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12/24/2004 Archived Entry: "Christmas report from the Desert Hermitage"

From the Desert Hermitage

It was 8 below zero at the Desert Hermitage last night and it's a startling certainty that we're going to have a White Christmas out here in the allegedly hot dry regions. Ack! Will somebody please tell this to the global warming people?

The windows are swirly with frost fairies even though the sun's been shining on them for two hours. The sun hasn't got the oomph to melt the four inches of snow on the ground or unfreeze the pipes in all our trailers. But the solar panels are charging away, so all is well.

This is the time of year when we're supposed to send those letters bragging about how we wrote five New York Times bestsellers in the last 12 months, our daughters won the Miss America pageant, our sons hit the Forbes 400 list (or vice versa), and our dogs were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I don't have anything quite so impressive to report. But better than all that, I can look back on a year when I received gifts of maple syrup and dried apricots (two five-pound boxes -- whoohoo!), when Debra and I received many kind -- and sometimes surprising -- contributions for the blog and The Claire Files discussion forums, when Linux guru Mike walked me through setting up a wireless network, when I met a dozen TCFers and found them to be as decent in person as they are online, and when the other desert hermits and I enjoyed visits from two online friends and found them even better than we'd imagined. Oh yeah, and don't let me forget -- a chance to shoot my first real machine gun. :-)

In the outside world, this was a pretty crappy year. Savage, needless war, the encroachment of tyranny, and the growth of spy technologies (and their implementations) all made the world a less safe place for freedom. We got rid of the inconceivable Mr. Ashcroft, but got in his place the inconceivably excrable Mr. Gonzales. We got the Dudley Hiibel "Papers, please!" judgement

and another attempt at a national ID card. We got four more years of Big Government Bush, and the only good thing you can say about that is that it saved us from four years of Big Government Kerry.

But in the world beyond the media and the government, things looked much more hopeful. Aside from the many personal gifts -- including gifts of advice and information -- I got from online friends, I've been tremendously impressed by what many energetic TCFers have been up to -- from beginning to develop the GulchNet secure communications system, to developing how-to gulching guides, to planning personal meet-ups, to running with the Freedom Outlaw idea in publications, a blog, and a new network.

Terrible as things are on the outside, freedom lovers are seriously beginning to take their personal liberties back and to reach out to share freedom with others. And that's where it all starts, isn't it? I remain astonished and more grateful than I can say to Elias Alias, Debra, Ladylearning, Bark, Junker, and the other creators and guiding spirits of TCF for giving us all a place to reach each other.

Even in small ways, TCF is home and family in a way real homes and families often fail to be. Those guys set me straight when I get my facts wrong. They comfort friends in need. And they and freely share information with me and other freedom lovers, whether on something as valuable as how to blitz a spycamera or as trivial as 12 pages (!) of Twinkie lore

In my personal corner of the world, this has been a year of accomplishments, even if hardly on the Nobel Peace Prize level. This was the year The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook was published, the year I co-wrote my first ... Oh, but I'm not allowed to say yet :-( and the year I came to the Desert Hermitage and got some real hands-on (and blisters on hands) education in everything from ditch-digging to solar battery technology.

Being out here in the desert for three months, mostly away from telephones, newspapers, and the Internet, has been hard at times (three catastrophic plumbing failures in the last month alone, not to mention all that damned ditch-digging -- and oh boy, is it scary when you have a medical emergency in the middle of nowhere). But I wish all my freedom-loving friends who endure a daily assault of bad e-news could have an experience like this.

Being focused on real life, real dirt, real emergencies, real survival, and real relationships with flesh-and-blood people puts life in perspective. It's not that you forget that the spycams are being erected in the cities or that the subdermal RFID implants are coming or that Americans are slaughtering and being slaughtered in pointless wars. It's that somehow those horrors seem less central to your own life. Neighbors matter more than George Bush. Friends provide comforts that counterbalance the horrors of distant, encroaching technologies. Even ditch-digging reminds you that what you do with your own two hands can always, in some way, trump everything some government or corporation aims to do to you.

I'll be headed back home in a month or so, glad to return to the comforts of hot water, bathtubs, insulation, and heat that actually ... well, heats. Maybe even a full-time broadband connection again. But I wouldn't have missed this for the world. And I'll be back.

My only regret as I write this is that I'm sure I'm leaving out a lot that should be said, neglecting to credit a lot of people who deserve shining gold credit -- from Aaron, BHM, and the Loompanics crew who keep me alive, to D.T., W.B., T.P., R.P. and several others whose gifts have helped make life with living and writing worth doing.

It's been a great year, despite all the efforts of politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate manipulators to make it a bad one. And I thank everybody who helped it shine.

May you kick ass and have glorious fun in the new year.

Posted by Claire @ 02:54 PM CST

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