This summer, when the tourists milled through the streets of Belgrade Lakes, I was one of them. I rode up there on my brother’s boat and got some ice cream at Day’s store and tried some pizza from the guy who had a tent set up in one of the driveways. There was a lot more foot traffic there compared to when I was a kid. They have a farmer’s market on Sunday and more places where you can wander up and grab something to eat. Forty years ago, it was pretty much Day’s or nothing, and Day’s was more about knick-knacks than food.

To my surprise, the downtown (known as The Lakes) was a lot like my description from Accidental Evil. I populated the streets with a few locals and a bunch of summer tourists and imagined bustling commerce. I suppose that I was merely extrapolating on the apparent trend. Still, it was neat to see The Lakes match my imaginary version.

In a few weeks, the last of the tourists will be gone and forgotten, for now. Residents will get on with the serious business of squeezing the last warm weather out of fall and then enduring the coming cold.

Today, up at my brother’s house, I saw one of the older locals for the first time in years. He has never read my book, Migrators, and that’s probably a good thing. I took some liberties in that book with descriptions of him and his family. I changed the names, of course, but it wouldn’t take a lot of sleuthing to make the connection. In fact, his friend *had* read Migrators, and he *had* made the connection.

His friend asked me, “You’re the author, right?”
I told him yes, and then before I could think it through, I said, “In fact, Buster is in one of my books.”
“Oh, I know,” the friend said.
I wonder what he told Buster about that book. I didn’t want to bring it up, but I hope that nobody took offense. None was intended.
Most of my friends realize that they will eventually end up in one of my books. They seem to have a pretty good humor about it when I kill them off. Although one of my friends sounded a little hurt when he realized that I had made him into a mouse and then given him a heart attack.

I’m glad that I got the chance to live up in that area, but I’m also glad I moved away. I think it might be a little easier to write about Belgrade from forty minutes away.

I haven't been sleeping well, and I'm starting to suspect that I'm doing it on purpose. I've changed where I sleep five times this year already, and I'm probably going to do it again. Systematically, I'm moving through this old farmhouse, making sure that none of the rooms feels like my own bedroom.

I suppose that I'm trying to find a way to live in this new version of the world. I'm no longer caring for a gigantic epileptic dog—that's the most abrupt change this year—but I'm also trying to resolve who I am in terms of my career. I can't remember when I quit my last job. Was it three years ago? Four? How long was I supposed to keep going with writing before I took a step back to assess my progress? I can't remember that either. With all the writing I've been doing, I should have written down a precise plan with deadlines.

Then again, I'm not sure it would make a difference. I can't really envision any other future. I'm no longer writing these books just because I want to. I feel like I must write them. It's not some overdeveloped sense of importance. These stories are compelling to me. It may or may not be obvious to readers, but these stories mean something to me. If I stopped now, I'm not sure how I would cope with that loss.

Lately, watching movies, I'm really jealous of how quick and immediate that medium is. Viewers can be drawn in with the first few frames and hooked by the score before a character even appears on screen. That's my goal—I want to make a book so compelling that someone turns it into a movie. There's too much to learn for me to attempt it myself. Someone else is going to have to step in. To that end, one of my stories is going to be a stage production in October. That's exciting.

Maybe tonight I will shove my bed into the corner, under the sloping ceiling. With pillows along the beam, it could be a cozy place to hide. Perhaps that will be a safe enough place to get a good night's sleep.

CrokusThis is it.

Tomorrow I will throw open my door and walk out into the real world. My first stop will be to get a haircut. After that, the day is mine. I'm thinking of going to the grocery store so I can pick up some fresh fruit. It's all very exciting!

The other day, someone asked me what I've learned from this experience. Not much. I was pretty sure that it wouldn't be a major inconvenience, and I was right. I was pretty sure that I wouldn't go crazy or start talking to myself. I do talk to myself, but no more than usual. Perhaps I turn my head towards the ceiling and burst into laughter more than I did before, but I don't think that's terrible strange.

I'm not the type of person who gets lonely. I'm not sure it even occurs to me unless I'm thinking about myself through someone else's eyes. Three months wasn't really a stretch. Of course I still have to re-integrate myself back into contact with the outside world. There's a chance that I'll go for my haircut and end up chattering endlessly to the poor barber. They might be the better judge of how well I survived the Reclusion.

I'm glad it's spring. I've got a lot to do this year and I've been waiting for spring to start. I need to do some more remodeling, take a bunch of stuff to the dump, and buy enough paint to cover my fence. I suppose my vacation is over. Can't wait until next winter!

LivingRoomBrunoI have so much food left. I have a ton of frozen vegetables, tons of butter, and I could bathe in seltzer water. I won't make a dent in any of that stuff in the next week. Dog food and horse food are also fully-stocked for the foreseeable future. 

Still, I'm going to fly to the grocery store next Tuesday. I'd like to get my hair cut first. I shaved my head back in December and it has grown back all weird. It would be nice to not look crazy when I venture back into society. 

I'm going to keep growing lettuce. Every part of that experiment has been great. I've started new plants to replace the ones I ate. They're coming along well. I think if I doubled my operation, I could have a salad five out of seven days and never run out. I'm going to try to make that happen. My lights and air pump can already handle the capacity, I simply have to get one more bin to fill with water.

Today I had an avocado that a friend brought over. Yesterday, I ate a donated tomato. It will be nice to be able to buy those things whenever I want. I'm also looking forward to cream, yogurt, and fresh fruit.

Now that I'm nearing the end of the reclusion, I'm not so sure I want to try it again next year. It was fun, but I'm weary of it. As I've said before, the house is nicer when you get to return to it.

If you need me, I'll be spending the next five days trying to avoid "10 Cloverfield Lane" spoilers.

BigSaladMy countdown continues--twelve days left. I can't think of another time when I went three months without driving or riding in a car. I grew up in the suburbs. I'm sure I went to the grocery store with my mom as an infant. Even our babysitter was a car ride away. I bet I've never, in my entire life, spent three months in an area this small. Weird.

I passed my two-year Spanish anniversary. I've been using DuoLingo for 748 days straight. According to their metrics, I'm 56% fluent. I finished all their lessons forever ago. I clearly need to find another way to increase my fluency.

It feels like spring outside. Actually, to be completely fair, spring usually isn't this nice in Maine. It's 50° outside. A lot of times at the end of March it's 20° and we have two feet of snow on the ground. I might go outside this afternoon and start digging--that's how nice it is.

There's really not much to report, reclusion-wise. I had my last yogurt today. I could have frozen a few more pounds of that, along with some more frozen fruit. No worries, I still have two frozen quiches that I can have for breakfast. All my other food stores have held up well. I'll be excited to have fresh fruit again, and tomatoes. I probably should have grown hydroponic tomatoes, but I can tackle that project another time. 

I don't like to feel that I'm killing time, waiting for something, and that's the way I feel right now. I'm looking forward to the end of the reclusion only so that I won't be looking forward to it anymore. I prefer to think that I'm optimizing every day instead of letting it slip by. But, once the reclusion is over, I'm sure I will focus on something else. There are plenty of events this summer to anticipate. I suppose I better start planning.

 

BelgradeBarnTomorrow is the first day of March. I'll have three weeks left of reclusion. I have super big plans for the 22nd of March. I'm going to the doctor. I'm thinking about seeing "10 Cloverfield Lane" (although I'll probably wait until that Thursday). Actually, I guess that's it. Aside from those small excursions, I don't think my life will change much. 

I'm doing really well on supplies. I still have plenty of dog/horse food. I've got a ton of frozen vegetables, and an unopened 25-pound bag of rice that my mother gave me. In a good year, I maybe eat 5 pounds of rice. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to make it through that monster.

We've had an unusally mild winter so far. Today it's 50 and there's just one pile of snow left in the driveway. Last year we had snow until May. Unless March takes a weird turn, I'm going to assume that mud season will be pretty light this time around. That's always good news. Maybe I'll get an early start on my garden. Listen to me--I'm talking like spring is a foregone conclusion! It would be just like Maine for the weather to turn around and bite me in the ass. 

The lettuce experiment is/was an unqualified success. I've had a bunch of salads and they keep coming. I recommend hydroponic Romaine to anyone who enjoys fresh greens. It takes very little energy and only a little bit of space. Factoring out the fixed costs (the pump, bulbs, and such), each head cost about $1.50 to grow. I have yet to try other crops, but I suspect that basil and cilantro would also work well. To do tomatoes and cucumbers, I would need to construct a vertical setup. I might do that. 

I remember when I was a little kid that being stuck inside the house was pure torture. There was nothing interesting to do inside. I wanted to go out and play in the back yard, jump in puddles, or find ants to kill. I'm sure my mother remembers it differently. She probably has clear memories of ordering me to turn off the TV for once and get out of the house.HeadsRomaine

In support of my recollections, I offer Maine as evidence. There was nothing I enjoyed more than vacations up here. In Maine, there was always something to do. We could swim in the lake, explore the barn, or ride the minibike in the back fields. When we got strong enough to swim across the lake, we were allowed to take out the little boat on our own. It's doubtless that the reason I wanted to move to Maine after college was because of those memories. Maine was a happy place, and if I lived here, I could be happy too.

It was also far enough away from where I grew up that I could finally become a real person. I had to move away from the weight of my childhood in order to get away from the person it created. Moving away allowed me to introduce myself to new people who didn't have any preconceived notions of me. It took a few iterations. Years passed before I made any progress. Eventually, I learned that it wasn't the people around me who were making me act & think a certain way--it was myself. I could have stayed put in Virginia if I had been able to realize that there. 

This spring is somewhat of the same thing. I'll be leaving my house after this period of reflection and reinventing how I interact with the world. After three months of limited human contact, who do I want to be? Do I want to meet new people and try new things? Will I go to the doctor, the movies, and then scurry back home to lock the door again? I guess I have three more weeks to figure that out.

LockpicksThere's so much going on, I don't know where to start! 

First, let me thank my friend Dave, who introduced me to a new hobby. I opened a surprise gift a couple of weeks ago and discovered a lockpick set with a transparent lock. through the clear plastic, you can see the tumblers and understand how the lock works. It's really fascinating. With a little practice, that first lock became simple. I've graduated to door locks. In Maine, it's perfectly legal to own a set of lockpicks. The police must prove intent before they can arrest you for having them. I won't be taking my picks to Virginia though. In that state, you're guilty for even owning them. 

It's amazing how simple most locks are. Of course another friend brought by a padlock that proved impossible (for now). I might have to go back and read "The Lock Artist" again. That was a great story about a kid who starts off picking simple locks. 

Then, as if that weren't enough excitement to last a month, we had a fugitive hunt!

It all started with a number of unmarked cars parked across the road in the driveway of a neighbor. With all the lights off in the dining room, I crouched in front of the window so I could watch. I wasn't sure what they were up to. Part of me believed that the cars belonged to thugs who were there to abduct the young man who lives there. One of the cars left and went up the road. Minutes later, two people with flashlights and a dog on a long lead came back on foot. They were police! I watched through the side door as they searched my neighbor's yard. When I tried to call to them, Finn decided to bark and they didn't hear me.

I jumped on the phone and contacted my neighbor. I'll keep the identities private, but they were searching for the young man, who was accused of drunk driving and striking a police car with a stick. Later, the police and dog searched my yard as well. I was a little disappointed that my horse was in the barn. He would have loved that. There's nothing he likes more than bothering unsuspecting strangers who wander into his pasture. Then again, they might have shot him.

The police searched for hours. I've learned that the young man went to jail later that night.

I'm sad for the young man's troubles, but I had a great time. One more month left! I don't think I'll have another week as interesting as this one though.

HarvestIt might be time to harvest. The lettuce is growing incredibly fast now. I'm not certain how much bigger it's supposed to get. Now that my hydroponic lettuce is in the kitchen, the purple grow lights are visible from the road. I've been waiting for the police to knock on the door, but my only company this week was the guy from the Chinese restaurant. They're the only people who still deliver out here. 

I called the Chinese restaurant yesterday at 3:40. I've had a cold this week, and I got tired of cooking canned soup, so I tried to call in an order for delivery. The person informed me that they don't deliver until 5pm. I called again at 5:01. I also thawed a quiche and some salmon. Being sick makes me hungry, but I'm sure I'm burning off all those calories as I nap. The food came really fast, and it was wonderful, I think. My sense of taste hasn't quite returned. 

There's a good chance that I'm approaching this all wrong. On Wednesday, when it was clear that I was legitimately sick, I sequestered myself and tried to keep all activities to a minimum. In the past, I might have fought through and tried to stick to my routine. So what's better--three days of sickness and then back to life, or a sickness that's stretched over five or six days but with a normal schedule? It seemed healthier to take it easy, but I'm not so sure. In general, a sedentary lifestyle isn't healthy, so why would it be when you're sick?

One good thing -- at least I don't have to worry about spreading my illness to anyone else.

For reference, here's a picture of my lettuce when I first put the seedlings in the bucket.

Seedlings

 

Lettuce2I suppose I'm a little bored. Maybe that's the wrong word. I suppose I'm in a bit of a rut. I've been doing too much of the same thing every day. It's good, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I look at the clock and wonder how much longer I really need to stay up before I can legitimately go to bed.

My books are going well, my projects are all progressing, and my workout schedule is steady. I'm nearly halfway done with my reclusion, and I can safely declare that I'm not going to run out of anything crucial. 

I think I'm coming to the realization that there's nothing outside of here that I need except the ability to come home afterwards. When I'm dragged away from the house by a trip or an errand, I'm always so excited to pull back into the garage and be safe at home once more. Now that I've been safe for over forty days, some of that magic has disappeared. I suppose it's the same for anything. We have such an amazing ability to adapt, but that brings with it the ability to forget how good things are.

It takes a crisis to appreciate calm. 

In other news, my lettuce is looking great. I see no reason to stop growing it even after the reclusion is over. I'd like to try some other hydroponic vegetables as well. Cucumbers and tomatoes look like fun.

Well, it's getting kinda late. I suppose I could be heading off to bed soon.

 

LettuceI've been caught in a lot of circular dreams lately. Last night, it was about the characters of the book I'm going to publish in February. The book is called "Post Grace," and it's pretty personal for me. In the dream, I kept going round and round about events that never happened for the people. I kept thinking, "I have to take that part out. It's too hokey for the rest of the book." But I can't take it out because I never put it in.

Weird.

I have been focusing pretty hard on that book, trying to get it ready early. I'm concerned about March's book, and eager to switch over to that. Also, I know that April's book needs a new third act, so the sooner I get to that, the better. This is why my dreams are messed up. Some part of me is trying to turn this whole writing thing into a job, and it just doesn't work that way.

I mean, come on, writing is absurd. I make up these stories and then people read them. By the time I'm a few chapters in, I care deeply about these words that I've put down on the page. Just seeing the name of one of my characters either warms or cools my heart. I'm physically and emotionally affected by reading a made up name for a made up character because I've watched them go through made up strife. It's absurd.

And them I'm thrilled when other people enjoy these made up things. Absurd.

And then I get so caught up with the made up schedule that I've assigned to the release of these made up stories, that I have dreams about it? Absurd.

And yet, as crazy as it is, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. 

Oh, also, my lettuce is coming along nicely!

Subcategories

Reclusion - the state of being separated from society, but this word carries the connotation that the separation is a chosen way of life. 

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