In earlier years, I traveled the world as one does, as a body moving through space and time. It’s easy, and encouraged in western soliptic society, to see travel just like this, a comet, isolated, moving through the world. But you don’t and you’re not. You move energy.
Now that I have a whole house, a microcosmos, I move around quite a lot of things I had never foreseen.
There’s the physical movement of things, the car and the trailer, the energy needed and the roads needed.
And there are the materials, outside and in, things that I have found, changed, shifted on the way. Windowpanes from one place, a bench made of driftwood here, a horseshoe from a farm there, a piece of amber found on a beach. I take things and, rather than shift them from one place to another, move them about. This does something, but I’m not sure what.
But then there is the movement of thoughts, and of wonder. I bring with me a sense of ‘what on earth is that’. People wonder what the house is, and how, and why. And this is something I’m starting to physically feel the presence of. And I think this was something I had in mind all along and part of the whole point of this piece of enclosed air and dream.
An object placed somewhere might evoke wonder at first, and then gradually be defined by its surroundings. But my house is a shape-shifter. It is not one place, one thing. It changes form, appearance and purpose from place to place and time of day. For me , of course, it stays the same, for I know it’s soul. But it will never be one thing, and nor will I.
Video might have killed the radio star, but living with close, warm walls have revived her in my world.
When I was little, I used to listen to the radio all the time. This was before cable TV, certainly before netflix and The Internet was still a wild idea somewhere at CERN.
Gradually, these new and noisy things took the place of the radio, filling the space between walls with more and more light and colour. Somehow, around the same time, the walls grew hard and glaring. The interior of the modern appartement became increasingly impossible to look at, harsh and vast like a blazing desert of chrome and white. In this new and hostile environment, filling the void with sound and colour from a screen became the go-to option. So much so that I didn’t even notice how the need for outside stimuli grew. Silence was simply not an option, then the walls would simply start screaming at you until you drowned out the noise with more noise.
When I built La Chouette, it was with hope for silence in mind. To be inside a space where the walls had an integrity and a beauty of their own, walls I did not need to hide from, and where the distractions of a single book or a small radio was more than sufficient company.
I’m happy to say it does. The soft wooden panels and leather tapestries echoes Bach, Mendelssohn or Modest Musorgskij, radio plays, the occasional mindless chatter of an early morning news programme, or weather forecast in a way that quite filles the space and from where there is no need to hide.
According to Simone De Beauvoir, Human freedom can be expressed only in concrete projects, not in the abstract. Freedom “requires the realization of concrete ends, of particular projects’. She does, however, presume that the shaping of those projects are practically pure and free from influence.
During 2017, I made my dreams pretty concrete. And in doing so I became aware of the constant attacks on freedom and will by seemingly harmless but utterly irrelevant questions. Like ‘Can you make money out of that?’,’Does the roof still have a leak?’,’Is it safe?’ etc.
In posing a question, you demand an answer, and you create a structure in the brain of the person you pose the question to by making them create sides and choose one. And the answer will always result in a verdict, which will result in an emotional response, further deepening the structure.
A question will always represent a certain measure of success. And your answer determine the degree of this. And in relating an action or a life according to certain lines of judgement, you nudge those dreams that are questioned in the direction of the themes represented in the question. People usually never as each other ‘Are you happy?'(without the wildly passive-aggressive underlying statement ‘as long as it makes you happy) or ‘Is this what you wanted to say?’ or ‘Do you feel free?’
The kind of freedom that matters the most to me is freedom of movement. To get up and leave, to listen to my senses and have the room to act on what they tell me, to rest when I wish and to run when I want, not necessarily to strange and exotic places, but simply to move like my body needs and wants, and not have my motions decided or limited by laws, morals or architecture.
So for the new year, I will rid myself further of the rigid measurements of the dreams we are presented and I will continue to make the world a larger and stranger place. I will dream between the lines.
It has been pretty much exactly a year since I seriously started on the drawings and purchases for my house and on the way I have made a few new discoveries about myself and the place I currently reside.
I have not had any allergies, flu or colds since I started living in my house on wheels. I had thought that not having a long hot shower every day would worsen my problems with constant throat infections, but quite the contrary. I have so far been a lot healthier than when I lived in conventional houses with modern conveniences. I think it has a lot to do with building materials and indoor climate.
I have slept well, undisturbed by the constant hum of electricity that conventional houses are plagued with.
My wagon is perhaps the first house I have lived in, and I have lived quite a few different places, where I haven’t had the need to seek refuge from the walls in a screen or other form of vista-reducing device.
I was worried that my chronic fatigue syndrome brought on by a parasite in the tap water in Bergen some years ago would make it impossible to live a lifestyle that requires more activity, and while it did slow down the building, I have had a lot more energy lately.
I have worried far too much about everything, from weight to prices to accidents and the weather. A lot of this I think has to do with the importance of being a ‘smart consumer’ here in Norway, something that sneaks into your brain from constant washing by social media and commercialisation of the public space and which is impossible to combine with doing something really different.
There are laws and regulations about everything here that you hardly notice before you start to move beyond the borders of everyday life. The rewards for following these are non-existent and the repercussions ridiculously high. One of the results of this is that it is de facto illegal to be poor here, since following all the laws and regulations requires spending a lot of money or spending your entire life in a squalid flat watching tv and eating plastic.
There is a lot of hostility towards gypsies here. No-one will say so because being racist is against the dogma of the global, superhappy consumer, but the amount of seething, underlying hatred you meet as a traveler is staggering. Of course, most people think it quaint and amusing that I have built a little ‘dolls house’ until they realize that this is my proper residence and not just a folly. Then they either still think it interesting and perhaps a bit scary or they glaze over in a sort of primate grin before mounting some sort of poorly disguised verbal attack. We’re still only on the verbal stage though.
It is easy to say that you shouldn’t care about what people say, but what your surroundings think of you can make a huge difference in how easy or difficult your life will be. Also, you get really anxious from being watched constantly by people who are waiting for you to trip up.
Summa summarum, living in a house on wheels has been wonderful for my personal health and well-being, absolute disaster for my personal economy and social standing. I will, of course, do everything possible to continue my lifestyle. I will, possibly, be coming to a small town near you soon.
I would have made things a lot easier for myself if I had been willing to use plastic more, but I’m not. I have talked about this before and today I will elaborate.
It’s easy when faced with the pollution and environmental disaster that plastic is causing to simply dismiss it as an evil thing, but that’s not the reason, not in itself. The problem with plastic is not only that it’s unpleasant to touch, that is has no smell, doesnt reflect or contain the light, and because of that, its invariably garish colours. It is an aesthetical pollution even when not thrown in nature. But the real problem isn’t plastic in itself. The real problem is the dream of the everlasting.
Plastic is a result of our society’s fixation on conservation, but conservation like butterflies are conserved in a jar, dead, hollow shells. It is a result of the christian ide of the eternal kingdom, our idea of heaven is a place where nothing ever changes, even though most of us really would find that to be a hell.
It is deeply imbedded in our culture that creation is good and destruction is evil. And even if we have found ideas from older cultures, and can repeat like parrots that without destruction, there is no creation, we don’t understand it, not emotionally. What is made is not without implication, for every thing that is created, something else isn’t. And I will say this again; matter is not infinite.
The problem with plastic is that it is locked in its form. Even if it is recycled into other things, it can never be anything else than plastic, its basic building blocks are frozen, and those building blocks are made from something. By making more plastic, we drain the world of recourses in more ways than just the process, we kill the would in more ways than just by the suffocation of nature. We drain it.
Myths and literature has always warned of this, the nordic myth of the åsgårdian gods’ attempt to take Balder out of circulation and lock him in eternal existence, narrowly prevented by Loke. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and his attempt of pretty much the same thing as those gods, creating an eternal form, taking matter out of existence. Today, the monstrosity of this is often presented as physical deformity, but the monstrosity of Frankensteins monster is in it being matter out of place, out of existence.
I am, of course, devastated every time I break a treasured mug etc. I do appreciate the beauty of things, living or not. But to appreaciate things is also to leave them alone, to care for things while they exist and also to see what they consist of and that those things one day can be completely different, as you too shall be.
Living in a very small house with no running water or other means of quickly disposing of your garbage brings awareness to one thing; humans are bloody disgusting creatures. I mean really. The sheer amount of waste and rubbish and filth and dust created by one (quite small) human is staggering.
I spend now probably two to three hours each day just keeping things clean and that still leaves me with the question of what to do with such things as dishwater. Now you may think that when you live in a large house with plumbing all your waste is brought by fairies to a magical land of loveliness, but all sanitary stations rely on chemicals, creating on the whole more problems than they solve.
I still use the ‘normal’ garbage system with local recycling opportunities for household rubbish, and my toilet remains is neatly disposed of in appropriate compost heaps (the toilet is actually my least problem, sanitarywise, I thought is would be te greatest)
The biggest problem is really the water, the water used for dished and laundry and me. Humans create a great deal of mud. I really believe that the greatest problem is the idea that we are meant to live all our lives indoors, so that even the largest house will be small compared to the amount of space needed to not overtax one space with our treading, our weight, our waste and water. All of this is not a problem when spread over a large area (and, of course, properly dealt with and not just left anywhere) but when clumped together on a small space by too many of us creates nothing but death and suffering, to put it dramatically. Living in a small space has really made me aware of how much space one human being takes up, and how little of that space needs be indoors.
I have found that I spend most of my time, when the weather allows, on the porch. That is, the small step that serves as a porch. Not inside, not outdoors. This place holds something special for me. I don’t suppose I’m alone in preferring these places, but one so rarely hears anything written about the importance of the exisistence of such spots. At one’s home and in society. The places in between, the places that are the threshold. Not just a thin line between this and that, but a place in itself. Most of the things I like, only exists in these spaces. I think one of the most important things for me in my new life is to make this inbetweenworld larger, more spacious, create a room that is in itself inbetween and by this, make more room for the things inbetween in the world of ideas and creatures.
There’s a lot of really lovely people in the tiny house movement. There really is. I’m not one of them though. I’m not positive, mindful, cheerful, quirky, or whimsical. I’m not your manic-pixie-dream-outsider. I have an outlook on life and humanity slightly less bright than Peter Wessel Zapffe. And while I do have a wide sense of humor, and I do laugh a lot, particularly when people fall over, I have a deep scepticism of people who smile All The Time and who always find something to be grateful about.
Perhaps you do need to have an absurd amount of optimism to manage a project as all-consuming and impossible as building a small house is, especially in a world where individualism is widely encouraged provided you don’t really act on it.
Perhaps there is also a need to display a sort of harmless giddiness in order to seem less threatening, because there are still a lot of people deeply threatened by anyone who steps outside the order of things, and also to show these threatened ones full of schadenfreude that they are Doing alright with their unconventional choices and there’s Nothing To This Really and they’re certainly not on the verge of a financial, physical and mental breakdown.
Still, I find myself alienated by all this pointless joy, this manic serenity. There is something very excluding about all this friendliness.
I’m not naming my wagon La Chouette, or little owl, just because I like owls. Or because of the snasne doorhammer that I got on etsy.
I’m not sure where to start here, so I’ll start at the end. My dad died last autumn of a very aggressive lymphoma. It only took a few months from the first symptoms set in, and all attempts of treatment were useless. He died at home, surrounded by family. I keep repeating that to myself whenever the tragedy of it all starts looming.
His family name was Uglehus, which in Norwegian literary means owl house. Thus the name of the wagon. My full name is Tone Uglehus Wasbak-Melbye. Wasbak is my moms’ maiden name, and at some point, my dad took his moms’ name, Melbye. I’m not really sure why. I was little and my family has never been talkative. Well, not about important things. Anyway, he was a carpenter. He worked most of his career as a music teacher, but he was trained a carpenter. So while I don’t have any kind of building experience myself, I did grow up with the building of a cabin and the house my parents lived in. And endless projects planned, half-started and dreamed of.
I mean, endless. The house, where my mom now lives, was and is full of materials, bits and pieces, treasures my dad gathered in stores, on sales, in bins, at the sea side after a flood. He was, like me, the creative sort. Half the time he was not really where his body was. Of course, quite a lot of projects were finished, or practically finished. But for every finished project, there were ten castles in the air.
So, my dad died. And left a house full of dreams. And so I thought I’d build a new house partly out of those unfinished ideas and lost treasures, partly out of things new and only my own. Halfway between the old and the new world, between the former generation and whatever I am. Between the practical and the impossible. Part legacy, part something different. And part mystery, because I’m not telling why the name is in French and you’ll never guess.
The wanderlust bit is mostly mine, having the house on wheels, keeping on the road as much as possible, no destination in mind. Although my dad did love driving, far and often, and was probably a lot more fond of travel than he let himself be. Perhaps, like me, he didn’t really like traveling, just wanted to keep on the road. There is a great distinction there which took me years to find out and which I’ll get back to inlater posts.
My house then, is made from materials I have bought and chosen for mostly aesthetical reasons, and things I found in and around my parents house. There is also somewhere in this an echo of a lost world that perhaps never was, a world from my childhood that I never got to claim as my own before it was driven away by the light of modernity. A world of warm shadows, of quiet evenings and the sound of rain, a world as dark and fuzzy as a charcoal drawing. I would like to call back some of this. Not to look to the past, but because the future we are presented with was dated over a hundred years ago anyway and we need to decide on a new one.
And I know I’ll probably fly too close to the sun with this project, as one does with the mad dreams of the former generation. But I do hope that the old owl gets to fly at least just a little bit. Also, unlike Icarus, I’ll be carrying a tool kit to make repairs on the way.
Pine wood panel and decorative balsa lining from home, Victorian ceramic tiles new.
Mahogany wallpaneling, complete with eerie eye-like pattern from home, cashmere curtains new
This lantern might have been in use once, but has been in the cellar for decades.