Chapter 2

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A new chapter of life in the cabin began to take form today. After months of planning renovations and site work, we broke ground this morning! By “we” I of course mean the talented individual we have hired to complete our site work. Now that I see it in writing, the term “broke ground” couldn’t be more contraindicated. What happened today was more of a ground repairing…last November, that was when the breaking occurred. But from breaking follows healing. Mistakes made. Lessons learned. Time ticking forward.

To arrive home today was to exhale a slow, stale breath that I’ve been holding since December (sorry for the image but hey, truth can be an ugly beast). The fragmented building lot that is our backyard, strewn in concrete, rebar, exploded granite, and disrupted earth has sat, screaming from its abandoned perch for the past 8 months. Today, I arrived home to a resonating silence. A release of breath, a pause, and the promise of an inhale to come- the emergence of life from ashes. 

Sounds overly dramatic, doesn’t it? I am compelled to chalk this up to my propensity for exaggeration in the name of poetic license. However, I need only to look at the smile radiating from beneath Jim’s beard to know there is truth in what I am feeling. This may just be a backyard. One of millions of building projects gone awry (Where are you and your superhero overalls, HGTV Mike Holmes???). Still, it is our backyard. For 8 months, the shambles of our one-time dream home, which we so lovingly refer to as “the pit,” have greeted me (more like heckled me) as I have arrived home at the end of each day. 

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Not today. When my little car crested the summit of our driveway, completing it’s return home, there was no heckling to be heard. No haggard pit, threatening to consume me (and your little car too!) in it’s seemingly enveloping arm of disrepair. Today, I arrived to find the void of the pit filled. The ground smiling with the nearing promise of level earth…do I dare to imagine the glimmer of a future garden site??? The blasted granite boulders, which were literally exploded from the earth last fall, have returned home, blanketed in a layer of dirt that will soon become our driveway to the cabin. 

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Our hope is that within a few months, the cabin will be transformed into our current 16X24-foot dream home. My thoughts are frenetic with visions of baking fresh bread in an oven and falling asleep in the winter without the threat of freezing before sunrise (or- equally foreboding- being forced to rise from my slumber- ok let’s be real- forcing Jim to rise from his slumber in order to feed the wood stove). However, in anticipation of the advent of running water, Jim is already worried about “getting soft” from no longer being required to carry in drinking and showering water. There is a small part of me that already misses the excitement of having to step outside to pee (a task I’ve recounted in this blog far more frequently than is at all appropriate). As with any change, I can already feel the joy of new possibilities and the tugging sadness of letting go. 

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Who knows what is in store around the next bend. However, amidst this saga of excitement and uncertainty, I know only that I arrived home today to find the pit put to bed and his heckling silenced. I have never felt more at home.

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CHARGED!!!

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Jim left on a business trip early this morning…so of course today was the day our battery, which we’ve been limping along for the past few weeks, finally decided to call it quits. The battery to which I’m referring is our only source of electricity. It is charged by our generator every morning and used to power our little refrigerator, two lamps (which have been converted to run on DC rather than AC), and other electronic necessities throughout the day. Without the battery, there are two choices: run the generator all day (whose growling motor would quickly burn through all of our gasoline and, of equal importance, any semblance of peace), or go without electric.

Had my loving husband not generously stocked our refrigerator with groceries immediately prior to leaving me alone in the cabin (after far too many occasions of returning home from a business trip to learn I’d subsided on a steady diet of ramen noodles and tea during his absence), I likely would have chosen to forgo electric. However, I couldn’t bear to see the kale, spinach, and other recent co-op purchases go to waste. Also, I’m nearly out of ramen. Briefly, I considered making a run to the local market to pick up a block of ice as a stand-in refrigeration system. Why not? They were once called ice boxes for a reason. However, after considering the cost of continuous purchasing of ice over the summer months, and the reality that I cannot power lights or other electronics off of said ice, I realized that the purchase of a new battery was in my very near future.

If I haven’t made it abundantly clear thus far, thinking things through is not my strong suit. In contrast, my actions are typically fueled by impulse. I’m actually pretty impressed with myself for having taken the time to think through and reject the ice block idea. And so, with the decision to purchase a new battery freshly set in my mind, I grabbed my wallet and keys, and took off for the store.

Entering the store with the recognition that I would be unable to independently transport my new battery to the car, I commandeered a cart and made my way to the rows (that’s right, ROWS, plural) of batteries. Shoot. What do all of these numbers mean? Hmmmm….

Had I thought to make a note of the model (?) of my recently deceased battery, selecting a replacement would have been simple. Also, bringing my phone with me might have helped. As Jim would certainly have mocked me for my lack of preparedness, he would also have known which battery to purchase. On a whim, I made my selection and with both hands and all of my might, hoisted the thing into my cart.

On the way out, I also decided to purchase a pair of needle nose pliers with which to loosen the nuts from the existing battery. I knew Jim would have the tools somewhere, but was equally confident in my inability to locate them. Ooh, and a box of cookies on my way out (to reward myself for my efforts!). After purchasing my supplies and being thoroughly snarked by the cashier for the absurdity of my selections, I escorted my cart toward my car. En route through the parking lot, it occurred to me that lifting the battery out of the cart and into my car would be a challenge. Fortunately, a helpful store employee seemed to read my mind and offered to load the battery into my car. It would have been rude to reject the offer…

Upon arriving home, I made the smart decision to leave the pliers and cookies in the car, rather than attempting to carry them in along with the battery. The distance from the end of our driveway to the cabin is a muddy, rocky, rooted 200-feet (at least!). After the first 10 steps, it occurred to me that I would likely be unable to lift the battery if I set it on the ground to rest. The trip was slow-going, and required a conjuring of all of the imagery and positive self-talk strategies I possess, but ultimately successful.

Gleefully, I dragged the new battery over to the old and set to work at loosening the first nut. I was shocked to discover that needle nose pliers are not the appropriate tool selection for removal of nut-tightened-by-husband from battery bolt. Shoot once again. Struck by a flash of resourcefulness, I recalled that Jim had left a plier-like item atop a storage bin under the cabin. Venturing outside to retrieve the tool, I noted the name on the handle: RoboGrip. Perfect! Having not the slightest idea of where Jim’s wrench set might be located, I decided that RoboGrip would have to live up to its name and set to work…

Ta-Da!
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I am happy to report that I am now back on the grid…or at least the cabin version of the grid. Woohoo! I’m off to enjoy some chilled veggies (and celebratory cookies for dessert!) while basking in the glow of my once again functional DC lamps. A little bit of electric current is a beautiful thing!

One Year in the Cabin!

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Jim and I recently celebrated our one year anniversary of having moved into the cabin! We celebrated with close friends (thanks, Zach and Eileen!) who were brave enough, not only to visit, but to spend the night on our living room futon / guest bed. Gathered around a campfire, we swapped stories and shared laughter as the passing of time was marked by the blaze of the setting sun and the gentle emergence of darkness, interrupted by flashes of dancing fireflies.

It was only after we awoke the following morning that Jim and I realized our “cabin-versary” had passed. It was as if the occasion had marked itself- surrounded us in glowing fire and sunset, and the warmth of two close friends. The cabin has its way of directing the show. I am only the stagehand.

It has been that way all along- the cabin casting itself as director. Calling us from our former home just down the road (for those who don’t know the full story, we used to live in a nearby house on the same road). First, it was just to watch the sunset. With the cabin and surrounding property abandoned, we would occasionally stroll up the road (to sit in the very same field that our campfire now occupies) to glimpse the setting of the very same sun we had witnessed on our cabin-versary. The very same sky, ablaze. Less than a year after than our first sunset excursion, we learned that friends of a friend were looking to buy a home. Ours was not on the market. The cabin was not on the market. But we showed our home just the same. Sold it. Bought the cabin just the same. Moved in.

And set building plans underway. We would live in the cabin for just a short time- until the start of winter- while our “real home” was being constructed. And then the script was revised. The cliffnotes version of the story is that plans for a “real home” never materialized.

At some point during the winter and early spring, we decided to abandon the “real home” entirely. We would stay in the cabin. But there would be significant renovation- an entry, a new bathroom, a guest room. We set to work. Drafted plans. Consulted builders.

And then sometime in June, the script was revised once again. There would be no renovation, at least not to such extent. Our current plan is to bring in water, septic, and electric, but aside from putting in a basic foundation to keep the pipes from freezing, the cabin itself will be unchanged. From what I can tell, the title of the script at the present time reads (with a sense of peace rather than the typical exasperation that accompanies the phrase), “Enough is Enough.”

On the outside, it seems as though Jim and I are running the show- just making some changes along the way, as would be expected of a couple building their first home. The experience itself tells me otherwise. From the very start- the decision to show our home in order to buy a cabin that was not for sale- it has felt like stumbling upon a stone that has been patiently sitting in our yard, waiting to be noticed. Our role has been one of arrival, not creation. Every decision point since has been this way. The cabin, drafting the script, waiting for us to get it right as I stumble over the text, lose and regain my orientation, plod the script into being.

I am learning to listen. It is a lesson I learn over and over again. When it begins to feel as though I’m working too hard, my solution is so often found in surrender. But what do I do? What I have always done. I push harder. Remind myself that the good things in life are worth fighting for. This is true. But in fighting, I tend to lose grasp of the distinction between an obstacle in the path and a straying from the trail. Fighting may drive me forward, but it might also send me further astray.

Surrender. It requires trusting that the obstacle I face will not overwhelm me in the time required for me to step back and take it in. Surrender asks me to observe, to let go of my desire to direct the course, and to allow what sits before me to come into focus. Surrender and fight- to me, they require equal effort. The difference is in the outcome.

Jim and I have lived in this little cabin for one year now. My hope is that when the fire in the sky extinguishes into night, marking our 50th circle around the sun together, I will find myself sharing a campfire with Jim, and continuing to practice the art of listening.

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