By Cam Mather

Do you have a recurring nightmare? One of those nightmares that often reflects something that you dread in real life? Like the one where you’re late for an exam and you get there just as it’s over and you fail the year … or the one where you have to speak in front of a huge audience and you forget your speech, or you’re naked. Or maybe there’s a creepy-looking troll from that Hansel and Gretel book you had as a kid and he comes and puts his stool down beside your bed and you start screaming your head off for your parents but nothing comes out of your mouth? No wait, that was mine when I was 7.

I have a couple of recurring nightmares. One is that I’m back living in suburbia. I could tolerate it when I was there, and it was easy to make money there, but I don’t want to go back. The second nightmare involves someone building a house right next to ours.

We are surrounded by forest. Thousands of acres of bush. Our nearest neighbors Ken and Alyce are about 3 miles to the east, and the Kouris are 5 miles to the west. During deer hunting season in November some of the closer hunt camps are occupied, but it only lasts for 2 weeks and then we are alone again.

It really is an amazing place. It’s about a 45 minutes to the fantastic city of Kingston, yet it’s like living in the middle of Algonquin Park. If I got lost walking in our woods (which I’ve blogged about previously) I can walk a long, long way before I hit any road.

So for the last 14 years we’ve become pretty acclimatized to this peace and quiet and solitude.

In my nightmare, someone has bought property right across the road from us (we don’t own that property) and they are cutting down every tree to build a monster home. There are bulldozers and construction crews and noise and smoke and chaos and our solitude is shattered for good.

I certainly couldn’t prevent anyone from building on the opposite side of our road. But we do have one ace in our pocket… we’re off-grid. Even though the technology has come a long way, most people just don’t want that hassle and the limitations of living off grid. They want to turn on air conditioners and dryers and not worry about whether or not they’ve got enough juice to power them.

The best-case scenario is that they would try and live with a small footprint like we do. The worst-case scenario is they would run a loud generator 24 hours a day, but after we hit peak oil in 2005, this option becomes increasingly uneconomical.

But even still, I continue to have this nightmare, about once a month.

On a recent morning I was in the garden early because we’re in the midst of another heat wave. The birds were singing. The loons on Sixth Depot Lake were calling. It was pretty amazing.

I heard a truck and trailer with heavy equipment rumble by which is not uncommon. Then I heard the “beep beep beep” of a truck backing up, but I tuned it out. I assumed someone was turning around. But the noise continued. I thought maybe the township was dropping off equipment to work on the road. So I went to investigate. Michelle was already out on the road watching.

And just like in the nightmare, it was really happening. A bulldozer was being unloaded in the driveway 200 metres from ours. An elderly couple owns the property but their adult kids use it once in a while. And now it looked like they were going to start building. Maybe a condominium. Maybe an airstrip. Probably a monster house with a huge deck and they’ll host loud parties every weekend. Holy crap. Is this really happening? This sucks.

Luckily I recognized the dump truck that had pulled the trailer and bulldozer, so we walked over to talk to the driver. It turned out that they were just working on the laneway. It had become overgrown over the years and so it was time to clean it out, dump some gravel and make it more usable.

Talk about a sigh of relief! Once I saw the heavy equipment in there, this was the best possible outcome.

I will admit though I was a little more resigned to the situation as it unfolded than I thought I would be. More of a “well, what’s going to happen will happen.” I realize I can’t always be in control of events. Michelle’s cancer proved that to us. You just need to go with the flow sometimes. The universe has a grand plan and at a certain point, you’re pretty inconsequential in what you can do.

That’s not to say I don’t try and influence how my universe unfolds. But I think I’m a little more resigned to events having a trajectory of their own which I must sometimes accept. In the country neighbors can be pretty important. Maybe this would be a good thing. Heaven knows we depend on Ken and Alyce a lot. Having someone even closer might be a good thing.

In the meantime, I shall fear sleep each night as the condominium development or creepy troll nightmare lurks in the Twilight Zone of my unconscious. And tomorrow as Michelle and enjoy our morning cup of coffee on our front porch, looking at the thousands of acres of undeveloped, natural forests, with only the sounds of nature, I will be deeply grateful to have ended up in this fabulous place at this amazing time. It won’t last like this forever, but right here, right now, it’s pretty awesome!

aerial view