I set down the meditation pillow and arrange it neatly atop a small rug, which is itself neatly arranged in a rectangular shaft of sunlight. I then drop an tangled pile of clean laundry in front of the cushion. The clothes are still warm and smell fresh, unscented. I bow to the cushion then I turn and bow to the laundry and sit down, legs crossed uncomfortably beneath me.
I pick up each bit of clothes, fold it neatly and place it into a pile, separated by family member. There is a Madeleine pile, a Juniper pile, a Kristin pile, a David pile, and a pile of assorted towels, rags and the like. Each gets its due attention, imbued with my intention to take care of things. I pay attention, not in a worried or overly-attentive way like a hover-parent, but in a Rightly attentive way. I fold each item to completion, nothing more and nothing less. And of course my mind wanders and then I remember to pay attention and so I do and return to the task at hand. Grab, smooth, fold, breath, place into pile, repeat. Inhaling, exhaling; rising, falling; thoughts coming, thoughts going. Each moment, complete by itself. Each article of clothing taken complete care of.
Folding laundry, one of the most ordinary acts, is thus turned into something…. Hmmm, I hesitate here. Its actually not turned into something or transformed into the extraordinary, which is what I find myself wanting to say Rather, its allowed to be exactly what it is – folding laundry and by allowing to be just what it is, its becomes ordinary. Nothing special at all.
You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.
~ Yogi Berra
It takes fifty steps to go from the front door of the bus to the toilet tent (see pictures below) and five more to sit down. Its twenty-five steps to the summer kitchen (see picture below) and almost zero steps to get to the winter kitchen. There is one short step and two tall steps to get into the bus and six more will get you to the kitchen sink. To walk from one end to the other might take you sixteen steps and two more back and a fall would get you onto the futon or Juniper’s bed.
This summer is was 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or hotter) inside the bus; and now that it is fall it gets into the low 40s at night (without a heater or woodstove).
We went 66 days without electricity and just got plugged in last night. We are a bunch of happy lucky idiots!
We bought this beast of a bus over two years ago, and spent so many hours and long nights tearing it apart and then putting it back together again, in a way that we dreamed up and designed and built. Did we finish it? Not quite. So many loose ends were flapping in the breeze when we pulled out of that tiny side-yard she’d been parked in for so long. There is trim missing, a tiny half-wall still to build so no one scoots their chair back and falls into the entry stairs, a door on the girls’ room, the tiny magnets that hold the pantry doors shut, drawer pulls on all the drawers that had been custom-made (some of which could still stand some tinkering). The plumbing wasn’t done (we installed the steel cages that hold the tanks under the bus the DAY before we moved – nothing like waiting til the last possible minute…), and the propane lines weren’t installed. But we packed the bus to the gills (didn’t realize just how much stuff we were taking!!), put the canoe and bikes and a plastic slide on the roof rack (also installed days before departure), said so many goodbyes and shed tears, and then took off, because it was time to go.
The drive north was so much smoother than I dared hope for. Slow – YES. SO SLOW. We averaged 45 miles an hour. But dang, that bus was so heavily loaded, but that Turtle just kept on going. There was not a single hitch in the drive up.
And so now we are here, and what is it like? Well, at first it was more like vacation – we parked at the second-home of dear friends, who generously offered up their driveway. It is the property that we came to first, and where we first looked at each other and said, “Well, this feels like home. How weird that we’ve never been here before.” And so we slowly unloaded the bus into a storage unit. I drove the bus to work for TWO DAYS – not exactly the ideal commuter vehicle. Then we slowly started working on the propane and the plumbing. And I mean S-L-O-W-L-Y. Heck, we STILL haven’t finished the plumbing. Between starting a job and getting to know the area, and visiting with friends who came to the valley, and trying to make new friends, there has been shockingly little time for finishing our new home. This fact in itself has been very frustrating for us – already it is August and we don’t have the sink plumbed or the tiny trailer bathroom even CLOSE to completion! In mid-July we moved from our friends driveway – the bus was parked in full sun and was getting ridiculously hot during the day. We are parked about one mile down the road, on the property of friends of friends of friends. It’s that kind of place. We are calling our new spot “Wolf Creek Woods” – we are in Ponderosa pines and keeping much cooler in general. One great thing about dry heat – the shade is so refreshingly cool. At our new parking spot we do not currently have electricity. These is power on the property, but it hasn’t been hooked up in years and the process of getting it connected is taking awhile. So, even if the sink was plumbed, our water pump wouldn’t work anyway, so we don’t have running water at present. Instead we use a big 5 gallon rubbermaid on the counter and a bucket under the sink to catch water. Rudimentary, but functional for the moment.
Some of the really joyful parts of living in the bus so far… the girls LOVE IT and are so excited to be there. On days when it was in the 90s inside the bus (parked at our friend’s house we were in full sun), those girls would be in there playing in their underwear! Their enthusiasm is quite a marvel to behold. At Wolf Creek Woods, amongst the pines, we are woken EVERY morning by the shockingly loud chitterings (how do you describe their sounds??) of red squirrels. We were actually woken the first two mornings by a red squirrel INSIDE the bus – we finally realized the driver’s window had been left wide open! Ah ha! Living in the bus feels very similar to camping. There are so many windows, and so many of them are open, the separation between inside and outside is very thin. We can hear so much of what is happening outside, and the wind blows through the whole bus. While we like this aspect of bus living, it is also making us think about all the ways we can make the separation greater in the winter months. We will have to make insulated curtains to cover the windows and the driving area. We will put plywood around the perimeter of the bus to stop wind from blowing underneath. We are about a day away from ordering our wood stove – the propane heater is installed already! Lots to think about. And one last thing about the joys of tiny bus life – it is much quicker to clean!! Although, as you can see from the photos, the girls desk is pretty much a cluttered mess (you can’t actually SEE the desk), but one can only spend so much of the summer days cleaning up after kids.
All in all, we are excited to be finally living in the bus – we’ve set up an outdoor kitchen, and the hammock and canoe often act as the outdoor living room. Whether we will stay in the Wolf Creek Woods through the winter or find a different place to park remains to be seen – we’ll keep you posted!
I’ll tell you about the driver, who lives inside my head. Starts me and stops me and puts me into bed. Opens up my mouth when he wants me to talk and fires up my legs when he wants me to walk.
~Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall
My experience has been that its impossible to know when something begins and ends, which leads me to believe that there are no endings and beginnings, although we tell ourselves it is so. It also seems true that it is not possible to say who is the driver, who is the driven and who is the driven-upon. This was my experience driving our tiny home school bus, which we have name the Cozy Turtle, from northern California to our new home in the North Cascades. Sure I turned the key to fire her up and I pushed hard on the accelerator, but once she got going she had a mind of her own and went where she wanted to. I coaxed her this way and that way to avoid old-growth trees, precipitous Pacific cliffs, guardrails and other automobiles but really I was encouraging rather than driving her.
Because of her size, mass and numerous blind spots (we all have numerous blind spots, don’t we?), she encouraged me to really pay attention. The radio didn’t work and the noise of the engine prevented hearing much of anything else anyway, so I really paid attention. There was a meditative quality to driving – the seat forced me to sit straight (no slouching) and my eyes were constantly scanning mirrors, looking up ahead and to the sides. There wasn’t anything else to do nor was it safe to be distracted. I felt driven to be a better driver by the Cozy Turtle.
And really where were we going. Yes we were heading north to the Methow Valley but we didn’t know how far we would get any given day, which started late and ended early. We had enough time so that we did not have to hurry, which took a lot of stress out of the experience. The Cozy Turtle, or “Old Bessie” as I called her while on the road, went slow which is really the only way to travel. Going slow and paying attention is the only way to ride.
So we went slowly, paying attention and without an agenda, on an unknown journey to a place we had been dreaming about for a long time.
The girls have beds! This is my last BIG construction project inside the bus. The drawers were, of course, the trickiest part of this, but they are in, they all slide (some easier than others…), and there is LOTS of space for all the girl’s clothes, and hopefully some space for Dave’s and my clothes as well….
I should probably clarify here – This is not a bunk bed! I am not expecting my daughter to sleep in a one-foot crawlspace! The lower bed pulls out (trundle bed-style) and will be next to the taller bed. My 6-year-old’s friend asked me this question and I thought others might wonder as well. 🙂
One of my favorite things about finishing the beds was the reaction by the girls – it was instantly a super fun thing to play on, under, around, and gave me a little glimpse of how playing in the bus is going to feel.
This week I took the bus to the mechanic to have everything looked at – and I’m guessing there is a fair amount to look at, based on the 11 mile drive from Arcata to Eureka. Namely, the lack of power. I literally drove down Highway 101 South at 26 miles per hour for quite a few miles before the bus picked up speed – to a whopping 40 miles per hour. Hoping that we can get the old girl to go a tad faster on our northward journey!!
You may be wondering if we took the winter off, if we’ve been busy sleeping through all the rainstorms and long dark nights. The bus progress part of the blog has been quiet now for months it seems… But the truth is, we have NOT been hibernating, and we have NOT been curled up by the fire through all the storms. Instead I have been busier than ever with bus work, and busy with all the other things happening in our life right now, and putting up photos on the blog has been shuffled to the very bottom (or close to the bottom) of my priority list. But at long last, here are some photos of what has been happening – namely, kitchen cabinets! I had never made cabinets, so there has been a steep learning curve! There’s a reason cabinets cost SO MUCH to have made – they take a TON of time and lots of precision work that is very unforgiving. It’s also really fun, and great to see the shape of the kitchen coming together. We wanted to avoid plywood as much as possible in the bus, so I designed and built the cabinet frames using 1×2 poplar. After lots of drawing, measuring, cutting, dado-blade groove cutting, gluing and nailing, the frames were finally finished! Here are a couple photos of the first cabinet frame we made, with Maddie modeling how to meditate in a cupboard.
And here is another cabinet that has some of the sides attached. We used some pine for the sides, and also some salvaged wood from pallets.
After all the frames had been built (I built four separate cabinet frames) came the very painstaking and at times frustrating task of building drawers. I love drawers! They are a pain to make, but so amazing to have in a kitchen!! So, I made boxes. And often had to tear the box apart in order to make it 1/16 of an inch narrower so it would fit into the drawer slides. But hurrah, at long last I got them all to fit!
And the final and of course most fun step – putting on the beautiful doors and drawer fronts! We used the same juniper wood we used on the pantry. Full of knotholes and lots of character.
We finally found a door to replace the completely broken, shattered, and non-functioning door that has been on the bus since we bought it – you can see the old door in this photo:
We found a solid wood door with lots of windows that was totally unfinished at Home Depot (for less that $200, amazing!). It was a little too wide, but luckily we have a friend who is a woodworker, and he cut the door to size and made the notches to the existing hinges to fit in. Then we learned how to install a doorknob and make a door jamb – we still have to fix the threshold, but for now we are just glad to have a door that closes all the way (it even locks!).