“The wild places are where we began. When they end, so do we.”
— David Bower
One August afternoon, Vincent and I found ourselves peering out the window of our New York tiny home, marveling at the red spruce and balsam fir trees that like other natural wonders, may not be around long enough for your grandchildren to see. While we often think of glaciers as the first victims of global warming, you don't need to travel far to see the effects. Instead, our neighboring Adirondack's spruce-fir forests, prove a worthy fighting ground for a rapidly declining community of plants and animals. With the increase in temperature and acid rain deposition, the leaves of mountain spruce-fir forests become stripped of nutrients, and as a result, are now listed at S2S3 —meaning very vulnerable to disappearing from New York.
We were privileged to witness a part of natural history that is sadly overlooked by those with the power to protect these environments.
In raising awareness on these issues, you can join local communities like MillionTrees, Big Reuse or Lower East Side Ecology (each of which focuses on a variety of environmental subjects: planting trees, diverting construction materials from landfills, and community-based recycling/composting programs), and volunteer to educate your peers on the importance of simple decisions you can make every day to reduce your impact on the environment. Be it finding alternatives to driving, turning off the lights when you leave a room, eating locally and reducing your meat and dairy intake, or recycling and sorting your trash — every small moment counts towards the health of our earth, which has given us absolutely everything to support our life here.
Choosing to surround yourself with trees that have been around much longer than you, in a low carbon footprint lifestyle such as a tiny home, even if just for the weekend, instills within you a sense of calm and immense respect for the environment. Furthermore, disconnecting from your email, your phone calls, and the internet, and getting in touch with yourself and with your partner and understanding what it means to be present in a moment, is an immense relief for those city-dwellers that are constantly connected and in need for reevaluating their priorities. Getaway House, a company that rents minimal off-the-grid tiny homes offers just that.
From the start of your experience with Getaway, you understand, that the point of it, in a simple term is — nothing.
As opposed to planning out your weekend vacation, you are meant to do the opposite of what your schedule-crazy mind is telling you and instead, focus on: nothing. This is truly difficult and can be unnerving at first for the classic "I have a million things to do and a million places to be" mindset of a New Yorker but within hours you'll find yourself submitting to the slower pace of life (partially to the credit of zero cell service and Getaway House's suggested cell lock box). And hopefully, when you return from your Getaway House, you are able to apply what you have experienced from a slice of true, simple, beautiful life to your position within and outlook on modern society. And this tiny home makes it easy with the surrounding woods and unexpected comforts of kitchenware and minty shampoo.
Just wake up to the chirping birds, or the wind rustling the leaves, rising from your slumber slowly to appreciate the sounds, the rest of your senses beginning to create their own awareness of nature. You see the sun's rays through the branches tickle the sheets and play orange light and shadow across the ceiling. The drumming of the morning rain lends a rhythm to your day. And finally, when you are ready, Getaway stocks their tiny homes with dry provisions (at a pay per use) that you can eat for a perfect breakfast in bed.
Time melts away as you observe the surrounding area and wander the woods. Take in the details of the tiniest of things while sketching the outlines of bark and the back of a toad. Back in the comforts of your tiny home, browse through the books, learn about the history of the region and the adventures that took place centuries ago exactly where you are, and be architecturally inspired to create your own vision of a tiny home. Even the space-age toilet that creates foil-clad sausage-links of your waste is a phenomenon to marvel at.
Memories resurface as you witness the spectacle you are a small part of. How funny to bike along the same ancient foothills that once led Rip Van Winkle to a deep slumber. As our stay in our tiny home was coming to a close, it was hard not to make parallels with his rude awakening as we imagined being thrust back into a different sort of tiny home within 21st century New York City. Could we use this time in the woods to shape how we think about the environment around us and our relationship with technology? For closure, I think about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, whose respect for both nature and machines was not of paradox, but in response to what he saw as two forces that guided awareness of each other.
But how can anyone conceive that the machine is an end? It is a tool. As much a tool as is the plough. The microscope is a tool. What disservice do we do the life of the spirit when we analyze the universe through a tool created by the science of optics, or seek to bring together those who love one another and are parted in space?
It was only yesterday that we began to pitch our camp in this country of laboratories and power stations, that we took possession of this new, this still unfinished, house we live in. Everything round us is new and different - our concerns, our working habits, our relations with one another.
Our very psychology has been shaken to its foundations, to its most secret recesses. Our notions of separation, absence, distance, return, are reflections of a new set of realities, though the words themselves remain unchanged. To grasp the meaning of the world of today we use a language created to express the world of yesterday. The life of the past seems to us nearer our true natures, but only for the reason that it is nearer our language.
The end goal isn't to banish technology and retreat into a hermitage in the woods. Getaway House's tiny home strips us of all distractions, giving us the time and space to examine the natural world around us and our relationship to it. Can we challenge ourselves to use the tools we're most familiar with as a means for ecological responsibility? This will be the question I ask myself as I leave this home for another.
Thank you for reading. Words by Vincent Ribeiro and me, photos from the two of us. We're grateful for Getaway's accommodations & Artist Residency to facilitate this post. As always, our opinions are our own. Check out Getaway House for your chance to recharge in the woods near New York City & Boston.
Do let us know if you a question through a comment below ♡