Thursday, September 19, 2013

Go with the flow

Has your life turned out exactly as you planned it?

My own life has taken a series of unexpected twists and turns, particularly in the past two years during this challenging economy.Perhaps yours has too.

Paddling my canoe around a bend in the river, I've encountered dangerous rapids that threatened to capsize my boat and dump me into icy water. Through these turbulent times, I've learned it's crucial to keep my focus on what's important and to not lose my nerve as I continue paddling forward to reach calmer waters just around the next bend.

When you're struggling to keep afloat in turbulent waters, it's crucial to go with the flow. Don't fight the current that's carrying you in a new, unexpected direction. Instead, set your sights on the horizon and paddle with a renewed energy. Eventually, you'll reach calmer waters and will be able to breathe again.

Last week I encountered menacing whitewater that forced me to change course unexpectedly. I had to move from Wisteria Cottage, the sweet 540-square-foot artist's studio I've called home for the past three months.
Originally, the owner had planned to put the property on the market next spring. But a potential buyer knocked on her door, which means I must move many months before I'd planned.

My first reaction was deer-in-the-headlights panic. Where would I live? I doubt I'll ever own a home again, and my budget doesn't allow the luxury of renting my own apartment. I let friends know I was looking for a new home for me and Anakin Skywalker, my cat. Within hours, I had several offers.

We're moving in with my dear friend, Patty. She owns a cozy two-bedroom home built for Kaiser shipyard workers during World War II. I'm looking forward to having the luxury of a bathroom, kitchen, running water. Heat! Mostly, I'm looking forward to Patty's company as we explore hiking trails, rivers, bookstores, estate sales and coffee shops this fall and winter.

Through my many moves, Patty kept offering me a place to live, but her house is so small that I didn't want to possibly ruin our friendship by living in such close quarters. After living in 540 square feet with no plumbing for three months, I'm convinced that Patty's home is plenty big enough for two mighty women and one finicky cat.

So I'm moving for the fourth time in 22 months. My gypsy lifestyle is not without benefits. Through each move, I've let go of more stuff. Lightened my load. I've downsized from 2,400 to 540 square feet. I can do this. As sweet summer turns to crisp fall, I'm gathering boxes and paddling my boat through this challenge to reach calmer waters just around the next bend in the river.

Here's an Irish ballad written in the 1840s that has inspired me to keep paddling, even when I've been pelted with enormous waves. I hope it inspires you too.


Paddle Your Own Canoe

I’ve traveled about a bit in my time,
And troubles I’ve seen a few.
And found it better in ev’ry clime
To paddle my own canoe.

My wants are small I care not at all.
If my debts are paied when due.
I drive away strife, in the ocean of life
While I paddle my own canoe.

If a hurricane rise in mid’day sky
And the sun is lost to view
Move steadily by, with a steadfast eye
And paddle your own canoe.

Fields of daisies that grew in bright green
And blooming so sweet for you
So never sit down, with a tear or a frown
But paddle your own canoe.

 – Irish ballad, circa 1840, published in Jane Benedickson’s Idleness, Water and a Canoe

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Adventures in tiny living: When the bathroom is out the front door

I am a frugal woman living in Wisteria Cottage, a compact 540 square feet artist's studio with no kitchen, running water or bathroom.True, I'm saving money, but I'm also learning to cope with the challenge of making trips outside to the "big house" where my daughter lives when I need to use the facilities.

I grab my house keys and flashlight if it's dark.If it's raining, I put on my rain coat. If it's raining hard, I pull on my rain hat and maybe even my rain boots. Then I walk 37 steps from my front door, brush by overgrown vegetation, often through the web of an enormous, brown spider that builds his web across the path I need to cross to use the loo. Thankfully, I'm not one of those women who is afraid of spiders and other bugs.

Then I open the gate to the back yard, walk more steps to reach the back deck, then through the back door to the main house.That door is newer and opens easier. But sometimes, I've waited too long and I'm in a big hurry to open the door.

Sometimes I awake in the night with the urge to use the bathroom and I ask myself: "Do you truly, absolutely have to go?" Most of the time, my answer is: "Yes!"

I keep essential showering toiletries in a plastic tub in my cottage. In the morning, I add a towel, washcloth and clean underwear and then trek to the main house to take a shower, make my coffee, start my day. Sometimes, I get all the way to the main house and realize I forgot a towel or underwear. Both are essential after a shower, particularly since I have to walk 37 steps outside in front of inquiring neighbors to reach my bedroom and clothing.

I've become the queen of improvisation. But sometimes, enough is enough. A wash cloth makes a lousy bath towel.