When I was not outside taking care of the garden or in the woods I spent a lot of time indoors, learning everything I could about computers. I got a Commodore 16 in ’84 and played with several other computers through the years, but in 1990 it got really interesting for me with the introduction of the Commodore Amiga home computer. You could just feel the love that these guys put into these computers and us kids were just ecstatic about everything Amiga. I bought this expansion kit that would let me interface to the real world. I was able to attach sensors to measure the light intensity and connect switches to count how many times a door would open and close. I didn’t use it for anything serious but it was just fun being able to do these things. I guess I was under the influence of my dad and my granddad both working with electronics, but I didn’t give it much thought, I just went ahead and created several strange projects and had a lot of fun. Most of my friends didn’t know how to do things like that, and I really didn’t care, so I stood out as a real nerd at this time in my life.
In the meantime we had moved to a place with a bigger garden where I also spent much of my spare time. The house with garden was located in a residential neighbourhood surrounded by other gardens, like backyard to backyard and with big hedges all around. This was a playground for kids to run wild in.
I was used to play in the woods and build fires when I was living with my previous step dad, so I carried the tradition on to this new place. We had this old dead bush in the front yard which I thought looked pretty sad. I decided it was time to burn it down. I really don’t know why. Maybe it was in order to show of in front of my buddies, that I didn’t have a care in the world. What I really don’t understand either was how my parents car survived this two meter high inferno burning just a few feet away. And how anyone could not have seen this spectacle in the black night. Boy was I glad they didn’t. Luckily only the bush burned down and not the car or the roof. Not a clever thing to do in a residential neighbourhood.
It was not all about fires. The garden had a big patch of free soil for vegetables. I spent time working with the rotary tiller until my head felt dizzy, but I enjoyed it, the smell of the soil, the feeling of purpose, the hard work. No problems sleeping after a day in the garden. On summer nights we would go in search of apples in the neighbourhood and stay up late.
I would still spend time on computers and electronics in the cold seasons. Around this time ordinary people where beginning to get connected to the Internet. Via dial-up modems. It was pure hell to get it to work. But the reward was big and a whole new world opened up. PC’s were getting more and more common and the old game computers were disappearing. I learned a great deal about setting up PC’s and being all indoor projects I lost much of my connection with the outdoors and the woods.
Of course I would go out and start a crazy fire from time to time. The last big one my step dad actually saw out the kitchen window. Three meters high, two feet from his precious factory. Stupid, stupid, stupid boys. I’m sure someone watched out for us in the sky. I feel sorry for everything we have put him through.
A part of me really wanted to get outside and do something instead of always sitting in front of a computer programming or doing homework, so the draft for military duty was kind of welcomed. I was looking forward to getting some dirt under my nails again. And that was exactly what was in store for us.
Digging holes, staying outside for weeks, feeling the cold and the heat, learning about the different landscapes and how to use them, learning how the body reacts without food. It was all very well and I felt alive again, but soon everything would become routine and the everyday life in the military became boring, like really boring. It was not like we were at war or anything, God forbid, and I was beginning to look forward to going home.
Back home my mom was getting more and more into healthy food, meditation and connecting with nature. I was affected and fascinated by it and the fact that she would sit around for hours and just “be”. She was cooking great meals with stuff from their own garden, and I thought it was a great way to live. She had moved to the country side to a really beautiful place with lake and deer and all kinds of animals.
I would often come and help her with her garden, and I would help in the woods cutting down trees for firewood, and hauling them back to the house. I learned to operate a chainsaw, which was necessary for a project of this size. It was great to be back close to nature, doing basic down-to-earth work. The cat would follow and help us with everything. Well, at least until it turned blind. Then we had to take it for walks in the woods until it would take a dump at its usual place. Strange experience 😉
My step dad was still running his factory and I put in many hours to help him automate the processes with the help of electronics and computers. It opened our eyes to the fact that a lot of time and energy can be saved if you just install computers and machines to do the work.