Flyover

In the soft goldness of the morning the plaintive calls arrive first pulling them along the cloudless height

There

are the swoosh of wings beating at the air

morning after morning like clockwork sometimes

two sometimes

six

never one

this northern girl shades her eyes while peering into the heavens

my heart follows them

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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.

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.

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.

Soffits and channels and skirting, oh my!

Women of the world, you must look upon home repair and building as an adventure in which you enter a world smelling of particle board, freshly cut lumber, adhesives and all the screws you could ever imagine! (You’re making that dirty. I see the look on your face). I must make skirting my camper first priority. This is what it will look like (except much smaller since I have a tiny camper and not a full size mobile home :

I have to skirt before I improve the inside as the skirting is necessary before winter. One project at a time.

So after turning over the possibilities (treated plywood with foam insulation or treated chipboard with foam insulation?) for skirting for my little camper which I am required by the mobile home park to skirt for the winter, (it’s really best for me as it will keep the camper warmer by blocking cold air from blowing underneath and coming up into the floor)—I went to Menards on a mission to find someone who could be my Virgil on the journey to Paradise (a ha! You thought I’d say hell! No! Building should be fun! You should feel empowered and accomplished while you’re doing your home jobs!)

So I found a pleasant young man who calculated what I’d need. I have a 7 x 14′ camper. Here’s what he came up with:

Now, to be fair, I hadn’t even thought of vinyl skirting. I thought I’d use treated plywood (so it doesn’t rot in winter snows and thaws), but it turns out plywood was ten dollars more! Vinyl is easy to instal. You have your top rail which you can use locking screws to attach to the camper, which the skirt slides into which for me needs to be 3′ from ground to place on camper where I’ll attach it) . I only need 2′ 5″ to 3′ of skirt to cover the space from the ground to a foot up the wall of the camper. I need 13’5″ long of skirt for each side 2′ 5″ to 3′ foot high-and 7′ long for the ends. The bottom channel is for the bottom of the skirt to slide into so it sits on the ground evenly.

Now I can glue foam insulation to the back of the skirt to reinforce it which I will probably do. Here that is: (inch and three quarter thick)…

All I have to do is glue the skirt onto the foam board and cut the foam to an inch below where I’ll slide it into the channel after I cut it the three foot width I want–I was thinking originally of doing a width of two and a half feet of skirt but three feet sounds like a good number.

How much will it cost for the supplies that I need for my skirt?

Probably 175.00 with tax. I’m saving about 350.00 a month in rent and utilities remember, so even after deducting the skirt materials which I only have to buy and install once, I will come out ahead.

I can’t wait to get my first electric bill to see how much I’m saving living in my camper. I switch off the breaker when I go to work during the day. No sense having the electric on while I’m not there. So far I have used a small amount of kilowatt hours but since I’ve never lived in a camper before, I really don’t know how much it costs to plug one in. I will share the bill with you when I get it!

Dottie, the tattooed lady who has a saw, has offered to help me skirt my camper so I will not be a woman alone in doing this project! I will have a woman teaching me, which is even better!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions no matter how stupid you think they are, when you are learning to put in insulation or skirting or framing up a bed or whatever you want to repair. Guys are awfully glad to give you different ways of fixing things and there are a lot of women who know how to do these things too. As a teacher, I’m here to tell you the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. Don’t be afraid of looking inept. If you don’t ask for help you don’t learn!

I learned to use a caulking gun tonight too. I was posing like Charlie’s Angels with it

and the teenaged girl helping me load the tube of Liquid Nails was laughing so hard she couldn’t hardly stand.

I won’t get the Liquid Nails or the caulking gun till later because that’s for the inside.

Skirting first. Skirts are fun!! See?

Measure twice cut once

One improvement a day. Oh my God. What have I gotten myself into? It turns out all of the studs in the entire back end were rotten along with the fiberglass insulation and I had a job cleaning it all out. The more I tore out the worse it seemed to get in terms of the rotten studs I was finding. There was nothing to sister my new 2 x 2’s into. I gutted the end down to the aluminum walls. Now I have to frame a new bench so I can have a couch and a bed. I think it won’t be hard. I just need a tape measure. Here are the before shots:

I’ve said it before and ill say it again—THANK GOD FOR MY SHOPVAC. The wood studs disintegrated in my hands. There were wood chips everywhere. There were also acorns as if generations of squirrels had made their home in the back of my camper before I got it. There was a lot of dirt. I tore it all out and swept and Shopvac’d it all out.

Afterward, covered in fiberglass and dirt and sweat, I took a bath in Lake Superior scrubbing myself with sand (no soap). My skin is so soft and I feel so clean! It was a treat after the work I put in today.

Big storm coming in off the lake. My tiny house rocks to and fro like a covered cradle. I feel good for what I accomplished today. I got the insulation so after I frame up that bench I can insulate and cover with new paneling.

I won’t quit.

Thoughts from the Red Mug coffee shop

As I sit here in the Red Mug Coffee shop having a latte with an extra shot I am going through jitters over what I have planned for today. I am tearing out the walls of my camper and throwing out the old rotten insulation and putting in new foam insulation so I don’t freeze to death this winter. Because the old insulation got wet due to a tree falling on the camper before I got it, there is mold inside the camper so I have been Lysoling the bare walls as I strip the old stuff out. The Lysol works by the way. Spray and wait then wipe down. Repeat till all the mold is gone. Make sure your windows are open so it can air out well.

Why have I got the jitters? I am still nervous that I can’t fix things myself. I am faced with the fact that women are not encouraged to fix things, that construction and remodeling and fixing are a man’s realm so it’s almost like we learn helplessness unless we have forward thinking fathers who teach us to fix stuff. As I said before, my dad was not forward thinking so I am virginal in this realm. If I die this winter it will be by my own ineptitude. I have sought advice over and over as to how to correctly install foam insulation and paneling and now all that remains is to actually do the thing.

In America women are told they can do anything but they are also restrained by lesser pay and opportunity as if to be reminded who is really in charge. A recent Pew Research study found that women in majority male workplaces report higher rates of gender discrimination.

This sense of “needing a man” for certain things is pervasive in a way to me that I did not realize about myself. I did not know how much I accepted or subscribed to the notions that there is “women’s work” and there is “men’s work,” and you don’t cross the lines unless you want to be perceived as unmarriageable. I grew up a Generation Xer and was taught girls should be quiet and agreeable and talk about his interests and wait to be asked to dance and wait for his phone call and basically be all about him. Thank God the world is evolving and relationships are coming to be seen as a shared responsibility with roles not so sharply defined. I can be feminine and fix things. I can be a voluptuous woman and sweat like a man.

This was a surprising thing to discover about myself, how conservative I’d held male and female roles even though I consider myself to be a progressive person. There is no black and white. Plenty of women do men’s work well. Just look at World War II.

These women are my inspiration as I begin the process of stripping the old and useless and rotten out of my camper and in the process strip the same old and useless ideas whose time has expired out of me. These points which I talked about in the previous entry are continuing to be a springboard for me to grow and expand. My camper and I are getting better together.

Saturday, in which I do absolutely nothing

Saturday is always been a fun day to me, and so I hope you enjoy your Saturday and the rest of your weekend, I remember to stop and take a look at the little things once in awhile. The little things are important, and often the most beautiful.

The night before camper day!

Ok. I’m still living in my car. After the initial shame and guilt and shock of it which I went into here, I find that there is no shame in sleeping in my car any longer. It is not a marker of failure. It is simply a different kind of shelter. I don’t know how that mind shift happened but my perceptions are different. I am no longer focused inwardly or selfishly. I am focused outwardly.

I’m so excited. It’s the night before I get my tiny home. I have been planning for two weeks how I’d fix it up and make it mine, but today I felt quiet, and peaceful and I went to the beach on Wisconsin Point. I was alone out there. I love being alone out there. There are just the gulls, the wind blowing off of the lake, and the sound of the waves breaking on the sand. There are lake-smooth round rocks of every color, black, red, white quartz, (and Lake Superior agates if you are really lucky), black and red rocks, all tossed and rolled by the world’s largest rock tumbler, my wonderful lake. I saw a bald eagle fly overhead yesterday. I sit on a driftwood log and let the wind play through my long hair; the sound of the wind and the waves breaking on the beach, and all of the kinks in my nerves get smoothed out; the anxiety breaks up and disappears, and all becomes right in my world.

I speak to The One Who is Greater Than Me who is known by many names and many religions. Wakan Tanka or Tunkashila to the Lakota people who I spent six years with teaching in the public school on the rez. I speak to Spirit often. I feel that there is something larger than me. I cherish that.

What a circuitous route I have taken coming home. I travelled the world and many states, and went through so much growth and expansion spiritually and mentally. Home is meant to be a rest for me, but it seems Whoever is In Charge thinks that I need to keep growing, hence living in the car the last little while. Hence being pushed into a different lifestyle with the tiny camper–but now I wonder when it went from being pushed into the camper to becoming a conscious choice to live this way and not bow down to the rents and landlords and feel as so many do that they have no choice but to conform and pay up.

Not everyone can buy a camper. Here I got blessed. There are tons of used campers for sale for any price really because in this country, everyone camps and fishes. I got lucky with mine being so inexpensive. It was a Gift.

It took losing a lot to uncover the important things and the real friends who are few but true. We know life isn’t about “who dies with the most toys.” We yearn for more and we seek more –hence explorers and pastors abound. Some of us travel to find ourselves. Like that book “Wild” about the woman who up and hiked the Pacific Coast Trail to come back to who she was, the woman her mother thought she was. Or the Eat Pray Love lady.

My journey was outward and now it is inward. It is in contemplation of the lake and birds and wind, and the space between extravagance and poverty.

This is what I am thinking as I spend the last night in my car. Tomorrow will be the start of a different and simpler kind of life.

I have more to unload. I still need to lighten up. More on that later.

Good night dear readers. Have you felt the call to simplify or have you been unceremoniously pushed into the worst that could happen only to discover that maybe the worst thing is turning out to be the best?

2 days before camper: Gratitude

(If you are new to this series start here).

1 August.

Bank account: 230.00. All of it must go in addition to my check on Friday, to camper and lot rent.

Savings versus renting: 700.00. Camper has paid for itself already. No security deposit needed. I saved the cost of my camper.

I am laying in my car about to sleep. I am excited. In two days I will have my camper. I think about how I will decorate it.

I have figured out a way to sleep in my car that doesn’t have me sore in the mornings. I lay down the back seat and cover the flat space with a thick blanket. I lay with my legs through the hole into the trunk. It is the first time I have lain normally in a week. I had been sleeping in the drivers seat. I am listening to the rain on the roof and I think of homeless people who don’t have a car and I pray for them that they are somewhere dry. A shelter maybe. I feel gratitude for my paid off car.

I feel gratitude for my sons who I love and who love me.

I am grateful for foodshelves. I have two boxes of food that will last me till midmonth when I get paid again.

I feel gratitude for my mother who is also having to move house and is looking for a new home.

I feel gratitude for the bald eagle who kept flying overhead closely to me that I saw today when I was standing in the Lake being buffeted by the waves.

I feel gratitude strangely, for having lost so much. If I had not lost so much the last couple of years I would not feel gratitude for what I have left. I am warm and dry and safe.

I am grateful for the love of friends.

I am grateful for the job I have. It pays what I need it to pay and I save carefully for what I need. Like my camper. It is better than no job at all and I like driving.

I am grateful for my health.

I am grateful I can donate plasma and help others while being able to also help myself. The extra cash helps.

To the world I have nothing. To see me you would feel sorry for me or even feel funny or horrified. Please don’t. I am reduced in my circumstances, but I have love and health and my spirituality and hope. I have an education. I will be a teacher again. I dont know how. I applied for subbing till I can get licensed for this state. It is a start. I have a beginning.

I won’t quit. All I lost can be replaced. I’m just not sure I need to replace any of it.

I have a lot more empathy for poor people. Poor people aren’t lazy. Most work like me at jobs that don’t pay enough for the cost of living. Some of us can’t get jobs for some reason. Maybe its health or age. I don’t know why I have not gotten a decent job in my field. I applied for government jobs and got turned down for all of them. I was qualified for all of them. I don’t know why I can’t seem to get hired. I have done and redone my resume more times than I can count. I have left off my Masters degree. I have put it back on. I have tailored my resume for each position. They don’t tell me why they don’t hire me. I never heard from any of them at all. I kept telling myself as I do now that if I don’t get this job it means that Spirit has something better. Inside on my bad days I wonder if I am a failure for not getting a single one of the 200 plus jobs I have applied for. I catch myself poor shaming myself. We have gotten very good as a nation at shaming poor people. We aren’t poor because we want to be. Sometimes things are out of our control. I try very hard to keep trying. To not give up. I am frustrated at being so skilled and not getting any opportunities. I keep applying. I keep working the job I have.

I am grateful for the waiting. It teaches me patience and gratitude.

I am grateful to be home. My lake. Any amount of difficulty is worth it to be home.

I have faith. Faith is built daily right now. It doesnt matter I don’t see anything happening. Just because I don’t see anything happening doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

I have nothing but I have everything. (See list above). I have the truly important things. I am grateful.