For most of my life, I’ve lived where I live because of a what or a who or a why. I lived in Durham, NH, for the first 17 years of my life because that’s where my mom and dad lived. While I could have fought for emancipation, I suppose, it seemed easier to complain about the food they gave me, and the clothes they didn’t than to try to live on my earnings as a teenager, particularly as a teenager who was much better at getting jobs than at keeping them. After that, the Army didn’t take seriously my notion that I should be stationed in Hawaii with unlimited travel vouchers, so I was stationed in Germany and Missouri. And so it went. I lived here because I was in college or graduate school, there because I got a great job, over here because my wife and I bought a house and in my office at the great job because my wife and I got a divorce.
Today for the first time in my life, I live where I live solely because of choice. I live in a tiny white box, a six-foot by 12-foot converted motorcycle trailer lovingly converted into living space by my friend, Gavin Beland, who is talented and patient. The box provides everything Sam (is a dog) and I require: a place to sleep, eat and write. Sam, not surprisingly, doesn’t take much advantage of that third verb. He is, after all, a dog.
The box is planted for the next year on the property of Jon Worrall, the director of Warriors@45North (http://www.warriors45north.com/), a retreat center for veterans in Pittsburg, NH. Warriors@45North offers vets a chance to fish, hunt, target shoot, boat and relax far from civilization. Getaways at 45North are completely free to vets, a double-edged sword: it means anyone can come, regardless of income, AND it means everyone is suspicious. After all, you get what you pay for, and if something’s offered for free, there must be a catch. Honestly, really and truly, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, there is no catch. The staff and board of 45North work hard to raise money to pay for everything, from heat for the bunkhouse, to food cooked in the main cabin, to fishing licenses for those who need them—everything is free, and nobody tries to sell you nothing. All any vet has to do is contact the organization through their website, find out when activities are planned, and come for free. Easy.
Last weekend, as part of Cast and Blast, so called because it’s a two-week period overlapping the end of fishing season and the beginning of hunting season, a vet I’ll call Brad visited. Brad and I had been in the service at roughly the same time, and had a shared experience of abuse, revealed a bit about ourselves and our experiences. Each of us felt that click of identification, that sense of finding another person who’d tasted some of the same bitterness. Neither of us had a breakthrough, life-changing moment; each walked away feeling a little better for having talked. Before coming, Brad had been concerned 45North would require three things, three nouns that drive people like Brad and me crazy. I guarantee, 45 North offers
- No “Program”
- No “Groups”
- No “Therapy”
Warriors@45North is exactly what it purports to be: a place where any veteran can come to stay for free and hunt, fish, hike or just read a book. If you’re a vet, you owe it to yourself to find out more.