People think I’m a hermit living alone in the wilderness.
Or maybe I am. I’m not particularly social. I don’t like parties. I don’t like crowds. I rarely venture far from my base.
I don’t like noise. I can only tolerate cities for short periods of time.
I don’t like dogs.
Is this what makes a hermit?
When I meet people, they will ask me if my house has electricity (it does), if I have a refrigerator (I do), if I have a tv (I don’t).
They will ask me if I listen to music. Not what kind of music I listen to. But whether I listen to music.
Family, friends, acquaintances, they have an image of me as some kind of shamanic mystic who enjoys living in a cave, water dripping down the walls, gnawing on an ear of corn.
People think I have tons of money stashed away, or that I have given all my money away, vowing to live a life of poverty for reasons of solidarity with the poor.
Funny how people think.
They tell me I should sell all this and buy a house in town, or move back to the United States (young guys will frequently tell me they will move there with me, how altruistic). (Why would I move back to the United States? What would I do there?)
They tell me I’m courageous.
They tell me I should get a gun.
They tell me I should get a dog.
I guess I have an image problem.
Tapuio isn’t all that isolated. It isn’t some block of forest a million miles from civilization. My nearest neighbor lives 4 km (2 and a half miles) away, so yes, that does sound far, but it isn’t a single house. It’s a community. Lots of people live just 4 km away and from there, it just blends into the city. I can hear their parties on weekends. I can see the roofs of their homes.
But it has been ignored, a fact which has allowed wildlife to return.
Unfortunately, with a return of wildlife, those who consistently seek to profit from wildlife have also returned. Hunters, bird collectors, orchid collectors, they have flocked to gather and usually kill the wildlife.
The children of many of the landowners are now grown up and have decided to try their hand at cultivation, typically in the same manner as all their ancestors, something unsustainable in this age of global warming. Springs are drying up, cattle graze and scar the land resulting in horrible erosion, trees are removed. Herbicides and pesticides soak the soil, killing everything. Their attempts often fail, leading them to believe the land is worthless and only fit for cattle, making the entire situation worse.
I’ve frequently written about what I think would be a great future for Tapuio. Not a park managed and protected by the same people currently responsible for the management and protection of Tapuio. Honestly, I think a minuscule alternative community, 5 to 7 houses at the most, a small garden plot at each house, with the rest returning to forest, would be the best protection this area could receive. I’ve tried to get people interested in this, and I’m told nobody is interested and that I don’t understand.
I’m told I should sell. I’m told I should get a gun. I’m told I should get a dog.
Down below, in the communities, this is the way people think. Many people want to sell. Guns flow like water in the communities below me and the government is facilitating this. Dogs are everywhere, lounging in the roads, wandering the roads day and night, chasing motorcycles. It doesn’t matter that people often live right next to each other. They can hear each others’ televisions. But they believe they need guns and dogs.
Late one night a few months ago, I opened my front door to find an anteater roaming the area in front of my house. I was overjoyed. A week later while coming home late one night I came upon an anteater (maybe the same one), almost a kilometer from my house.
Last week, while walking along the road above my house, I came upon a dead anteater. It had been killed by dogs. Most animals here are killed by dogs. The dogs from below roam freely, wander up here in packs and kill everything they encounter.
Just like people.
I don’t live in a cavern with water dripping down the walls, happy as I gnaw on an ear of corn. I live in a house. It’s rustic, but it is a house. In fact, I have two houses here.
I don’t have money stashed away or buried under my kitchen and I can always use more, which I would spend on making my houses more comfortable.
I don’t want to sell and move to the city where people are so terrified they can’t even leave a window open. I don’t want a gun. I don’t want a dog. I don’t want to live my life constantly concerned about the need to protect myself. I don’t want to live my life centered around fear and distrust, surrounded by anger and death.
That doesn’t make me hermit. It makes me a person who values life.
Whenever I write Salve Tapuio, that’s what I mean.