Things have been quiet on the owlfront for the last weeks. Or, things have seemed quiet. Under the surface, there has been great shifts.
After a year of living in my tiny house, I have become more familiar with my daily needs and movements, and with the movements of the house. Things have settled. And, as soon as they settled, a revamping has begun.
At first, the idea was to alter one bit of the ceiling in my sleep alcove, but as I started dismantling the materials, I saw that I really wanted to redo the whole alcove.
Luckily, I’m absolute crap at seeing how much work something is, or I’d never get anything done at all.
My new roof is first of all partly shingles, or shakes, as wooden shingles are called. I’m new to this too, and it’s a quite sophisticated move, so I expect to have to make some repairs and alterations again soon.
I have also lowered the total height and made a flat top roof on the alcove, giving me more space to sit up in bed with my morning coffee. As I never really used the alcove window, I ditched it, but made a more elaborate window/ passage to my roof terrace (or, roof).
In addition, the living room windows have been lined better and given a double set of shutters, for better on-road protection.
What has taken so long with this has mostly been the careful dismantling, redefining, care, and brush-up of as many as possible of the former pieces. I didn’t want to simply throw bits of my beloved house away, not unless they were damaged beyond repair, and so this whole process has taken three times as long as it would have if I’d gone out and bought all new stuff (or, you know, used blueprints, or knew what I was doing, or if it hadn’t been a heatwave because somebody broke the climate).
Reusing my old materials both gives the house a sense of continuity and rebirth, and it gives me a better understanding of what I’m working with. I still don’t know if all my ideas have worked, for example if my net gasoline use will be reduced due to a more streamlined design, but we’ll find out in time.
For my next post, we’ll be taking a look at the newbies indoors. I have such sights to show you…
Yesterday marked one year since my first night in la Chouette, the first step towards making the house a home. Building a house by yourself from scratch, there are no indicators for at what point the heap of planks and nails and bits and pieces becomes a home. No one tells you this. No estate agent or landlord will stand by to convince you why this particular amount of enclosed air is a home.
Now it is a home and I have almost already forgotten how it was like to live enclosed in society. Looking back, it was hellish. That’s not to say my lifestyle is careless or easy.
Recently there was an article about tiny houses in a Norwegian paper. There was a feature of me, and an interview with an informal college where students could build a tiny house as one of the activities. The headline read ‘Tiny houses can make your life simpler’.
I have no idea what part of the interview they got that from. Certainly not from me.
While building and living in a house on wheels of a moderate size, popularly referred to as ‘tiny’ house, has turned out well for me, it’s not by any means a simple life. That was never the point.
To be clear, you don’t rid yourself of any problems this way, but you do get a whole set of interesting new ones. I think I have said that before. And often.
While building, I worried a lot about keeping the rain out, about how I would do my cooking, cleaning, where to get wood chips for my compost toilet, and about all the rules and regulations on the road. None of this has really been very important.
The house definitely has a better indoor climate than anywhere I’ve lived, and this has had a remarkably positive effect on my health.
The main part for me was to get away from noise. Not just from cars and neighbors with sick ideas of ‘fun’, such as actually listening to dubstep and tribal trance, but also from the drone of windmills, the angry hum of solar panels or electric car chargers and air conditions.
The downside to this is that you notice very clearly how few places of quiet are left. How the noise pollution is everywhere and increasing with every ‘green’ invention.
You become very aware of the difference it makes to be 8 rather than 4 billion people on the planet, as there was when I was little.
And this is the downside.
The roads are not places for travel, but for being chased from one place to another and there are few places to stop. Nearly all land is regulated, fenced off or built on. While the house has turned out like I wanted, the world has little place for freedom. The problems you face are mainly about how to maintain your balance. Not on the edge of society, because that no longer exists. There is no outside, it’s all been drained to feed the human fantasy of supremacy. The balance is on the edge of the existing and the not-yet real.
I have already made real a not-before existing type of house. In the time to come, I will continue to shift reality. I have plans to delve into the very place for the collective nightmares of western Europe and see what’s really there. And if it can be brought forward from the stories.
I’m often asked if I don’t get lonely on my travels. And then I answer ‘no’, and the person asking the question usually hears ‘yes’, because they think they would be and cannot imagine any other possibility. A lot of people dreaming of taking a step to the side of society fears loneliness, as in being outside the herd. I’m not lonely on my travels, but I do get lonely on those occasions when I visit society.
Loneliness is not something that happens when you’re alone. It’s contagious. It’s an open wound, a gaping, roaring chasm that, ironically connects all modern humans. Nothing brings us together more than our loneliness.
We think ourselves so alone that we look to other planets, even go as far as to communicating with or attempting to revive the dead for company.
We scrape together small groups of families and friends, and they might put a lid on the loneliness, but they can’t heal it. They might, if you’re very lucky, put such a lid on your loneliness that you can ignore it for as long as you live, apart from in those silent hours of dawn. And you will always be afraid that they will leave you or die. Which they will.
The usual way of dealing with this, when taking a step to the side, is to make yourself not want company. This is taught in several religious practices, such as Buddhism, and most western self-help pseudo religion. You learn a sort of smarmy detachment where you love and respect all as long as they don’t get too close. You either build a shield around you or you cut yourself off to such a degree that you think yourself beyond all emotional damage, eternal in your enlightened loneliness.
Western philosophy is infected with solipsism, the idea that we are all alone in our heads and that we can not know what other beings think or feel or if they even exist. This is shared by most of the people who have influenced our way of thinking and it’s utterly absurd. In some ways, they’re right of course. It’s difficult to put yourself into the mind of another, hence the confusion when people ask about my presumed loneliness. The flaw is to believe we exist in our minds and that it matters what or if anything else thinks.
In modern (by modern, I mean what has grown and gained traction for the past 5000 years or so) society there is loneliness embedded in the system. Civilization works by cutting people off from the world and from each other, teaching us to look to gods or leaders or rules for meaning and that if you simply exist, there’s something wrong with you, or you’re not living fully.
For a lot of people, the markers of loneliness are formed by opportunities. Not what they have, but what they are told they can have, conversation, sex etc. Often it surprises people that none of these things make the loneliness go away when achieved.
The loneliness we have is from being severed from life and death. From ‘nature’ if you will. The word ‘nature’ itself shows how far this has gone. That we even have a word to separate us, make us lonely. Our language, while usually seen as a mean of forming connections, is full of more or less subtle ways and words for cutting us off. It doesn’t need to be though, as this article on the Irish language explores.
Nature is not the trees, it’s not a bird or a beetle. It’s everything that lives with and feeds on everything else. And to be civilized is to have your whiskers plucked out, tendrils severed so we can’t feel, we can’t notice the life that surround us. Even outside the hermetic houses we only get the vaguest sense of what’s there. We are existential cripples.
Or in other words, we’re lonely.
Rewilding means healing this as far as possible. In this context, with this in mind, it’s not dangerous to love. Or, to attach yourself to what seems fleeting and unsure. And you’re never alone. I do love. I do miss people that live where I grew up. I miss people I meet on my travels. I grieve when someone dies, and I have losses I will never get over. I can start to care about someone really quick and think about them often. But not being with them doesn’t mean that I’m lonely. Not as long as I get to be outside civilized society. Not as long as I can hear birds. I’m not afraid to love. But it does scare me how fast my new found senses deteriorates as soon as I step back into a city, or even an agricultured landscape. So why do I go back? Oh, for the company of those I care about of course. I’m nothing if not the embodiment of ambiguity.
I said I would write about human habitat and I will. In building a house and in placing it in different types of settings, a static room in a changing environment, I have gone further than before in exploring the relationship between human and habitat.
I could rant about this endlessly, about how we still see nature as something outside our bodies, something put here for our sake, and not as what we are.
About how we think we can build ourselves away from the water we drink and the air that we breathe.
About how we want to save trees, but not the earthworm, fungi, bacteria, and beetle that make it possible for trees to exist.
About how we ruin the places we could have lived with little effort in order to make habitable the places of the planet less suited for our hairless, soft bodies, even willing to wipe out everything in order to find a new planet to ruin, thinking that space travel is a magical thing that doesn’t use earth’s resources instead of the ultimate consumerist fantasy.
But I’m tired of the sound of words, so I’ll condense it all in a jolly little poem. I call it:
De Naturae (from nature)
I thought that we made this abundantly clear
your new promised land doesn’t want you here
If the ground is covered with nettles that stings
it’s because it was made for the things that have wings
For the fur and the claw and the shimmering scale
the long curving tooth and the short stubby tail
If the sun is too sharp and the insects all bite
it’s a place for the things that will come out at night
If the rain is too cold and the wind blows right through
it was meant for the ones with skin tougher than you
If you need to make houses of concrete and steel
come here fiddlemonkey, I’ll make you a deal
Human, go back to your Eden and rest
leave the bear to her den and the bird to his nest
I have posted bits about water before, about the relation to rain, about the way and the road, but there is also the everyday need for and constant search for water.
Recently, social media has been picking up an article from last summer from the guardian about plastic bottles.
The article and the response circles around the need to recycle the bottles, or call to companies to use recycled plastic in their bottles. The reporter also blames the want for a ‘western lifestyle’ for the bottled water consumption in countries like China. This is both arrogant and helps hide the real problem.
The real problem is that practically all fresh water sources are being held hostage by governments or companies. When outside the system, you see this clearly, but seldom have a voice to point it out.
To get access to water, you need to buy your way into the system, one way or the other. You need a house, or similar, either hooked up to a pipe system, or with large enough tanks to find and store water yourself. This water you either need to buy, indirectly by being at a caravan site or boat dock, or clean and filter yourself, something that also requires time, space and money. Or, of course, steal and risk being pushed even further away from the government-stolen necessities.
For now, I have the option of checking in to campsites now and then and fill the water tanks with safe, clean water, but not all do. Also, not all have a house or a car or anywhere to store water for longer periods of time. Some gas stations will let you fill your tanks, but you need to get to them somehow. And means to transport the water. And water is bloody heavy.
When poor and stuck in urban life, as a lot of people are, bottle water, expensive, polluting, and often not particularly good, is your only choice. Restaurants will leave bowls of water out for dogs, but not for poor people. Finding fresh water in a city can be a desperate search, and while food can be foraged in dumpsters, clean water can’t.
The fact that it has even gotten to this is the real tragedy and the real problem. And it won’t go away even if every single plastic bottle is recycled and reused. They should not exist in the first place.
To move along it, on water or land, is to travel. Following the paths animals make through the woods, is to follow a road, for they know where they are going.
Humans, as a rule, don’t.
I have said it before and I will again, a highway is not a road. All roads that are roads are in some way linked to water. Either by the movement of water or by paths animals make to find water, it follows underground sources and roots of trees, carrying water. Sometimes humans alter the course of water, creating floods or droughts. And highways were invented to carry soldiers and weapons to invade your neighbor. They are not anything close to a road merely tools for human destruction.
I have no illustrative pictures of highways, because when I land on one, I’m quite enough busy with finding my way off again.
This past week I’ve been driving for longer stretches than usual. One drawback of having a car-towed house is that you’re confined to mostly false roads made for cars, and they are only built for transporting things and humans from place to place, and therefore extremely uncomfortable, with no time to think, or to look or to consider where you’re going. I’ve kept to county lanes, when possible, but even here it’s too easy to take one wrong turn and then be caught on a lane with no turning back.
The lane of no turning back is a narrative I understand that people like to use as a metaphor for life choices. This is, of course, a construct and has nothing at all to do with real roads, or real lives. There are no straight roads, and if there are, they’re human inventions. And there are no straight stories, no inherent cause and effect. And always another way.