I throw the last pieces of fish to the cat, she grabs them and darts off into the reeds by the river. I sit back in my chair and watch the sun disappear behind the mountains, the water turning an orange colour. I’ve never been beyond those mountains, I have no desire to know what’s there. All I have and need is here. The island in the middle of the lake the furthest I’ll go, sitting under the solitary tree, thinking, dreaming, imagining what the world is like beyond my self imposed exile. I say I don’t want to know because if I know, all my dreams will be broken, the world beyond that I have in my mind destroyed.
As a child, I grew up longing to cross over them. My father would take me out on the boat each morning, fishing for lunch and dinner. I would ask him what was over there where the sun disappeared in the evenings. He said he didn’t know. Perhaps people lived there, probably animals too, but he’d never been, nor did he want to go. He would hold his hand out and point in a wide arc, from our small house all the way around the lake. A man of few words, I knew his meaning. Why would we want to leave if we already had all this?
As my parents grew old and passed away, I stayed. Only me left. Still I had no desire to leave. The quietness, the sunset at night, my tree where I could sit and dream. Without them I would be lost. As the years passed by sometimes people would arrive near the house. They would bring me things that I never asked for. Pieces of paper with pictures on, strange drinks and foods. They would look out my house in amazement, asking why I lived so simply. To me it isn’t simple. Simple is not a concept I understand, it’s just how it is and how it’s always been. There is no need for it to be different.
They sometimes ask why I don’t leave, that this is no life for a person. Who are they to judge? I am happy, I doubt they are. I can see from the looks on their faces that they are troubled, the things they bring to me, expecting me to accept, to be grateful. I am grateful but not accepting. My life isn’t ruled by money or goods. The rules of my life are set by me, what I do and where I go are things that I choose. I could leave, but I don’t want to. They seem unable to understand that life should be a choice and not a chore. That the path you choose should be your own, not one set by others.
Some of them come and say that I must be so free. How am I free? I was never captured. My world is both big and small. It appears small to the people that come and see me, they only see the boundaries of the lake and the mountains. They can’t see what I see when I sit under my tree. My outside world can be whatever I want it to be, I’m not bound by realities or conformity or cynicism. And that’s why I will never leave, I have everything I need here, as well as my own outside world.