Sunday, December 13, 2009

Making Life Good

I went through basic training in February and March of 1968 at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. Much of my experience was as the recipient of sadistic treatment. I still remember the bitter cold weather, the wet clothes that came off at the end of the day to be put on the next morning, the lack of sleep, the pain in my heels from new leather boots and the hunger. What I remember more vividly is receiving and watching others receive abusive treatment by alcoholics.

A 17 year old kid had joined the National Guard to avoid being drafted for the war. While milling around he made the mistake of removing his helmet. A drill instructor took a dead tree branch about two inches in diameter and broke it over the kid's head to teach him not to remove his helment. I vividly remember the blood streaming from his head, his pain and his tears.

A young man slept in a bunk across from mine. After a couple weeks I came in one evening to find him crying. He couldn't take the cursing, screaming and psychological abuse. He wet the bed every night. Finally, he slit his wrists. I listened as another drill instructor stood over his bunk and said "I hope you die!"

There are more stories but the essence is that life became something to endure. Make it through one day and there was one less until it was over. We never knew what to expect other than we would probably be fed at some point, we would be given a few hours sleep, we would find ways to hide a few things, we would listen to a few minutes of music each morning as we prepared for another day.

After a few weeks I learned to enjoy small things, moments of quiet, a warm day, dry clothes, a little extra food, the radio that played popular music each morning (until it was stolen). I've never forgotten the enjoyment of escaping for a few minutes, the warmth of coming in from the cold, the experience of falling asleep when staying awake was impossible, the simple necessary routines of daily life.

This experience still affects my life. Yesterday morning I got wet, chilled and the cold wind made my ears ache deep inside. I thought about taking a break until the rain and wind stopped but I wanted to finish what I had started, to endure. I knew that dry clothes, a warm house, hot coffee and something to eat awaited.

I've grown to enjoy the simple daily tasks of building a fire, hauling water for the cistern, monitoring the electric system, making sure the generator is full of gas and ready when needed. I look forward to adjusting the angle of the solar panels every couple month, cutting firewood, taking recycling to town and compost material to the garden. In June when we have no air conditioning and the temperatures hit 100 degrees the evenings become sweet as the temperatures drop and the air takes on a chill.

A life of ease, convenience and luxury holds no attraction for me. I enjoy my life for it's simple extremes, its good and its bad, its daily routines. It's the small discomforts that make the rest even better, that make life good.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I'm pretty sure that taking joy in the routine tasks is the key.

12/14/2009 07:09:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home