I’D RATHER BE IN THE WOODS: series by Sarah Cartron

Chapter Four:
A Way of Life
“The Hill” had been our safe haven, but we to had to leave to experience the unknown. This experience has allowed for growth among these individuals: many of them, including myself, are facing the real world for the first time and still finding trying our bearings in it. We are all working hard towards achieving personal goals. Because of this, I do not have the luxury of seeing my partner in crime often. But each time I make the daylong drive it’s as though I’m flying to the second star on the right and straight on till morning, and once again we are in our Neverland. When we are able to spend time together, there are magical moments that make us appreciate each other so much more.
Man Candy tells me that he loves being in the woods. It’s an awesome experience being so close to reality, yet worlds away from it at the same time. He says he still gets an adrenaline rush from constantly being suspended in the air and it is exciting to be learning such an unusual trade. “I’ve figured out that I enjoy seasonal occupations. That way work never gets old and I’m always kept on my toes, and for now, that’s enough,” he says. He feels as though world is at his fingertips, and as time continues we will see it all. The possibilities are limitless. And I was shocked when Man Candy told me that Ocoee had decided to leave the company of the “Tree Cowboys” and go back to the drawing board in his pursuit of happiness.

  It never occurred to me that this line of work was anything but fun and games. Until this incident, Man Candy and I have only had surface conversations about his new life. The reality of living and working together day in and day out puts a strain on their bonds of friendship. While they make it look easy, this is actually a backbreaking labor-intensive profession that takes both a mental and physical toll on the boys. Man Candy feels he sacrifices a lot of his personal life to be there. “I get homesick for you, my friends, and family,” he tells me. They all have these same struggles, leaving parts of themselves behind to lead this life. It seems that in the reality, they haven’t found the formula to having all just yet. Old Man River put it bluntly once saying, “This is the greatest job, but it hinders our other desires in life.”
I have never been sure about what I wanted out of life, other than I want it to be grand. For many years, I thought it was necessary to achieve this goal by surrounding myself with elegant possessions, the finest wardrobe, and objects that had great value and worth. However, as I continue to grow into the woman I hope to become, I find more value through my experiences and the cherished moments that embody this way of life. I’ve experienced more in the last year than I have in my entire existence. It hasn’t been one grand gesture after another that has changed my life but a web of intimate moments. These are genuine moments that have been heavily shaped and influenced by those I choose to surround myself with, people I appreciate in a way that no words can relay. Peter Pan says, “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”

I now know that it is no longer a matter of saying goodbye to this chapter of our lives, but holding onto aspects of it as we continue to grow up. To this day, months after Lowside left “The Hill” his words of wisdom continually ring in my head. It’s as though he wrote the creed all of us choose to live by. It’s about the chase of life itself, and the adrenaline that comes with living freely. Happiness can be achieved in numerous ways. For “The Hillians,” as we call ourselves, it is about experiencing life to the fullest, and straying from the standards of society to embrace the world with open arms.
We thrive on finding the balance of lifewhere work and play is intertwined. It is in finding a way to live freely, and successfully where we will be able to find the balance between both worlds. We are a tribe of travelers chasing the adrenaline of life, hoping to find a way to stay in Neverland forever. It is important for us not to forget these values as we blossom into adults, and continue to strive to be the best possible versions of ourselves. I realize now that many of my questions of self and purpose may not be answered and that I do not need to continue searching. People, places, and things come and go, but as long as you are true to your character and continue seeking happiness throughout your surroundings you will never be found wanting.

As the next chapter of my own life begins to write itself, more often than not I find myself referring back to a song recited to me during my childhood. Ironically the quote is not from Peter Pan, but from the first book my father ever read to me as a child. I picture myself sitting on the sofa hidden beneath several blankets as my father sang me a hymn from The Fellowship of the Ring. To this day I still get goose bumps when I recall him stating, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

{editor’s note: This is the final installment of Sarah’s story of raft guides. We look forward to more of the story when Springtime returns and the outfitters get back to work employing the crazy dirtbags who push rubber and live in the woods…}
the website to the project itself
and her personal website that is in the process of revamping

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