teen pyro, for instance. It led to tumbles down steep, leafy cliffs and nasty gashes from pine branches that couldn’t hold my weight.
In all likelihood, it led me to the Sea Shanti.
Society has always fit me uncomfortably, like one of the hand-me-downs that Laura inherited from her older sister Mary. I don’t care for it. It scratches and squeezes and constricts me. It’s not the pattern I would’ve chosen or the style that suits me.
For four decades, however, it didn’t occur to me that I had any other options.
I fell in line with the pithy aphorism that Fain was taught by well-meaning teachers from pre-K onward: You get what you get and don’t throw a fit.
I trudged along like we do. Society makes it easy. It makes food fast and entertainment instantaneous. It provides simple, pre-packaged answers to all of your most difficult questions.
I suppose I could’ve gone on like that forever if something hadn’t happened to make me take a second look at society. What I saw, upon closer inspection, was that many of the gifts that society gives you are Trojan horses. On the surface, they appear exceedingly generous, but, in fact, they’re often traps that bind people to unfulfilling careers, crippling debt, and a general sense of dissatisfaction with their appearance, their personality, and their life.
Moving onto the Shanti in her current state has been a crucible.
We’re more subject to extremes in the weather. When it’s cold outside, we’re cold. When it’s hot outside, we’re boiling like crawfish in cajun seasoning. Society’s easy fix for those problems is gone. There’s no central air and heat to create the delusion that we can control the climate. We’ve learned the hard way that we are subject to the climate.
We’re limited in our resources. We no longer have the dozens of appliances that gathered dust from disuse in our former kitchen. We don’t have cabinets for collecting cans of green beans that we’ll never eat, and there’s no person-sized refrigerator where leftovers can transform into science experiments after they’ve been pushed behind the cans of soda and jars of salsa. We’ve learned that lack makes whatever you have for lunch more appetizing.
A friend who’s been following our trials recently asked how I’ve managed to keep going.
The truth is that I enjoy this. My whole life I’ve felt like something must be wrong with me because I didn’t want to wear society’s old dress. I put it on every day, but I grumbled and grit my teeth in inner protest.
This, however, this life that I’ve begun to piece together from my imagination, it might be funny-looking, and it might result in jabbing my finger with a few needles as I get used to the labor of love required to sew it together, but it fits. And as every woman knows, when you find a dress that really fits, you’ll wear it until it falls apart.