When you have been quarantining for an extended period; you invariably have time to think. What has struck me is the vapid nature of our current economic model: we work, we buy, we use, we throw away. Although I have problems with Eustace Conway and his misogynistic behavior, he had an apropos quote in the book, The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert.
“I live in nature where everything is connected, circular. The seasons are circular. The planet is circular, and so is the planet around the sun. The course of water over the earth is circular coming down from the sky and circulating through the world to spread life and then evaporating up again. I live in a circular teepee and build my fire in a circle. The life cycles of plants and animals are circular. I live outside where I can see this. The ancient people understood that our world is a circle, but we modern people have lost sight of that. I don’t live inside buildings because buildings are dead places where nothing grows, where water doesn’t flow, and where life stops. I don’t want to live in a dead place. People say that I don’t live in a real world, but it’s modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they have stepped outside the natural circle of life. Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in a box of their bedrooms because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get into another box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken into little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to the house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box. Break out of the box! This not the way humanity lived for thousands of years.”
Of all the things that have been left to me, there are two that mean a great deal: a wrench and a footlocker. My great, great grandfather was a machinist. My grandfather gifted me his wrench and footlocker, both of which he made with his own hands. The wrench is strong, tough. The footlocker is equally sturdy, and the lock system is ingenious; the skeleton key thin yet strong. Even though they were constructed over one-hundred years ago, they are the same today as they were then. I never met him, but what he made survives. If I am honest, I don’t remember a lot of the gifts that people bought for me, but I cherish the art that my girls made from scratch, the pottery my mom made, and the lovely artwork made by my wife. When humans create things, it is beautiful.
Backpacking is near and dear to my heart. I love the gear that makes these adventures possible. In some small way, I want to make gear, use it, be proud of something that I constructed. Over the coming months, as my family and I stay closer to home to protect ourselves and others; I want to find this lost art, document it and perhaps inspire others to leave these backpacking companies behind. Because at the end of the day, why not? Why not make your own gear? Why not use your hands? Why not attempt to break free from the box?