Contemplation

blue lights hang in this space I call mine.

I have traversed the day foot following foot building nkt my home now, but my life. The path has bent and woven through rough terrain and smooth

and now I am back to the still pond looking at aged reflections of those I used to know some

I do not recognize. I wonder how wide swaths of my life were so easily forgotten but they say your brain can only hold so much and

files what you dont need away.

I feel as if I need all of it all of those memories that grew into me today

but of course they are so much chaff now more days behind than ahead and I can only move onwards into a construct as I go future.

I keep my love near me in white feathers pennies and dimes in odd places at odd times

I need no other.

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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.

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.

To all my followers: thank you!

I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for reading and following. That is such a compliment and I am humbled and grateful because you chose to follow me. Thank you for sharing my site with your friends on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter and Tumblr and Google+.

Bless you all. You are all my tribe.

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.

Lola, a hot day up north, the lighthouse clock, and the contact paper that saved my world

I had a day off. I tried not to look at the bench bed that needs fixing. Instead I took a deep breath and went outside. I went out to a place with Wi-Fi and I did some of my contracted writing that I do for a blog a friend of mine has for his business. Four hours later, work completed, I went to my storage and put some items up for sale. When I was finished with that, I got some corn starch so I could thicken the chicken chili I had thrown together in the Crock Pot the night before. I got some contact paper for a dollar at the dollar store because the wall behind the stove in my tiny camper was old paneling and it had little screw holes in it and I didn’t feel like tearing it out from behind the hood and having to buy a whole new piece of paneling. I don’t have a lot of money. Getting back on my feet and all.

I then vacuumed out Lola. I named the camper Lola. Lola needs love. Not huge amounts. Just little loves as we all do. She was all clean and spic and span when I got done vacuuming and wiping down the cupboards. She seemed like she felt better. So did I. I had felt cluttered and flustered about that bench framing project and about not getting the big stuff accomplished like the skirting.

I was still looking at that big construction project in the corner and worried that I wasn’t getting anything done. As I’m cleaning.

Here’s the chicken chili.

So my mind was taken up by that bench bed I needed to frame most of the day. I went and got another curtain for the window that didn’t have a curtain.

I put the contact paper up on that plain white paneling behind the stove. Bought a battery for my lighthouse clock. Its Lake Superior. Lighthouses are a thing here. I love them. I drove to the cemetery to visit someone I love and cleaned off his headstone.

This is the after shot of the wall behind the stove after I put the contact paper up. Plain white wall before.

Then I realized how wrapped up I’d been on the big project I hadn’t noticed what a big difference the little things I’d done all day made. I got a lot done. I got work done. I got work done on my home….a few improvements that to me made a big difference. What do you think of what I’ve done?

The camper smelled good from my chicken chili bubbling in the pot. My floor was clean. My clock was ticking away in a homey fashion. My curtains made the place look more like the gypsy caravan I was going for, and I felt good being in my Lola camper. I felt at home. Home.

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?

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.

Simplifying isn’t just about letting go of things but also people

I start with these ten points because I am still learning them myself. I am learning to let go of shame and procrastination and expectation and excuses and as I have been growing in the letting go of all these things holding me back, I’ve found also that I’ve been having to let go of people I love. A person I love. This is not an easy thing for me but I have seen that the time is not right for us nor seems ever right and i live the adage that good things come to those who wait. Instead of seeing the shedding of people as a disappointment I understand that this happens for the following reasons:

  • They no longer fit who you are becoming
  • They need to live their life without you so that they can learn their own lessons that maybe you would keep them from learning
  • They need space to figure out what they really want or need.
  • Knowing this I always wonder if their retreat out of my life was because of something I did wrong. It is unknowable really and I am letting go of torturing myself about what I did wrong or if I should have done this or that or the other thing. Loss isn’t about me. It is all about them, their best outcome and all I can do is love them anyway. And I do. Things seem emptier without them. I am faced with myself entirely and so I turn to writing as I have always done, to process life and loss and who I am becoming as my life becomes more about independence, minimalism, positivity and less about weighing myself down with guilt and shame and dread and the illusion I have power to change much of anything or anyone. It is better that I don’t. I can control my responses to things that happen. I can’t control people, nor would I want to. The people who I matter to will remain in my life, whether they retreat a while or remain actively engaged with me.
  • Sometimes the wrong people have to be cleared away so that the right people can enter. It doesn’t mean you don’t mourn the loss for a while. I do and I don’t deny or bury my feelings.
  • Loss doesn’t mean getting over having love for someone. It means learning there is a bridge over what we have lost and that nothing is ever really lost in the end. Love is that bridge. I love enough to let go and not control and show the respect and compassion we deserve in the letting go.
  • The ones who are meant to stay and support my growth will come into my life and stay and go perhaps; gain and loss is a circular thing that helps us learn about ourselves if we are open to the lessons people teach us as we live this journey.
  • I have gone where I feel most alive. I am home, by my Lake and gulls and boats, living how I want to live with a minimum of what I need experiencing life more fully, being more present, authentic and loving without reservation. Thank you for all of the people who taught me about who I am.
  • Nothing is ever lost.