Hinterland, Six Months In: It’s been real
I realize this is a controversial thing to say during the first days of spring in a northern climate… but we got about 10 inches of snow last week—our biggest snowfall all winter—and I loved every bit of it. I grew up in upstate NY, people. I love snow like Floridians love sunshine. It’s the part of my DNA that quietly weeps through the handful of “snow storms” we get every year in central Pennsylvania.
So the next day, when the snow was still stunning and the skies were blue and the sun was shining, Jenny and I decided to go on an adventure. There’s a park nearby with trails for walking and hills for sledding so we jumped in the car with Olive and headed out to enjoy the morning.
I had basically written an entire blog post in my head about the beauty of going on a mid-morning adventure before we had even gotten to the park. And when we did get there, it was as lovely as I’d imagined: huge trees held inches of snow on heavy branches; the “trail” was a wide carpet of mostly untouched snow sparkling in the sun. It was everything I love about the type of winter we rarely see in Harrisburg.
We were there for approximately five minutes before Olive caught a whiff of a deer and bolted. Like, Usain-Bolt bolted. She kind of looked like a deer as she bounded through the snow and out of sight.
And thus began a new adventure.
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a contestant on one of those extreme fitness shows, I recommend not working out in any discernible way and then running through nearly a foot of snow for a good long time, trudging over hills and through streams, all while yelling at the top of your lungs. Aside from feeling like you are filming a promo for a new crossover event between The Biggest Loser and Man vs. Wild, it’s a really effective way to regret every decision you’ve ever made in life, including eating a cookie for breakfast.
Thankfully, after a length of time that was probably not nearly as long as it felt, we finally caught up with Olive and vowed to never treat her like a normal dog who can handle a causal walk in the woods ever again. We also decided to just go home because we are not multi-sport Olympians.
The whole thing could have been much worse. It also could have been much better had a young coonhound not been singing “I am not throwing away my shot” as she smelled deer in the air. Regardless, it left me wondering what I was going to write about since my original plan fled with the deer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Hinterland lately, about what it means and how it works, and I think I initially felt like going out to play in the snow at 10am on a beautiful day was a fitting definition of what Hinterland means to me. But that was dumb, because Hinterland is about 8% “let’s go sledding in the middle of the day!” and about 92% “I went on an adventure and it ended differently than I thought it would, so now I need a new adventure.”
In retrospect, I’m so glad the sledding adventure went sideways. If it had all gone as planned I absolutely would have come home and written a glowing review and it would have been the actual worst because it would have been the exception, not the rule. The exception is having an idyllic snowy adventure; the rule is chasing a brown-and-white dog through a brown-and-white forest. The exception is ideal; the rule is real.
So here’s my six month update on Hinterland: It’s been real.
I ran into this in month one. In my mind, Hinterland was this sweeping cinematic adventure. It was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. But it was cinematic approximately 8% of the time, probably less. The rest was kosher salt all the way.
The cinematic movie trailer is the exception. Kosher salt is the rule.
It’s easy to forget that basically every story except for your own is the abridged version. Unless you are right there for every extremely regular minute of a story, you are just getting the highlights. Catching up with a friend over coffee? Recent highlights. Movies? 90 minute highlights that skip past years and years of actual reality. Social media? Everyone’s best highlights, with filters.
All of those stories are based in exceptions, not rules. So when you are living your own story and it feels like mostly rules, it can feel like you are doing something wrong—when, in fact, you are just living real life.
Hinterland thus far has been almost exactly like The Snow Adventure That Wasn’t. That morning was a bit of a circus teetering on imminent failure. It wasn’t necessarily ideal. But later on, there was a walk on a less-deer-laden trail and a lot of writing and tacos for dinner and a Broadchurch marathon and these cookies I just can’t quit.
Those were worthy, meaningful, real things.
And maybe Hinterland isn’t bursting at the seams with tangible success. Maybe it’s far less Walter Mitty and far more kosher salt. Maybe I don’t have nearly as much of it figured out as I wanted to at this point, but I really like all of the pieces I have so far. I love that this new adventure involves writing and figuring out how to party like a Puritan and going sledding at 10am on a Thursday even if the end result is running a winter obstacle course at 10am on a Thursday.
These are worthy, meaningful things. These are real things.
And if my six month update on Hinterland is simply that it’s real—that it’s the rule, not the exception—I think that’s probably enough.