De-construction

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“What is in the way is the way.” I don’t know who said this, and can’t even recall where I heard it for the first time, but these words have been echoing through my ears during the current chapter of our renovation project. As I stand in my little cabin today, there is the skeleton of a framed but unfinished wall preparing to contain a bathroom, the promise of light in the form of new electric wires, switches, and conduit, and a view out the back window of wild earth transformed into sloping driveway. There is also the absence of our pantry (taken down in order to prepare for our new bathroom), which has prompted the food and kitchen supplies it once contained to leap into every corner of our living space. Veggies perch precariously atop our toaster oven, a bottle of olive oil has chosen to pair itself with a smattering of electrical supplies strewn across the to-be bathroom floor, and a set of mixing bowls has found its way into my nightstand…rebelliously boycotting the first floor of the cabin entirely. Here we sit on the edge of realizing our dream for this little cabin of ours, and yet as I look out across all that is contained within the cabin’s 16X24-foot walls, my joy and excitement are nearly consumed by the fear of being unable to find my way through.

What is this mess? In the process of simplifying my life over this past year, how have I managed to squirrel away 35 bottles of dried spices? I don’t have an oven, and am down to only one functional burner on my trusty Coleman camping stove. What did I think I was going to make? Wake up one morning to find myself blessed with culinary genius (which has evaded me entirely throughout my first thirty years of life) only to discover with shocked disbelief that I had discarded my jar of yellow saffron? I am the girl who once confused cinnamon with cumin. A little less access to spice may do me (an those around me) well.

Whatever the reason for my persistent hoarding of spices, here I sit, surrounded by a sea of my self deconstructed, faced with the decision of where too from here. What better way to face the dark corners of yourself than to have them strewn across your home, free to be seen and trampled upon by the discerning eye of an electrician, a carpenter’s steel toes. The cabin has taught me to let go of so much. To seek water from kind neighbors and the effort of my husband, rather than from a faucet. To trust the light of a candle over the flip of a switch. To blaze a path through the snow with boots and shoes rather than a plow. It is not enough. Still, I continue to cling, to fight the fear of the release into the great unknown, unable to trust. And yet, each time I loosen my grasp I am reminded, yes, of the fear, but also of freedom.

Is the way to abundance really through surrender? I am struck by the impulse to throw it all away- the spices, the furniture- to cast it aside in an effort to disown the chaotic corners of myself, now that they can no longer be hidden. Let the electricians and builders see only the neat, polished version. Jim reads my thoughts, gives me the don’t-you-dare-throw-away-our-home-and-our-bank-account-for-the-sake-of-order look, and I know the answer. It is acting upon it that is the challenge, the cause for hesitation. Here I go, muddling my way through the chaos. Letting it be. Trusting that what is in the way, is the way.

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Charged…part 2

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Two weeks ago I posted the saga of the dead battery. For those of you who either missed it or have already tossed it into the circular file of the mind, here is a brief recount:

1. Jim leaves on a business trip.

2. The battery (our only power source) responds to Jim’s departure by ceasing to function.

3. I spend the better part of a day muddling through the process of replacing said battery.

Fast-forward two weeks. Jim left before sunrise on Monday morning, embarking on yet another adventure that is business travel. I patiently allow the sun to take its place in the sky before climbing out of bed that day. Stumbling down the ladder with all the grace that my still-half-asleep joints can afford, I begin to set the cabin’s morning routine into motion. Let the dogs out. Turn on the generator. Plug in the charger (which uses the power created by the generator to charge our new battery). Press “the bunny button” on the charger. The bunny button (perhaps a distant relative of the energizer bunny) is the button Jim tells me I need to press in order for the charger to actually charge the battery. I insist that I press this button every time I plug in the charger. Jim, who has been forced to run the generator for hours on end after the bunny button mysteriously un-presses itself thereby rendering the battery completely uncharged, begs to differ. I insist there is a defect in the bunny button. Jim gently suggests that the issue is one of operator error. We agree to disagree. 

On this particularly morning, I dutifully select the bunny button as I have done on every morning (whether Jim believes me or not). Only this time, no bunny lights up. Further inspection reveals that in fact nothing lights up on the charger. No power. Hmm. The circuit must be tripped. Inspired by my flash of insight, I decide that I will test my theory by plugging the refrigerator into the same outlet as the charger. The theory disintegrates when I open the refrigerator door to find that the light is working and the refrigerator is running. Curiouser and curiouser. 

Having exhausted my repertoire of battery charger troubleshooting options, I move on to plan B: Pack the contents of the refrigerator into a few grocery bags, pile the dogs into the car, and temporarily move in with my parents. It seems like the only reasonable option. 

Having learned from my recent go-round with the battery two weeks earlier, I have the foresight to take a photograph of the charger before leaving the cabin so that I will know exactly which replacement charger to purchase on my way home. Two days later, armed with iPhone in hand, I march into the local big box home improvement store, and playing the DIY damsel card to the best of my ability, solicit the services of the first man whose brightly-colored apron catches my eye. To my disbelief, requests to locate the section of the store where I can find “chargers that charge boat batteries in cabins that run on a generator because there isn’t power” do not appear common. It requires some back and forth, and more than a little insistence on my part that a car charger that plugs into a cigarette lighter won’t cut it, but we finally locate the battery charger section of the store. I thank the kind employee (who still doesn’t seem to grasp what I am looking for, but appears glad that I have found it, and even happier to extricate himself from the situation) and begin scrolling through the pictures on my phone to locate the one I had taken a few days prior. 

It is in this moment that I discover I had captured a picture of the inverter, not the charger. Seriously? Perhaps there is a small chance that the ongoing issue with the bunny button is on occasion one of operator error. Hmmm. Nevertheless, I narrow my selection down to the three chargers I believe will suffice. As I haven’t the slightest idea as to the difference between the three models, I decide upon the one that is neither the least nor the most expensive. Being the savvy big box store shopper that I am, I am also careful to select a box that sits a few rows back from the front of the display- I’ve been burned a few times by items in the front row, which only after being purchased, transported home, and unpacked, reveal themselves as damaged or defective, demanding a return trip to the big box store, and a sufficiently wasted weekend. Congratulating myself on my swift recovery from my photography error, I purchase the charger and make my way home. 

Transporting the charger from the car to the cabin proves much more enjoyable than willing a marine battery down our tattered trail. I set to work, adeptly disconnecting the old charger and replacing it with the new one before firing up the generator. Only when I consult the charger’s LED display…nothing. Perhaps there is a power button. Nope. As a last resort, and only after vigorously shaking the contraption in hopes of somehow wrestling it into submission, I consult the English version of the directions. They clearly indicate that upon plugging in the charger, the display will illuminate. As it is plainly evident that this is not the case, I consult the “troubleshooting” section. Here, I am informed that if the display does not light up, I am to check the power source. I open the refrigerator, which is again plugged into the same outlet as the charger, and once again find that it is running.

Having exhausted the expertise of the charger’s directions, I flip through my mental troubleshooting guide. I call Jim. No answer. I call my dad, who has the misfortune of answering. After Daddy-O patiently talks me through multiple options- which include knocking the charger’s clamps together to see if there is a spark (yes, the red and black clamps that when you jumpstart a car everyone always tells you never to touch together…apparently less of a risk in these circumstances, but my sweaty palms don’t know that, and neither does my mind, which calls out the question, “Is this really how you want to go?”)- all to no avail, we conclude that the charger is defective. The lights are not on because no one is home. 

I review my experience:

1. I awake from sleep hours after Jim leaves for the week to find that the charger (which has served us diligently for the better part of a year, and was working seamlessly the night before) is unresponsive. DOA. 

2. I retreat to my parents’ home.

3. I return, days later, with a replacement charger. 

4. The replacement charger has EXACTLY the same issue as the original charger.

SERIOUSLY?!?!

Jim calls. After absorbing a 20-minute barrage (I could have spelled it out in 4 succinct, sequential steps, but resentment and frustration are longwinded demons) Jim is finally able to get a word in. He calmly explains to me that there is another charger in the shed. Woohoo! I retrieve said charger, plug it in, hook it up to the battery, and am instantly overwhelmed with joy and disbelief. Not only does it work (which means I can resume use of the refrigerator!), it AUTOMATICALLY is set to charge. No bunny buttons to press or mysteriously come un-pressed/possibly never have been pressed to begin with. No agreeing to disagree. My grid, which has disbanded twice in the past two weeks, both times just hours after Jim has left on the only week-long business trips he has taken all summer, is whole once again.

All is right in the cabin. All is good in the world.