Most of my neighbors hardly ever go anywhere. I don’t say that in a preachy judgmental tone. I sort of wish I were like them, content to putter around the house, not treat every Saturday as the precious jewel that I believe it to be. As much as I like my house and the general area I live in, I chafe at staying home. I want to be out..doing something.

I surf the internet for places to backpack in December (there really aren’t any outside of winter camping, which I can do here). I imagine a scenario where I had enough money and time to go to New Zealand to hike another long track. I leave the house burdened with ice grippers, a backpack and trekking poles and appear back home hours later. My neighbors are still at home. What do they think, I wonder. Why doesn’t that lady stay home? That house, the trim needs painting. Where are the gutters?! Did she really leave a piece of old deck sitting outside for weeks? Clean that crap up!

Or maybe not. Maybe they’re just bemused by the kayak or skis leaving the house on a regular basis. On occasion I’ve come limping home, felled by a face plant. Sometimes I set up tents in the yard for no apparent reason. The porch happy hour folks have long since given up on me as a participant. It’s just too nice out to stay home.

I’ve always had jobs that took me away from the community. First, I fought fire. I could be gone within an hour, bound for someplace, not to return for three weeks. After that I was a wilderness ranger, and later a kayak ranger in Alaska, out for days at a time. It was hard to get very invested in the town or the people when I was always gone.

Now that my job is more office-based, I know I have the opportunity to really get to know this place and the people. Go to events. Invite people over. Hang around for a change. But I find myself reverting to my old habits. There has to be a balance in here somewhere but I haven’t found it, not completely. Real outdoors soul mates are few, though a handful of them will perk up at a hiking invitation. Most people just…stay home.

I was talking with some friends and they spoke in rhapsodic tones of men who got pedicures. Men in suits. I had to chime in that I like the scruff. Give me work hands any day. Then I said, “it’s a good thing we all like different kinds of men.”  One of my friends said, “Yes, or we’d be fighting over the same guy!” It’s the same way with how people occupy their days. My neighbors stay home. I can count on them if I think I left a candle burning. I go out, and the mountains are not crowded. It works.