I found the cottage through a quick Google search.
The owners had given me a discount because “the property had not been maintained in a few months”. I didn’t understand what that meant, but the price was right – I packed my car and found myself there the next day.
The cottage was in the middle of the woods. My GPS could only take me so far before I had to rely on written instructions like “when you see the red ribbon tied to the tree at the fork in the road, take the left”.
Isolation was what I was searching for, but I had no idea I would be this secluded. The cottage was hidden behind a scene of thick trees and waist high grass, deep in the middle of the Ontario woods.
As I used my sleeve to clear my way through the cobwebs that formed over the front door, I understood why I was given a discount. The counters were littered with ants and other insects, and the beds were covered in spiders – mostly dead.
It was the perfect setting for a horror movie.
Regardless, the space was gorgeous. I was captivated by the smell of fresh pinewood and the vibrancy of the deep greens that illuminated through all the windows.
Exploring further I saw something that shocked me: the toilet was little more than a wooden plank with a hole in it, balanced over two stumps, twenty feet behind the cottage. It was at that moment that the gravity of my decision had hit me. I was not prepared to shit in the forest at 3am.
As the sun began to leave that evening, my peace of mind went with it. The once big and beautiful windows that lit up the entire cottage grew dark. I couldn’t see a thing outside – and having no curtains in the space made it so that if I had any source of light on inside, anybody could see me.
That’s when the panic set in.
I realised that I was completely isolated in the middle of the woods. The only person who knew my exact location was the old man from the internet who I had rented the place from. Oh, and the cottage had many doors, none of which had locks and opened with a brief shove.
All I had to protect myself was a 20 pound iron dumbbell and a dull kitchen knife I had found.
What if a bear smells my food and comes pushing through the door?
I lay frozen in bed with my senses on high alert, aware of every inch of skin on my body, knowing that I was surrounded by spiders.
Hours passed. I gripped my phone. It was the one thing that gave me any sense of security and connection...
Even then, I was afraid to use it in case the light from its screen alerted some stranger to my presence. And, my reception was horrid: if I did need to call for help, it would have been far too late before anybody could reach me.
I had become a feral animal: eyes wide and ears peeled for the slightest pin drop. Every muscle in my body was tense and prepared for flight or fight. The only thoughts that passed through my mind from time to time were “I can’t do this for another night“. Bears, strangers, wolves, spiders… I was terrified of all these things. Until, suddenly, I realised something that changed my perspective for good:
“The only danger I can be sure of is the fear in my own mind”.
This idea brought with it a feeling of calm, and many questions, such as: “what do ‘security’ and ‘protection’ even mean?
This question stirred in my mind until the sun came up, and with it arose these realisations:
“Security is not defined by lock and bolt, and ‘protection’ is not defined by armour and weapons”.
In my eyes, it is knowing that if a storm hits, I will survive. And if the walls do crumble, I have the foundation and support I need to rebuild something stronger.
Realising this was liberating on every level. It helped me to understand that I have the ability to define the circumstances in my own life, and that mindfully choosing my own definitions could be freeing and empowering.
Often, letting things break down, be it: limiting beliefs, concepts, or our relationships with ourselves – is essential for processing in life. Just as a break down of muscle tissue is required for growth, destruction strengthens mental, emotional and spiritual fitness through the same break and build cycle.
This experience opened me up to believe that whilst destruction is perceived as damaging, it is essential for all growth and development. It is the force that gives birth to stars and sustains life itself.
“What is chaos to the fly is normal to the spider.”Charles Addams
In moments where you feel secluded under a blanket of darkness, I ask you to ponder on this thought:
How can I redefine the situations and circumstances in my life that cause me suffering?