From house to car to camper–a series: What we can do without would surprise you

thoreau

When I wrote my initial blog entry “From House to Car in 2.6 Seconds,” I was not prepared for the interest this entry would generate. I am giving a bit of an introduction to the change of mindset that a move from consumerism to minimalism requires because 1) my mind is still getting used to the idea of downsizing, 2) I suspect many of you may not have known the option to live “tiny” existed. Or that it was feasible. Or that it could even be cool. What you may not realize, as I have not, is that you don’t really have to “go without”” in order to have a great quality of life. What does happen to your mind though, is that it gets “retrained” to think about what is truly necessary versus what we think of as “necessary.” For instance:

  1. I got rid of a bunch of clothes today because they won’t all fit in the small closet in my camper. I didn’t wear these clothes for a long time. I had no earthly use for them. I still had plenty to wear after getting rid of four big boxes and now those four big boxes are going to do other people good. Pros: I have less to wash, thus my laundromat loads will be cheaper. I kept what I REALLY liked.
  2. I don’t need a TV. I have Netflix on my 4 year old iPhone.
  3. I don’t need a phone contract. I got prepaid through Cricket for 30.00 a month with unlimited talk and text and 2G of data. What did I do with Facebook and Messenger? I deleted them off my phone because I have them on my iPhone, which I use for watching Netflix, email and Facebook. (I don’t use the iPhone as a phone anymore and I have never felt the need to upgrade to a thousand dollar iPhone X).
  4. I don’t need cable, or satellite. That saves me probably about 1200 a year.
  5. I don’t need WiFi. I can use WiFi for free at McDonald’s, Arby’s, Applebee’s, or just about any other public place including the public library. If I really want WiFi, especially in the winter when I might not want to go out in the cold I can add a prepaid hotspot to my phone to use for about 30 bucks a month instead of the traditional 75 and 80 dollars a month plus fees through other companies.
  6. I don’t even need to use electricity off the grid. I can, after a time, if I want, invest in solar panels for the top of my camper, and set it up to generate my own electricity for free.
  7. I don’t need the laundromat. I can, once I get on my feet a little better, get a portable washing machine that is compact, and drains in my camper sink and save myself the laundromat money. I can hang my clothes out to dry year round.
  8. I don’t need a bunch of food in my pantry or refrigerator. I can stock fresh meat and cheese and refrigerated goods a week at a time, and eat more fresh fruit and vegetables that don’t require refrigeration. I can stock dry goods like rice, flour, sugar and the like and make better meals instead of processed boxed meals. I have a CrockPot I can use. I can preserve food without refrigeration as well (canning, fruit jam, jelly, syrup, dehydration, etc). If I don’t have a ton of food to eat I won’t eat as much, and that’s just better all around. Better quality food and less of the junk.
  9. Don’t need to use a lot of propane. I used to spend hundreds filling the propane tank when I lived in the West. In a camper the propane tanks are small, and since I have electricity in the camper, it is not necessary for me to run the propane furnace. So it is a backup should it be extraordinarily cold. I can use an electric heater, and save the propane for cooking. The camper is such a small space it won’t take much to heat it, and I am taking the precaution of extra insulation, laying down rugs on the floor, covering the windows in the winter and laying black plastic on the roof to attract the sun in the winter.
  10. I don’t need to use full size shampoos, conditioners, and soaps. I started buying travel sizes for lotions, and shampoo bars instead of bottles. Shampoo bars are better for the environment as there is nothing to throw away. Ivory soap is biodegradable, and stackable! I threw out a bunch of products I haven’t even been using.

The time we really spend in our homes is minimal when you think about it. You are at work about a third of the time you are awake or more. When you are not at work, you are out with your kids, or out at the park, if the weather is nice, or you go out with friends. The time we spend at home tends to be in the evenings, before we go to sleep, and early morning before we go to work. Weekends we may spend all day at home, but you can see we don’t spend a lot of time in the house. Living in a camper due to the small space almost pushes me outside to tell the truth. It will be cozy when the weather is inclement, but I’ll be outside a lot of the time. Yet, the camper is large enough for company should someone visit me and need a bed. There’s an extra bed on the other end that folds up into a breakfast nook with a table. Neat, huh?

Granted, living tiny isn’t for everybody. Some just like their houses, and that’s quite all right. Living tiny appeals to me because I am so aware of how much time gets sapped away on Facebook, TV, video games, and working, and I find myself listening to other people who wish they had time to go to the beach, or time to read a book, or spend with someone they love. The start of living tiny for me is getting back to basics, and spending less time on technology (not giving it up altogether), and finding that I have time now that I am not distracted by TV or the need to be “entertained,” to read a book, or to write in my blog. Work is necessary, in order to live, but work will not define my life. I am doing what I love and I realize that, by writing here, and writing about rats, and I’ve never realized really that writing is what I love to do until I lost everything that was distracting me from seeing what I really love. Who I really love.

I feel like my imagination and my mind are waking up after a long sleep. I could have a garden in large pots. (I can’t dig up my lot). I could have a pallet garden. I can hang wind chimes. I can paint a scene on my camper…I can do some seriously cool interior design in my vintage camper--my mind is working out possibilities.

Why do we think we need to do what is expected of us? Go to school, graduate, go to college, get married, buy a house, pop out 2.2 kids, get old, retire, THEN go RVing? We think if we fail to achieve this illusory American dream we are somehow failures. I know I went through that for a long time as my finances didn’t seem to pick up at all and I felt I was underemployed in comparison to how highly educated I am. What if we are trained to believe if we don’t follow that line, don’t achieve what we are “supposed” to==what if we are TRAINED to believe we are failures?

Oh my darlings. You are not failures if you don’t have the house with the white picket fence and retirement enough to go to Florida and live in a condo. Don’t fail to live. Reducing my circumstances (which let us not forget I was FORCED into), has slowly started to mean a better quality of life, which seems counter-intuitive in a way. Money really doesn’t buy you happiness. Quality of life is what brings you happiness and you do NOT have to be rich to live well.. Trust me. It’s a myth. The money you can save by simplifying your life…well, already it’s astounding to me. Doesn’t take a lot to live well.

It is a myth we will bust together if you want to come with me and follow my adventures. I plan to write day by day the struggles, the problems I encounter, and the innovative ways I find to solve them. I will share my joys, what I learn in terms of big ideas and profound thoughts, and what I learn to make life easier in a tiny vintage house. Who am I? I’m just a teacher without a classroom, because finding a job that pays well has really been difficult–I’m just an English teaching, Emerson and Thoreau spouting woman who loves nature, reading books, writing journals and blogs, loves art, swimming in Lake Superior, and clearing away the clutter to find out who I really am. Who are you?

emerson

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Vision of what is to come

all is black and I am

moved forward by voices a cacophony if voices quiet then growing louder confused

I cannot make out the words but they slipside around me washing me like water drowning me rough seas

for we have known fear all of us unable to get traction on the world in front of us moving at light speed all of us crying in bewilderment at what we have created this great evil destroying us by degrees

I get alone and rock back and forth on the shore of this big inland sea and my prayers are carried by birds on the wind dipping and wheeling over waves crashing then

I see eagles in flight glowing in the black

I have seen them every day for a week so they announced themselves and these are giant birds who have voices of thunder

those thunder voices carry them forward they know the people need them

there is a blue warrior

A red warrior

A yellow warrior

A black warrior

a white sky and cloud people usher them and the growing dawn erases the black and people are no longer blind

Oh the horses, black and brown and red and bays and white all flowing manes and tails

the thunder of their hooves is astounding and I cower in front of them waiting

To be crushed

they leap over me and the wind of them blows the sun across the sky

those warriors follow behind them and then I see a beautiful woman

all is hushed

This woman carries a pipe and a buffalo walks beside her and behind her and becomes her and she is woman old and young and buffalo and calf all at once shimmering in the wake of horses

she speaks in the ancient language and it does not matter I do not understand I understand she has come

To save us

she sang the world into being and she sings again to save it her song erasing those who would destroy her mother her mother no longer old and sick on a cot but rising to destroy the ones who are death

rising the people rise the people know the people rainbow people rising

I open my eyes and the sun is almost gone

I get up and now I write

to tell

To remember

This is what will be what will happen the eagles have told me an

4th of July 2018

Heavy treads descend. I hear the matched marching heavy booted clump clump clump jackbooted night drawing

upon us all

Freedom duels with itself and flags fly perpetually at

at half mast

dissent arrested shots ring out sad and slow and true scything down the flower of our youth who

die in vain for their country.

what is right is now twisted into former versions of itself and injustice uncloaked no more pretending to be something benevolent something

sinister

I hear the cries of children who are the lambs in this slow slaughter of liberty while

a soft slow voice tells me let the dead bury their dead

let the sleepers sleep

I run to gather up the discarded heart of she who has dropped her torch and sits weeping soulessly eating innocence

her castaway heart is too heavy to bear

and God has fled

an impostor shadow stands laughing mockingly

I am I am I am

there will be no fireworks only the screams of the damned behind barbed wire starving

work will set us free

souls will climb heavenward the sleepers unaware of

the hell they have unleashed

death creeps slowly forward in the eyes of the jackbooted suited fiends delighting in the chaos and

fear and

pain and burning black smoke goes up the chimneys

look here

is the abyss with an echo of the past

a child’s voice

My country ”tis of thee

Sweet land of liberty

let freedom ring

the whisper

dies

freedom no

more just a word we used

to fight for

a white dove

plummets

to the earth

Clump clump clump clump

O Canada

Ever the predator

you hunt me still in the solo silence of Canadian nights where the tall trees circle you and the stars are

cut off

cut off from everything

you are

Cut off from humanity

your humanity shapeshifter wolf shedding

sheepskin

whether you like it or not you pad slowly in darkness knowing that you are condemned to the life of the lone wolf you are

condemned and condemning ever the

creator of your own prison how many have been your prey

death follows you for everything you touch dies

everything

I remember the hawk who flew into your window and the callous dead way he flew one last time as you flung his body over the fence into the woods

how houseplants died and how you tried to murder my soul how you slaughtered the truth

God knows you.

Predator.

I think of you in passing then life turns my head to other things like my lake and how I would not be home if I had stayed with you not know such complete happiness had I stayed with you and your sharp sabre like tongueteeth which kills tender souls

no

I belong in the here and the now on the driftwood log on Wisconsin Point at one with wind, water and Spirit

while you

lurk in the shadows knowing nothing but deadness and lethargy and the emptiness of the house at night where all of what I had lingers waiting for a return that will never come

if you were not so calculating

I could almost pity you

Alone

Wolf

but I know your kind

devouring tender souls

I see you in the tree line shadow man-child

the breeze shakes the leaves of the trees and you melt into the brush only

to return

predator

woman whole

I do not know what I have reconciled except

a sense of myself which separated from me long ago has come to me lost

in thick northern pines and birches

where we lodged those memories

drowned in wild waves and winds smashing beaches, cliffs and breakwalls.

Lostandfound now are that night I lay on the beach at the Point where the Northern Lights danced in colored shimmers weaving and undulating purples, yellows, pinks and greens across the ink black sky

The wind whispers that I have become one with who I was where I was when fear and rage and pain created who I was

turns out that the illusion was the monster who was really not one at all what is real is

Who I am

unapologetic

Unafraid

beautiful

wild woman walking on water weaving dreams stars trailing behind me

I wear rage and fear and overcoming stitched in my life-coat of many colors which I wear with defiance and pride and shyness

I dance while

the water sings

Roaring on the shore

Poem of the Day: William Butler Yeats, 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: a waste of desert sand;

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

Wind 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?

(Image from http://www.liamelia.com/second_coming.htm)

Poem of the day: Anne Sexton, “45 Mercy Street”

In my dream,

drilling into the marrow

of my entire bone,

my real dream,

I’m walking up and down Beacon Hill

searching for a street sign –

namely MERCY STREET.

Not there.

I try the Back Bay.

Not there.

Not there.

And yet I know the number.

45 Mercy Street.

I know the stained-glass window

of the foyer,

the three flights of the house

with its parquet floors.

I know the furniture and

mother, grandmother, great-grandmother,

the servants.

I know the cupboard of Spode

the boat of ice, solid silver,

where the butter sits in neat squares

like strange giant’s teeth

on the big mahogany table.

I know it well.

Not there.

Where did you go?

45 Mercy Street,

with great-grandmother

kneeling in her whale-bone corset

and praying gently but fiercely

to the wash basin,

at five A.M.

at noon

dozing in her wiggy rocker,

grandfather taking a nap in the pantry,

grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid,

and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower

on her forehead to cover the curl

of when she was good and when she was…

And where she was begat

and in a generation

the third she will beget,

me,

with the stranger’s seed blooming

into the flower called Horrid.

I walk in a yellow dress

and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes,

enough pills, my wallet, my keys,

and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five?

I walk. I walk.

I hold matches at street signs

for it is dark,

as dark as the leathery dead

and I have lost my green Ford,

my house in the suburbs,

two little kids

sucked up like pollen by the bee in me

and a husband

who has wiped off his eyes

in order not to see my inside out

and I am walking and looking

and this is no dream

just my oily life

where the people are alibis

and the street is unfindable for an

entire lifetime.

Pull the shades down –

I don’t care!

Bolt the door, mercy,

erase the number,

rip down the street sign,

what can it matter,

what can it matter to this cheapskate

who wants to own the past

that went out on a dead ship

and left me only with paper?

Not there.

I open my pocketbook,

as women do,

and fish swim back and forth

between the dollars and the lipstick.

I pick them out,

one by one

and throw them at the street signs,

and shoot my pocketbook

into the Charles River.

Next I pull the dream off

and slam into the cement wall

of the clumsy calendar

I live in,

my life,

and its hauled up

notebooks.

Love

It was a bridge across the forevers of time and whatever space we souls live in when we are not

here.

we recognize one another even when we are strangers.

You know the feeling, don’t you when you feel like you’ve known someone forever when you’ve only just met and most often we

were two ships passing in the night

we touched briefly and knew what forever was encased in long looks and conversations where each word we chewed and tasted and savored time

flew like sparrows dispersing upwards life the hourglass running out without

our knowledge until one day you were not

I just wander really. I’ve been lost since the ether swallowed you and wings drooping I’ve forgotten what flying was compass broken brokenness defined me

I spent years mending the tear in my soul until one day

I saw

love is the bridge connecting souls yours to mine never alone the deer show me you walk this earth still

love the

silver cord you on one side I on the other touching invisibly feeling the wind and the waves of that dreamscape where you

live now

death a middle passage from life to life

the birds know this as do the deer

Forgiveness

I have many people to forgive and I suppose

there are many more who must forgive me. I do not know if

they have for

forgiveness is a one way street in which one walks blindly

as a theologian

i must know everything about

forgiveness

must know how to do it

such as surely I know

I must forgive seventy times seven and before I pray I

must forgive them so that God may forgive me and if I confess

my sins

God will forgive them and if

I do not forgive

then God wont forgive

me.

I am unproficient.

what does forgiveness feel like?

is it to be found in the forgetting of hurts or

when you can talk about betrayal without emotion

in a conversational tone

over coffee or

cake perhaps or

is forgiveness in the remembering of only good

about the person who insulted you betrayed you or neglected you or who

used you or

forgot you existed at all

you may never know if they forgive

you for whatever you may have

done that you do not know

anything about or did

in ignorance

forgiveness may be in the going forward

or the moving on from

it is the flower found in

pardon and

absolution exoneration

dispensation

indulgence

clemency mercy

amnesty.

is forgiveness a warm feeling does

it bring a smile or

does it happen without you

trying or

thinking it into being

are there boundaries in

forgiving when somebody does

the same hurt over

and over

and over

again is it in the walkingaway forever the

letting go

or

perhaps it is in the deer

i see in the backlit morning mist

by the side of the road

gazing wide eyed wonderingly at

my

heart

dove

(photo from Experience Life)