In 2013 an elusive hermit was arrested for stealing food and sundries. Dubbed “the North Pond hermit,” Christopher Knight survived over a quarter century in the Maine woods, living in a tent even in winter.
He just walked into the Maine woods in 1986 and didn’t come out till he got busted.
Here in Maine, winter starts in November and ends in April. January high temperatures often hover around 20 F (-7 C). This winter I was up north near the Canadian border with lows of 30 below.
GQ did an exclusive interview with the hermit. His thoughts range from the popularity of Lynyrd Skynyrd 1,000 years from to his preference for coffee brandy, which mystified the GQ writer (who obviously didn’t know what a big deal coffee brandy is here in Maine).
Jail was difficult for a hermit. The noise, the confinement, the presence of other people. “I am retreating into silence as a defensive move,” he told GQ.
Don’t ask me no questions and I won’t tell you no lies.
But that just increased his stature among his fellow inmates. “I am surprised by the amount of respect this garners me. That silence intimidates puzzles me. Silence is to me normal, comfortable.”
Asperger syndrome is speculated. He’s obviously highly intelligent. The average man would have been a Popsicle after the first year, but he survived 27 cold Maine winters.
And committed 1,000 burglaries before getting caught due to technology that he knew nothing about. He had been out of society so long he hadn’t even heard of the internet (and really couldn’t care less about it).
He didn’t just steal food and sundries. He rigged a radio to get audio TV, cuz Everybody Loves Raymond is really funny. He also stole books, and according to GQ is quite the literary critic. His assessment of Henry David Thoreau? A dilettante. Fair enough. Thoreau was not even closing to roughing it at Walden Pond.
What hermit wisdom has he to impart?
Get enough sleep. That, and the observation:
“Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing – when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.”
And this bird you cannot change.