I was looking forward to attending a Map & Compass workshop in northern Vermont on a recent Sunday, but when I realized the 125-mile trip meant a six hour drive, I spent some time solving the Emissions Equation and decided to stay home instead.
The Emissions Equation is a simple math problem where how far you drive has to equal the importance of the trip.
It’s not a simple matter of gas.
In winter driving, my Prius would burn about five and a half gallons to travel the 250-miles, mostly on state highways at 50 mph.
Nor is it a simple matter of time.
I often drive long distances for work, and this class is related to learning to hunt, about which I’m writing a book.
But the Emissions Equation includes two variables that can’t be quantified:
1) the cost to my mind, body and soul of spending so much time in the car, and 2) the cost of being away from home.
Reasons not to go:
Too much sitting.
After a week spent mostly sitting at my desk, the last thing I want to do was sit in the car. On weekends, I like to be active outside. After registering for the class, I learned that it would be mostly indoors, so my enthusiasm waned.
I’m also a homebody, a condition exacerbated by winter torpor – a state of decreased physiological activity, different from hibernation.
While I don’t suffer from reduced availability of food like the forest animals who use torpor to survive winter by lowering their body temperature, slowing their metabolism and resting, I do undergo not just a physiological phenomenon, but also a psychological one that requires me to spend part of every winter evening reading by the fire.
At the time I registered for the class, I was holed up with a stack of books for what was gearing up to be a snowless, dreary, winter. Under those conditions, I didn’t want to leave the hearth for an entire weekend, nor did I didn’t want to leave the mammal comfort of my mate.
But the snow came, followed by rain, ice, and fatigue.
The night before the workshop, I did the emissions math: I’d be in the car longer than I’d be in the class.
Part of me wished I’d signed up not just for Map & Compass Basics, but for the other three workshops as well: Survive and Thrive; All About Water; and Emergency Shelters. The six hours in the car would then have been offset by sixteen hours of instruction over two days. And I would have met other outdoorswomen, including the instructor, Jessie Krebs. Krebs is a former US Air Force S.E.R.E. Trainer (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) and is now an instructor for Women’s Wilderness. I wanted to meet her.
But I went snow shoeing, instead.
Tim, Leo and I drove nine miles to a local trailhead, climbed uphill for a mile and traversed the ridge to a height of land called the Pinnacle. We covered over seven miles through sculptural woods, the air dancing with snow dust. The views were all local, socked in, intimate, and lovely.
And after four hours in the woods, we drove the nine miles home, tired and replete, happy I’d solved the emissions equation correctly.
Written to educate and entertain, Living in Place is where I publish my sometimes pointed, sometimes poetic and sometimes irritating essays about the human condition. By subscribing, you will have an essay every week delivered to your email and you will be supporting my independent, non-commercial voice. Thanks.