Home at last

For the last two months ive been living in a construction zone. You’ve shared the story of the reconstruction of my camper and my life and youve been so uplifting to me. The new is….

I’ve finished the other end. The end I had to reframe. Here it is.

Its bigger than the place I had been sleeping for the last two months, and I have my breakfast nook and table now.

The whole place seems bigger. There is all kinds of storage space for my books and dishes and food. It was such a joy to have someplace to sit and write tonight instead of going to a restaurant like Arbys. Such a joy to play music and sit comfortably and write, and read. I also found my Himalayan salt lamp, which casts a warm glow through thr whole place.

This is my home. It is insulated properly. All the dead wood is gone, replaced by new 2 x2 studs. It has new curtains and as I go along it will have new rugs, new wall hangings, and continue to change along with me. It is the first home I’ve ever owned.

I love my tiny home and I live in the best place on earth.

I am really home. I am home within myself, I am whole within myself; I need no one, because I am complete inside myself, but choose to be involved in this thing called life.

Life is a wonderful thing. If we blink, we miss it. I go to the water and spend my days gazing at the vastness of it and know I am exactly where I am meant to be. I am blessed.

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Needing a break

I spent the evening just breathing while sitting on my bed in the camper. I find the smallness of the camper to be soothing like that machine Temple Grandin used to squeeze her body. I don’t have that machine but the embryonic roundness of my aluminum cocoon is what I curl up in when the world is too much with me.

The world is too much with me these days. The news happens so fast and its always negative. I shut it off and I can’t keep up anyway. Theres a feeling of desperation in the air I can’t describe; a bitter metallic taste of fear and anger and frustration. I become embroiled by it if I succumb to anger and fear. I feel like we are living Yeats’s The Second Coming.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I need quiet. I crave quiet. I’m tired of the anger and divisiveness and cacophony of voices all shouting at each other drowning out reason.

People fighting for their party like it’s a life and death thing. People disowning family over this. People hurting others because they believe what they are told about teachers and immigrants and protesters and Republicans and Democrats. I fear there is nothing to be saved and that we are lost as a nation. The divide between rich and poor is a chasm. We work more and earn less. Every day a new scandal and new denials and more anger and injustice ugh!! Today our president announced that protesting which is a 1st Amendment right should be illegal. This isn’t really a surprise, because Republicans have been trying to get rid of protesting by passing laws to curtail it for the last year-and-a-half. This in a country that used to be about freedom and used to stand up against the Putins and Dutertes of the world. No, now we admire dictators. It is a brave new world in which we hate diplomacy and pull out of human rights councils. It is a brave new world in which we deride our allies and embrace despots as friends. Upside down. Alice in the rabbit hole. I wonder when the madness ends. My life is looped into the life of the nation. I love my country and I’m terrified at what I see. The opposite of freedom is happening . Praise of Putin and autocrats by Trump and his followers even before he was in the White House let alone now is even scaring those conservatives left who are actually conservative.

I sit and breathe. Politics affects everything now. Its affecting friendships and relationships. Its personal. It didn’t used to be this way. You could live separately from the goings on in Washington and do all right. Not anymore. Its been a slow creeping infection this division and hate.

Its killing America. Its killing freedom and people will die because of this disease of nationalism and populism.

I fear for my country.

The bench is framed and done!!!

Ive been showing you for weeks the bench on the end and today I got the tools I needed and the wood screws to do it up right–the top photo is what it looks like finished and the bottom are the original cushions before I covered them. The cushions pull out into a full size bed.

Happy Labor Day weekend from America!

Im so happy! I did this myself!!

Big storm, sturdy camper

One of the facts of life living next to any huge body of water is that you’re going to have squalls, thunderstorms, downpours, and monsoons. Big winds certainly. Maybe not monsoons but it seems like it when the flood warnings come and the water rises in the riverbeds. I had shared previously that I have a leaky window on one end of the camper. So I went to my storage and got an old tarp and some bungee cords, and because it was going to rain two days ago, I rigged up the tarp on the leaky end and secured it with the brightly colored rainbow bungee cords. A big Band Aid in other words. It rained gently two days ago, no water leaked outside so I was satisfied. That was when Mother Nature shook her head and said

“Hold my beer.”

Last night the warnings started. Torrential rain. Hail. They said 70 mph winds were coming. Then an hour later they ramped it up to 90 mph winds. Heck. NOAA said they couldn’t rule out tornados. We don’t get tornadoes up here because the lake provides a shield. So that’s when I got nervous. I checked the tarp. I had visions of the 70 to 90 mph wind picking up my camper and slinging me to South Dakota. Or Oz. (See image for what I visualized. In color). Image credit

Shaking all such nonsense out of my head I added two more bungee cords to secure the tarp to the camper. Once the tarp was secure, the wind had picked up and the heat lightning was increasing and it was getting on towards evening and black clouds were rolling in deepening the effect of ominous darkness. It was silent too. No evening birds. I felt as early humans must have felt in a time of no TV or radio and no weather forecasting, when they felt intuitively they should seek shelter and soon. I felt an urgency to getting inside but I love watching a storm come in. I was amazed how fast the clouds were moving.

I got inside. I got out the emergency candles just in case the electric went out.

Right then, the wind smacked into the camper and the camper shook with the force of it. Big drops of rain hit the aluminum roof like thunder and it deluged! All I could do was lie on the bed and watch out the side window. I saw some awesome lightning strikes. Thankfully the dire warnings didn’t come to pass. No 90 mph winds. Maybe 40. No hail. No tornadoes.

The electric stayed on and the camper was sturdy.

Today, I stapled up the ceiling where it was bowing at the seam, and finished framing the bed on the end. The project I’ve been talking about for weeks. I finally got a drill and a big staple gun, just enough tools and just enough knowledge to be dangerous. I kept thinking about Theodore Roethke’s poem The Storm …and here it is for you. Nature is bigger than us and awesome in its power but somehow we are sturdy enough and adaptive enough to continue on. I hope the awe and respect for nature’s power never leaves us.

The Storm

Theodore Roethke, 1908 – 1963

1

Against the stone breakwater,

Only an ominous lapping,

While the wind whines overhead,

Coming down from the mountain,

Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;

A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,

And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against

the lamp pole.

Where have the people gone?

There is one light on the mountain.

2

Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,

The waves not yet high, but even,

Coming closer and closer upon each other;

A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,

Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,

The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,

Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.

A time to go home!—

And a child’s dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,

A cat runs from the wind as we do,

Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,

Where the heavy door unlocks,

And our breath comes more easy,—

Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over

The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating

The walls, the slatted windows, driving

The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer

To their cards, their anisette.

3

We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.

We wait; we listen.

The storm lulls off, then redoubles,

Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,

Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,

Flattening the limber carnations.

A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,

Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.

The bulb goes on and off, weakly.

Water roars into the cistern.

We lie closer on the gritty pillow,

Breathing heavily, hoping—

For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,

The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,

The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,

And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.

Not everything is peachy in the camper

Remember when I said I’d share my problems? Well I’ve got one…a leak in a window that has water dripping down inside fhe wall. It has taken a month fixing the other end so I won’t get to this end till spring. So I covered it with a garbage bag and duct tape to keep the water from leaking into my bed. I had to turn the mattress so it dries underneath and doesn’t mold. I slept on half a dry bed.

God help me what did I buy?

A rainstorm, a cleansing

I have written a lot about grieving and how ive carried it for years, deep down in a dark and quiet place because it was not possible to share such a thing openly. I had a husband. I had children. Nobody knew him. I was alone. I buried it and went on.

Until I came home. I have written so much about this. You have patiently gone along with me as I rebuild my camper and my life. This blog is as sacred as the confessional. I start from the bottom and work upwards.

Today it rained. It rained as it needed to rain and the water cleansed the smoke from the wildfires in California and some say Canada. Lightning strikes hitting the ground were impressive. I sat in the vehicle I was driving and waited for the deluge to stop because I couldn’t see. I listened to the pounding rain on the roof of my car and watched the rivulets of water streaming down the windows. Rivers of water. All I had cried through the years and now since I’d come back.

In the aftermath of the storm there is peace. The world is different for the change but it finds peace.

So will I.

I am not dead. I am still here. Still blessed with good health and children I love and a home and a job and the ability to do work I love through writing or Tarot reading . My life is not over. It is filled with possibility.

Doors and windows oh my soul!

The door was next on the agenda today. I have had an unprecedented two days off in a row. I slept in. I woke up. I saw that door. And that was it.

The door had ripped paneling all along the bottom. I considered taking out the whole panel and buying a new piece. Then I remembered the great success of that hole in the ceiling I fixed and I thought why not? Except this time foam insulation wasn’t going to work because I couldn’t get a piece in the hole. I reached for the blue can of Great Stuff for Windows and Doors. I probably should have used the red can for gaps and cracks but this stuff worked pretty well!

Now. You have to be prepared to use the whole can when you initially use it because it can be self sealing, if allowed to dry in the tube sprayer. So if you only use a little and put the can away, you’re not going to be able to use the rest of it. Put down newspapers because you don’t want this stuff on your carpet or linoleum.

I sprayed it in the hole in the bottom of the door where I could see daylight in the frame. The outer shell of the door was in one piece so thats why this worked well. Had there been a hole all the way through the door I would not have been able to use the spray foam.

It sets up in about 15 minutes which is pretty quick . Don’t worry about if it poofs out. When it dries you can cut off the excess flush with the window or door. Here’s what it ended up looking like. I ended up spraying a second layer to get it all filled evenly. I trimmed the excess the second time.

It filled in the hole pretty well. And the outer shell on the door held it all. You can see why shoving a piece of foam insulation would not have worked well. I topped off this layer of foam until it filled the space evenly.

Then I got out my magic peel and stick laminate! (You knew that was coming!) That stuff is like duct tape. You can fix anything with it! An hour later, this was the finished product:

It isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that no cold wind or snow will be getting into my tiny home this winter! I love the way it turned out. You can’t tell the laminate from the original paneling!

I also used the spray foam between the insulation I put on the wall:

Again, not perfect. Trimmed the excess and it worked just fine. I’m ready to cover it up with new paneling or fabric.

To celebrate the day’s work I bought red leaf mini lights on a string which made it look very festive! The more I do on this camper the happier it feels! It is home. I can’t wait to decorate it for fall.

Picking up the pieces

I haven’t worked on the camper much lately. Ive been just cutting foam insulation and insulating the bare spots, which, as you remember from earlier posts, is down to bare aluminum because the old studs were rotten along with what old insulation was left from the water damage sustained before I got it. Ive been having to do a lot of little things lately. Spot insulation with spray insulation in the door and windows. New weather stripping around the outside of the windows. Caulking what gaps I find.

Again I am stunned by the parallels of this camper and my life. Cleaning up the bits and bobs as my British friends would say. I am listening to Loreena McKennitt and thinking about all I’ve had to clean up in myself in reconciling the past going forward into a new future in my hometown which is familiar but not familiar at the same time.

  • Unresolved grief
  • Learning a healthy lifestyle mentally and physically begins with living a smaller and minimalist life
  • When your living space gets smaller everything gets smaller

The evening is cool and soft. The clanking of the trains with its mournful horn sounds as it bangs and rocks through the night past my tiny home is something that now I am used to and cant sleep without. The smell of ham and bean soup with fresh vegetables and herbs wafts through the air and adds to the coziness of this small living space that I have come to consider cradles me. It is swaddling and I like a child being held tight. I have been at sea in a world too large for me and I adrift in it. It is a comfort now to be in a tiny space where everything has a place and is in its place.

When the insulation is in place then the framed bench goes into place. Then i will have a larger bed. I will get my table and seats back on tbe other side when I move the bed over to the newly fixed bench. I am excited about that, but also finding I am not in a hurry to give up the small loft bed I’ve been sleeping on for a month on top of my breakfast nook. The small bed has been solid and embryonic for me curled up in sleep. To stretch out in a larger bed is a freedom that I will develop an appreciation for; but for now, I am loath to give up being that fetus-like sleeper.

I make ham and bean soup with the little bit I have in my pantry. Onion, celery, great northern beans, ham necks, carrots. I find I don’t need salt and I’ve cleaned up leftovers so no food will go to waste. It is important to me that food is never wasted. I realise how large American packaging is for food and that they don’t package for one person. They package for a family. A sack of celery hearts is too much for one Crock Pot of soup. I only used three stalks. I will be eating celery for ages. One garlic bulb is enough to last for many makings of soup. I only needed two cloves. Four carrots was enough for my soup. The rest of the package I will have to eat in lunches. I never realized before that packages could be so large. In a house I never thought abkut it. I bought food and had large cupboards to keep it in. I have that no longer so I can’t buy huge amounts of groceries. I have to shop more frequently but thats what they do in Europe. They buy small amounts of fresh food more frequently and use all of what they purchase. I will have to learn to eat smaller now.

Eating smaller is healthier though. Everything narrows when you live smaller.

This is true. I don’t have much and I am calmer. I don’t feel the emptiness I used to fill with buying things on Amazon I did not need. I walk around stores now, because I have so little money, and I cannot think of one thing I am desperately in need of. I realize I have been trained to be a consumer, and I am untrained in how to live without consuming. I have conflated living with consuming only to find that consuming constsntly as we do consumes us.

It can seem like we have reams of time on our hands when we stop shopping. I have learned little by little to fill that time creating.

  • Creating a home.
  • Creating blog entries like this
  • Recreating my life
  • Uncovering me.

A writer or a dreamer?

I never seem to write enough or as beautifully as I would like to. I am listening to the sounds of the night while a soft breeze creeps in through my window. A lone cicada scrapes away as if hoping for a reply. I have Kate Rusby playing in the background; her album Ghost mirrors what I feel soul-wise and I feel stranded here and the world is strange to me as I carve out a life in this familiar yet unfamiliar place that is my home. The largest freshwater lake in the world is my heart, my mother, my world. It is she I have returned home to, her song I’ve heard in my heart.

Endlessly, like the sea she stretches onwards meeting the sky at the far eastern horizon in a blue line. Like the sea she has her moods and in her worst moods she has brought mighty ships down to her deepst depths. This lake that doesn’t give up her dead due to the extreme cold temperatures is unpredictable and I am hopelessly in love with her and have been since I was a child.

I wonder what life i am making for myself. It is easy to give myself over to my gypsy soul and be flamboyant and read tarot cards in public and do whatever jobs come up. I wonder vaguely if this is responsible –adult–and then I quail inside. My inner child rebels. She has had quite enough of being responsible and adulting as they call it now–she wants to play and blow soap bubbles with their rainbows undulating and shining in wet stripes as they are formed out of the breath of my lungs in that curious plastic loop and set free. It is a mini act of Creation, an imitation of the sacred act.

It is starting not to matter if I ever have a career. I have failed most miserably in this endeavor. I tried to have one and it was cut short by pay cuts and circumstance and maybe fate. I have never recovered it despite hundreds of resumes sent out. The collective no that is the silence of prospective employers never responding to my applications resounds.

And so I write. I write my story day by day for me, to prove I existed, I exist, I live, to spite mortality perhaps. My life is a homage to the man I loved and it has not been wasted. I have traveled the world. I have raised two beautiful sons. I am mother, sister, aunt. I am no ones lover, but perhaps that has been by unconscious choice since Jerry died; though we were never married, never acknowledged publicly, there we lived in a bubble for a moment where we found each other, understanding and kinship. Is it less for never having been a public thing or embraced in a togetherness all could see?

To me it is not less. I do not grieve less than the widow of 47 years. I am often breathless by the pain of it at odd moments, just when I feel I am healed at last, I’m over it. You never get over it. Ever. It just becomes bearable until it is not. Then you cry and feel and crumple and begin again tomorrow.

I wonder if I will ever love like that again, have a soulmate like that again. A kindred spirit. I soldier on. I open myself to meet others. It curiously doesn’t happen, the meeting new people along with possible bonding. Maybe I am so powerful I am stopping a new love from happening because I am not over this. Maybe I am not desirable. Maybe I’ve had the only love I will ever have.

These thoughts swirl around in my head as I go on with my life and improve my camper and myself. I wander over the lake shore daily, no longer questioning what is on the other side. Sometimes I feel as if I am staring across mortality as if my life stretches interminably ahead, and I cannot see what will come, and I am overwhelmed by having to live so long . It seems empty to live without someone who loves me back I can look after.

I shake myself out of this blue state. I read Joyce Carol Oates’ memoir A Widow’s Story and I relate. And then I remember I am less than a widow. I loved a man who never married me or dated me or anything. I loved a man who spent hours picking my brain and talking with me and confiding in me, who made me laugh and who enjoyed giving me things to read and watch and listen to. I loved a man who dated others while we wrote back and forth over the years, while I dated and married another. I loved a man who is now dead, having never married who died alone in bed, and only his books, a Masters thesis, my memories and a headstone are testament to his existence. And one photograph.

I am less than a widow. My love was invisible. Perhaps not to him, but to the world. What am I who feels a widows pain but am not a widow? I feel somehow wrong as if my love was wrong, as if it belongs nowhere, as if it should not exist.

Yet I loved and still do. I wish to love again and I fear I will not and I fear I will not be loved. I am most alone but content in that slowness, curiously enough. I live day by day awkwardly, fumbling, in my hometown that is unfamiliar and familiar.

Getting it together in this gypsy’s life

I’ve gone from friend’s home to car to camper.  The camper is a metaphor.  And I get it.   Get the camper together, and my life will follow.   When you get rid of the extras, you zero in on the necessities. Okay.    Cut the excess baggage. Oh wait—-!  I found out that applies to ME too–my body.  I gained weight the last few months and I was so disappointed because I’d  lost like 200 pounds.  The good news is that I didn’t gain back anywhere near 200 lbs.  No, I need to lose about 50 lbs.   So while I’m working on the camper, I’m also working on myself.   The answer for me?   (Click on the graphic for the app for either Apple or Android!)   It’s an interval program.  It comes with a personal trainer (okay, it’s not a real person but you get your choice between a man, a woman, a unicorn (the one I chose!) or a drill sergeant, and someone else I think.  You can play your own music and hey. It’s only 30 minutes a day three days a week).   I HIGHLY recommend it.   You’re never too old to get off the couch!  You may not run fast, ever, but you and me are still running faster than the one on the couch!

Screen+Shot+2017-09-29+at+15.46.59

And about eating–oh my god.  Carbs don’t treat me well.  I blow up like a balloon when I eat too many carbs, with edema.  So I went back on a high protein diet and it was amazing.  My ankles and feet quit swelling up after three days of being on it.  I donate plasma and they kept telling me that my protein was low.  Don’t know why it took me so long to get it.

Now for the disclaimer—this works well for ME.   I know my body and I know what works.  It may not work well for YOU.  You will have to find your own way, little Padawan.   

I applied for two jobs that pay three times what my current one does. Self confidence!

selfconfidence

Ever since I bought this camper, and found out I CAN fix things, and I don’t NEED anyone else’s help unless I ask for it, I have been EMPOWERED in a way that is hard to describe.  So many people seek to take over under the guise of helping a person, when maybe what we ought to be doing is leaving someone alone to let them accomplish!   When we “overhelp,” we are actually taking away that person’s power, and telling them that we don’t believe in them!   Little kids are so independent. That’s good!   We all need to learn to ask for help at times, but you know what?  Most of the time we do just fine on our own if we are allowed to.

See how fixing up an old camper has extended to other parts of my life?  It’s really incredible to me.   I have gotten rid of things, and now I’m getting rid of excess weight.  I have fixed things in the camper, and that has been fixing things that were broken in me–my self confidence, my faith in myself and my abilities.

For example,

I fixed  bad spot in the ceiling of the camper last night.  I had bought some peel and stick laminate that looked almost EXACTLY like the brown paneling in the camper.   I got the idea that a rotten spot in the ceiling that was dribbling down fine powdery rotten wood pieces on my head through the torn paneling could be fixed temporarily (I’m not rich you know), with cardboard and that peel and stick laminate.  I know how it SHOULD be done.  All the rotten wood should be removed and insulation put up in there, and a piece of paneling purchased and stapled in place with an air staple gun.   I get it.  I don’t have any of those things.   Winter is coming.  I’m getting rotten wood powder and pieces on my floor and my head every time I walk under it.  Necessity is the mother of invention.

Here’s what I had to fix: (this was from before I bought it–water damage sustained when a tree fell on the camper):

step 1

 

That’s all rotten wood and paneling.  I scooped all that out and stuck a piece of foam insulation up there.  Then I got out the cardboard and duct tape–miracle worker.  If it was good enough to fix airplane wings it’s good enough for me. I covered the hole left over (stuffed with foam insulation mind you), with the cardboard and duct taped it into place.

step 2

Then….I WHIPPED OUT THE LAMINATE.   Why did I capitalize that?  I have zero idea. It was pretty exciting though.

So I had to measure to see how much laminate I would have to cut.  And there is an annoying white border on the edges of peel and stick laminate that I had to trim off because I am totally faking it till I make it here.

What you need

Isn’t it great!!!   It’s a total lie, just like my makeup, but because I’m a woman and good at covering up blemishes, it sure looks terrific!    I measured, peeled and stuck and oh my god it went on the paneling SO EASILY.   Here’s the finished product.  The hole is sealed up and fully insulated so unlike before, no cold air can get in.  That was the main concern for me because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get the paneling to fix it before winter sets in.    Here’s how it turned out!!  So exciting!

Finished product

Not bad, eh?   It’s not perfect, but it’s a darned sight better than that gaping hole!   I woke up this morning and it felt so good not to have to stare at that broken paneling by the vent on the ceiling anymore.  It is fixed till I can get it fixed!

This is the first home I’ve owned.  It is not what I envisioned.  I thought my first home would be a “real house,” with a big lawn and a place I could have a dog and a basement office.  It turns out my first home is better than I envisioned, because I am putting my whole heart and soul into the place, and making it my own.  In the meantime, my whole life is improving because of that camper, and I am getting outside of myself at the same time and the whole thing is making my life better.   I have some thoughts to share on mourning  and letting go as connected to the last article about my friend Jerry that I wrote.   

I have thoughts.  So many thoughts.   But these thoughts will be for future posts.  This post is the foundation.   Fixing up that camper is an extension of the work going on within me.  I will be living in this camper for at least a year.  I wonder what my life will be like at the end of this year?   How will I be better?  How will others benefit as a result of my personal renovation?   How will my life be better?  Better job?

alcott