A Tribute to Orwell and Coffee

This coffee here is after a week up in the mountains without any internet, cell phone service, a coffee machine, or a ‘normal’ toilet (there was a composting one). I was at Long Branch Environmental Center, near Asheville.

The best part about this trip was being off the grid. There was no one to intrude you or any bad news to stain your thoughts. It gave me an ample amount of time to pause and think, while doing simple, productive manual chores such as picking sticks in an apple orchard or transplanting blueberry trees onto a new slope.

Being with nature makes you realize how all alone you are and therefore vulnerable you can be. I was not completely secluded, but there were no artificial stimuli that we normally use to drown out ourselves. It was almost like a controlled experiment; once these external, temporal influences are taken away, what is left on one’s mind?

I thought of the running water from the creek and the chirping of the birds. I thought of George Orwell. And his book I read a long time ago, The Burmese Days. More specifically, I thought of a scene in which Orwell’s main character, or maybe a literary alter-ego, Flory swims in a creek, listening to birds, and describing all the beauty in the world. Remembering these details surprised myself for I read it way before starting college and I had not been thinking about this book at all.

Flory is an individual stuck in a crack between two different worlds. He finds himself unable to return to his home, yet remains estranged in Burma. Flory’s egalitarianism with the native Burmese is too radical for the taste of the expat British Club.

While Flory returns from the peaceful stream to the unfriendly country club of his, I return to my cozy single room at the Eco-House, surrounded by loving friends and laughter. I finally return to a place with a viable internet connection, cell phone service, a coffee machine, and a regular toilet!

In fact, I am about to go make some coffee and start my homework.

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