I’m a big believer in genes.
I think that from the moment we are born to the moment we die, it’s all pretty much mapped out according to the arrangement of those genes. You can only meander off the blueprint so much. (It’s in my genes to be sceptical).
In a way, this is depressing. In a way it’s comforting.
One of my genetic attributes is a strong preference for animals over humans.
I don’t really like humans, other than the ones I know. I just don’t feel responsible for humans.
I do feel responsible for animals, even the ones I don’t know. I love them unconditionally. My stomach drops like a hot brick into the soles of my shoes when I see an animal hurt or unhappy.
I’ve often wondered why this is. It doesn’t make much sense, evolutionarily speaking. Despite a very few exceptions, you don’t see chimps with pet squirrels, or lions mourning the death of a porcupine.
Animals don’t hang out with other animals from a different species. That’s because, unless you can procreate with them, other living beings are either: dangerous (out to get you), a parasite (out to use you), a competitor (out to steal your food), or food (there to be eaten).
So my stance on animals makes no sense at all. But I was born with it. Ever since I was a tiny toddler. I can’t help it. I care about A but I don’t care about B. It’s in my genes.
Which brings me to my latest travel destination: the woods of Pennsylvania.
I’m here for the next three weeks to look after the home and the animals of my aunt’s dear friend Kate.
Kate is a seriously swish Hollywood make-up artist and has built this amazing woodland wonderland animal sanctuary in upstate Pennsylvania which I am now keeping safe in her absence.
The house itself is ridiculously beautiful.
Slate-grey walls lined with floor-to-ceiling glass windows which pour sunlight like liquid gold all over the rustic floors. Concrete and reclaimed wood surfaces scattered with trinkets she’s collected from around the world.
Look out across the front and you can see Kate’s horses plodding past in their rolling paddocks or poking their heads into the big black barn.
The whole thing is nestled in a forest of ancient trees, some of which are hung with mirrored disco balls and clonking wind-chimes.
All Kate’s animals (cat, cat, cat, dog, horse, horse) are rescues.
They are as follows…
So here I am in the middle of nowhere – with no mode of transport – and with nothing to do but read and write and cook and look after the heard of rescued creatures.
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier.
Except maybe if Leonardo DiCaprio was here.
But if he was here I’d have to brush my hair, put make-up on, and change into something other than the batshit uniform I’m wearing now.
My inside uniform is: comedy T-shirt, two jumpers, Christmas-themed PJ bottoms and floppy grey socks. Sometimes also my meerkat hoody.
My outside uniform is: faux fur coat worn over two baggy jumpers, jogging bottoms, and muddy boots.
My hands have cuts on them, I’m not sure why. I think from lugging stuff around for the horses.
My face has a gash across it, and that’s because Mouse (all 130lbs of her) sometimes feels the irrepressible urge to leap up and clamp her front paws over my shoulders, but misses, and gets my cheek with her massive claws.
The bad bits?
Fear at night. I’ve been watching a lot of The Walking Dead. Sometimes at night time, when it’s dark and eerily quiet, Mouse will leap up, panic-stricken, and start and charging up and down barking.
At times like this, I am utterly convinced that a Jeep-full of armed rednecks wearing hats and red plaid shirts (?!) are tanking up the driveway with the intent to loot the house and murder me. It’s OK though, because I have quite a detailed escape plan.
Also, I had an incident with a spider. I have a profound phobia of spiders, and I don’t use the word ‘phobia’ lightly.
Despite this, I do sometimes ask myself whether I play it up in front of other people. Is all the screeching and running and hyperventilating a bit attention-seekish?
Turns out, nope.
Today, I heaved a load of wood inside for the fire. And when I clunked the last armful down next to the wood stove, I saw a fucking spider on it. This means I unwittingly CARRIED A SPIDER. It probably touched my jumper.
This triggered a screech, a run, and about three minutes of unstoppable hyperventilating. Half an hour later, I am still itching and twitching and checking my hair (in case it crawled in there). I can’t help it, it’s in my genes.
Unfortunately, I can’t now go near the wood pile, and I definitely can’t load new logs into the fire. Which means I’m going to get cold soon.
I have three weeks at Kate’s house.
By the time I emerge, I will either be bright-eyed and bushy tailed from all the nature and the relaxation, OR, I will have forgotten how to converse with other humans and be generally paranoid and deranged.
Next, there are plans in the works for New York City, Miami, and LA, before I fly off to Australia again.
Below, more photos…