Our theme for the month of February is “plants.”

Recently, I was watching a YouTube video by Internet Shaquille about how giving up modern life and living off the grid isn’t as easy as some people think. While I’ve certainly considered what it would be like to live without modern accommodations, I’ve never actually had the urge to do so.

Any potential for this probably died the year Sun Chips came out with those ear-shatteringly loud compostable bags. 

My sister and I were sold the second when we saw the bag at our local Harris-Teeter. We didn’t know anything about environmental issues, but it felt like we were doing something. The second we got home from the store, we devoured the bag and took it out to this dirt patch in front of our house.

Not even weeds could grow in that dirt patch. We dug a shallow hole with the rusty mini shovel that was also used to bury the countless birds that slammed into the garage window. I’m shocked we thought it would do anything. 

Unsurprisingly, that bag did not decompose. Even in the summer, Boone, North Carolina, doesn’t really heat up, and we buried it in the shade.  We knew nothing about composting and the bag showed itself from its shallow grave for weeks, completely intact, before we finally pulled it out and threw it in the trash.

Despite growing up in a mountain town of 20,000, I picked up very few mountainy traits. Whenever I’m back, I wonder how I spent nine years of my life so absent from it all. In addition to not being able to “work the land,” I don’t think I can set a tent up by myself, I’m not obsessed with the great outdoors (even though I love an occasional hike), I’ve never been hunting (nor have I wanted to), I don’t own Chacos (anymore), and I’ve even killed a succulent and a spider plant within a year of each other recently. 

But being able to start a fire has been something I’ve taken pride in. 

I moved into a house last year with a big backyard and a firepit. There were certainly questions that my memories from ten years earlier of collecting logs from my family’s stockpile in a canvas log carrier, splitting them with an ax (something I hadn’t touched in years), and starting our woodstove regularly had been, at a minimum, exaggerated. 

Wet wood and no kindling made it feel that way, but it confirmed that I did know what I was doing. The fire did, eventually, start. 

It surprised me. It shouldn’t have—this was a skill I learned when I was eleven or twelve—but it felt so dissimilar from the rest of my character to be true. 

I’ve found that the mid-twenties is an interesting stage of life. It’s just old enough to feel fixed—where all of the have-beens of your life are finalized and the present of your life is forever—but young enough to know that it can’t possibly be true.

I have an unfortunately terrible memory. Last May, I decided to keep a daily diary to get me writing every day and to keep track of my days. 

While the project was primarily an exercise of retaining memories and practicing bad writing, it’s also acted as a demonstration of progression. 

Despite my often overwhelming feelings of stagnation, my diary chronicles a move, a terrible work experience, the development of a new hobby I had long avoided because of my ectrodactyly in both hands. I’ve taken on new writing ventures (including this one) and experienced the whiplash of firmly believing my favorite sports team was in a lost season only to watch them win the championship.

Part of me wishes the compostable Sun Chips bag was still around, or at least would make a return. I still haven’t learned how to properly compost, but I’d like to have the chance to redeem my thirteen-year-old self and actually learn how to accomplish an outdoor skill. At least I now know not to compost in the shade. 

I’ll probably never have the sudden urge (or the skill) to Henry David Thoreau it, and the closest I’ll probably ever come to starting a garden is belting out the chorus in the car, but I’ll try to remind myself that this current iteration of me isn’t fixed.


  1. Sue Petree

    Enjoyed your writings and waiting for next one

  2. Jim Barbee

    Ah the compostable (not so much) Sun Chips bag. And the memories of keeping that wood stove going. Nice story, Mitchell!


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