David Cox and Sally Davies escape the rat race of Vancouver and corporate careers for life on a remote island in British Columbia, Canada. Think of it as a mid-life crisis or perhaps even an epiphany. There isn’t much that Dave can’t learn from a book or the internet, or through trial and error. So Dave and Sally set out to self-build a house on a steep and difficult site on the tip of a peninsula (ie. no road access). Much of the book is devoted to the trials, tribulations and joys of remote living and the characters that form part of Dave and Sally’s remote community. Sound boring? It isn’t.
Although the book starts off a little self-consciously, J. David Cox is an engaging storyteller and the stories and the Dave-isms start to flow more freely by the time the construction of the house begins.
We learn as much about Dave as we do about living remote and off-grid. Dave is full of bravado; he’s brash, impulsive and sometimes a bit of a pain in the behind. He presents himself as a rather unsentimental, socially inept bloke. Of course, there are hints that he is a bloke with a big heart, not to mention a big mouth. I wonder whether he has been diagnosed with ADHD. Concentration difficulties are alluded to in the book. Fortunately, Dave is also exceedingly intelligent, not to mention funny, and problem-solving is his game. It is often said that Homo sapiens would not have ventured out of Africa without such risk-takers taking the lead. Perhaps this spirit of adventure is what spurred Sally and Dave to leave their ‘comfortable’ city life behind.
Dave does not gloss over the dangers and difficulties of living remotely. The dangers are real. Everything is very real when living in the wilderness. There is an integrity about the place and an integrity about the people. Every downside has an upside. Community spirit is alive and well in Dave and Sally’s part of the world. Everyone leaps into action if anyone needs help. If you’ve had enough of the human race, living remotely seems to offer the prospect of privacy, peace and quiet, right? So it is ironic that Sally and David find themselves more connected to community than ever. However, without a street address, they are practically invisible to the rest of the world.
I confess that despite the hardship of remote living and my absolute ignorance about how to embark on such an adventure, I still have a hankering for my own little off-grid house built into the side of a hill. Dave has written another book for us off-grid wannabes. I may have to buy a hard-copy and leave it lying around the house for my husband to find. Dave and Sally have also ventured into fiction as well, and I can’t wait to read their new book.
I want to leave the last word to the very sentimental Dave.
“I distinctly recall being so much in my own mind [in the city] that I could drive twenty miles to an urban appointment without recalling anything I drove past while on the way. I was so deeply committed to thinking about the meeting coming up or what had just happened in the news that I failed to notice what was around me as I was driving in the present.
The easiest way of achieving conscious presence is simply being outside and having all the physical senses wide awake and the usual thoughts turned off. Walking in the woods is a sure fire way of leaving your cares and worries behind. It’s a magical thing.
Each step deeper into the forest is like an entry to an empty stage with a huge but quiet and reverential audience. The space is broken only by your own intrusion. You are special only because you are there – no other reason. And you become very aware of your own existence. Very profound stuff if you think about it. Which of course, you shouldn’t do since it defeats the whole effect.”
Sorry, I have to have the last word. Dave, you are either very brave or very stupid. Sally must really love you if she lets you call her “sugarplum”.