Thursday, June 23, 2016

In Progress #1

So, as many of you know, because I've talked about it a thousand million times, I'm doing a residency at the Wormfarm Institute in Reedsburg, WI this summer. I'm here as a writer/artist...whatever that means. The solitude, peace, and quiet, in combination with the cathartic farm work, has already made it easier for me to write and focus on a few projects. 

The main project I'm focusing on while I'm here is a study of RV living and culture. I've been thinking about this project for over a year now and I'm finally starting to piece some of it together. The final project will be a book of some sort, although I haven't quite figured it out yet. Below is a sample chapter that will be the intro of the book. I'll be posting more samples of work in progress throughout the summer. Thanks for reading babes. 


One summer I lived in Yellowstone National Park working a minimum wage job so I could experience the wild and untamed beauty of America’s first park. While I was there, I was introduced to the absurd and intrusive nature of RV culture. I came to associate these so-called “recreational” vehicles with a dull ache in my head, an annoying buzz in my ear, and a subtle quickening of my pulse. I thought of them as nothing more than a rude disturbance of my tranquil surroundings, like an unwanted dinner guest or a suitor that won’t take the hint. I could not fathom why Yellowstone’s visitors would sacrifice the authenticity of their park visit by hauling along their usual comforts from home in a large, bulky cabin of metal.
            Once I was out of the park, RVs weren’t as vexing to me. I would pass them aloof in driveways, parking lots, and on the road, and I didn’t think much about them unless I saw one that was particularly corpulent, in which case I would scoff in disgust.
            A few years later, I was on a camping trip at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on an unseasonably warm Labor Day weekend. The RVs were ubiquitous and inevitable at that time of year, and I accidentally chose a campsite next to a behemoth RV that towered like a skyscraper over my puny tent. It left almost no room for walking or standing in the campsite, and some trees had to sacrifice a few of their branches to accommodate its bulk. At night, when I wanted to sleep under the stars, the electric fervor of incandescent light emitting from the RV washed out the comparatively feeble glow of the entire night sky. I chanced a closer look at the interior only to find in horror that its occupants were watching TV, and had even brought a portable satellite dish that they installed in the grass outside their movable fortress.
            My heart felt broken after this encounter. I wondered if I would be able to have an organic experience ever again—if RVs would steal my peace and quiet wherever I was in the world and follow me to every National Park, campground, and back corner of the woods until I would have to succumb and buy my own RV in order to escape the noise and light pollution from other RVs.
            In short, I became obsessed with recreational vehicles, and conceived the idea to write a scathing exposé on the widespread devastation they impose upon the world.
            To my surprise, however, I did not uncover a cult of emotionally unfulfilled sloth-humans like I expected, but a culture, and a community, and a few pioneers and artists along the way. I learned that almost everyone has an RV story or experience, and a few people even convinced me that RVs might not be fully evil. They could in some cases be neutral, or even, I daresay, good. I also realized I have my own RV experience: a 1970s mobile home that my family used as a cabin in Northern Wisconsin my whole life, parked on a slice of land that will always be in my heart. For the first time I considered that RVs can have roots, too, and can be repurposed as immobile living spaces.
            My overall affirmation, however is just an echo of that feeling I had on Labor Day weekend in Pictured Rocks: RVs are ubiquitous. At this point there might even be more RVs than humans; I’m not sure. Whatever the official count is, I know undoubtedly that I can’t escape them. But I have learned that I can coexist with them. For all the “bad” they put into the world, there’s some “good” in there, too. What more can I expect from an experience that so many people have in common?

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