Armchair Peregrinations

October 31, 1998

I've been reading "Raymond's Cybercabin" recently, a journal about his virtual cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and his visits there to get away from the city where he lives and works. In the far back of my mind, I think I knew it was all an imaginative creation, a fictional account of his retreats to the woods for rest and philosophical reflection. But until just the other day, I also thought it was an account of an actual place and of actual events. That is the effect he wants to create. This is a most unusual journal.

For Oct. 28, he writes, The cloud cover these days is starting to look as if it is gearing up for the snow season. The entire scene in the hollow is becoming darker, especially with most of the leaves now down from the trees. "Sunset" this evening merely advanced the sky along a sequence of gray tones, ending essentially in black, since I'm so far from city light. I felt the first random droplet of cold rain as I was working in the dooryard, between the woodshed and the Cabin building. As this rain slowly built to a steady level, I sat on the front porch, resting in the creaking steel chair, before going inside to light the fires and have dinner.

Raymond describes the experience of keeping his cyber journal as "an online approximation of a place that can be constructed and visited at attempt to create a virtual getaway zone." His writing is quite nice and the reflections seem to be aiming toward a latter-day, Thoreau-like quality. It is obviously very much based on his own detailed observations of the Virginia highlands, for he is a close observer of nature. Like many of us who live in the city and spend most of our time there, he longs for a weekend cabin. Since he couldn't, in actuality have one, he created this fictional world, part imagination and part real-life recollection of actual experience hiking and camping in the woods of Shenandoah National Park. He renders it all with such realism and precision that one feels as if one is there experiencing it also.

It would not occur to me to do this, however, for I may long for my own place along the river to escape to, but my writing would have to be about plans for such a future cabin and what I imagine it would be like. I don't think I could create a virtual world to go to every weekend or so, although I think what Raymond is doing fills a very important need for him. To me it is all very intrigiing, but it would be like writing a short story or a novel. I tried to do that once, but I'm not too good at it. I like to describe places as vividly as I can, but I must have been there to do so. Certainly I could conjure up a place where my dreams of escape could find an outlet, but I'd be sitting in my room at the computer, not feeling the wind, hearing the birds, or listening to the sounds of leaves rustling or water rushing over rocks. I don't write my present journal descriptions out in the field, of course, but they are all based on real events and experiences and senations.

This line of thought leads me to the belief that I must go into my immediate surroundings for fellowship with the natural world. I must find it where it is, and where it is accessible, whether walking a solitary stretch of Folly Beach or heading out to a maritime forest preserve not too many miles from where I live. I'm getting ready to go there now. It's the first time I've been there, and I'm not even sure I can find it.

So, in a future journal entry, I may just try to envision what my dream cabin along a Lowcountry river would be like. But it would have to be within about an hour's drive so I could actually visit the spot, even if I never have an actual place there to escape to. We all need escape out into the country from time to time. I wish it could be every weekend.

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