The Driver

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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.

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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.

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Into The Wild West

 

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Photo by Jimmy Zammar.

In that land we led a free and hardy life, with horse and rifle.

~Teddy Roosevelt

We arrived a week ago in the old western town of Winthrop, Washington in that valley that will be our new home. If you want to say it correctly, its “Warshington.” We are excited to be here but it still feels a bit like we are visiting, rather than living here. Our first weekend, we had friends visit which was a great distraction from all the work that we still need to do on the bus. Plus we could not get into a storage unit for a few days and therefore the bus was full of our belongings (yes, simplicity is a main reason for living in the bus, but we are not about to get rid of all of our camping, backpacking, fishing etc gear) and we needed to clear it out before we could start living in it.

With our friends, we cooked and talked and laughed and hiked up Lookout Mountain. The wildflowers both down here in the valley and up in the mountains are amazing.

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Photo by Jimmy Zammar.

We took in the views of distant snow-capped mountains, drank in the beauty of wildflowers and ultimately our path was blocked by snow so we did not make it all the way to the top.

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Photo by Jimmy Zammar.

A wonderful weekend spent with close friends was the perfect way to begin our new life here in the Methow Valley.


written by David LaFever

Cease to Speak, Perfectly Understood

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Free your mind and your ass will follow.

~George Clinton

The desire to go home that is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood. 

~Rebecca Solnit

 

All great journeys begin in exhaustion. Birth. Death. This. I am exhausted – in part because I did not sleep well last night on a thin air mattress and in part because we have been working so hard of late to make this journey possible.

We tend to think that journeys take us some place else but in fact they take us right back where we started from. Right here, right now. Home.

It has been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But for us humans, that step is usually preceded by a thought. And that thought with an intention. Actually before and after, like the feet in walking, is impossible to know. For us, I cannot say where this all begin but I do know that it begin with an intention and a vow – to live simpler, more deliberate. To root ourselves in place, community, love and beauty. Love and beauty, perhaps, beyond all else. To find ourselves perfectly and beautifully at home with who we are, where we are and what we are. Rebecca Solnit said that, “The desire to go home (is) a desire to be whole” and to be a “point of intersection.”

I have felt that here on the north coast of California. Our home and our life has been a gathering place, a confluence of children and friends and chickens. It is damn hard to say goodbye to this place, which has seeped into our bones like winter rain, summer fog, incoming tides, and especially the people who have been so kind to us. I only hope I have been able to reciprocate the gifts of friendship, love and laughter that have been given freely to us.

We journey to the north, knowing that “the journey itself is home,” as Basho wrote, to the North Cascades where rivers meet. We hope that our life will continue to be a place where people come together, a confluence, where we may awaken from our sleep or rest from our awakening. May we continue to blaze with light and be sheltered in the darkness!

To our Humboldt friends – a deep bow and a warm hug! Thank you for nourishing our life here, you mean the world to us!


written by David LaFever

 

 

 

Trundling along

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!!


Written by Kristin LaFever

The shape of the kitchen!

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!

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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.

More to come as soon as I can finish it up!


By Kristin LaFever

Taking Care

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Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.
~Thomas Merton

I heard her young voice, clear and articulate for a two-year old saying something about a spider and a skirt. There wasn’t fear and anxiety in her voice, just matter-of-factness and wonder, like “Hey look at what I found in my skirt.” I shouted down the hallway, “Did you find a spider in your skirt?” “Yeah, come look,” she replied.

I walked down the hall, where she showed me a tiny spider hiding in the folds of her pink skirt, while her eyes glowed with warmth in the fading light of evening. She wanted to take this small creature outside to let it go safely, so that is what we did, gently dropping the arachnid onto the ground beneath a huckleberry bush.

How many kids or adults for that matter would have screamed and then smashed the spider? Where does this reaction come from? Arachnophobia, the extreme or irrational fear of spiders, is one of the more common and uncontrollable fears.Most people don’t suffer from arachnophobia, yet the automatic reaction to kill a spider seems ingrained. We have never taught that fear nor the wonton killing of spiders or any other insects, whether inside our house or not. Sometimes we let them be, like the daddy longlegs in the corners of the bathroom, while other times we capture them, usually with a mason jar, and kindly release them outside. Our kids’ behavior parallels ours, illustrating the importance of acting the way we want our kids to act. They observe, imitate, see what happens and then either change their behavior or repeat it. Over time imitation can become habit and we often rationalize our habits to make them normal or necessary. In this way our fears can become the next generation’s rationalized behavior.

Who cares about spiders you may be asking. All ethical consideration aside, which there are many in the case of killing anything, taking care of spiders is pragmatic in our household and is perhaps a matter of practice more than anything else. How we take care of anything, especially the supposedly lowliest creepy-crawlies, not only says something important about our minds and hearts, but also says something about how we take care of everything. Cheri Huber once wrote a book titled, “How You Do Anything is How You Do  Everything.” How we wash the dishes says something about how we take care of everything else. Are we mindful, mindless, caring or careless? Do we look down upon this kind of domestic chore or do we look upon it as an important contribution to the household? And finally do we see the importance of practicing our deepest values, vows and intentions even (especially) when doing the mundane?

Back to the spiders and the girls. When I see my daughters treating spiders with care, respect and gentleness then I know that this is who they truly are inside and that they are likely to treat the rest of the world with equal compassion and respect. And despite all the times that I feel inadequate and insecure in my parenting, moments like this show me my true self as beautifully reflected in the kind actions of small creatures.


By David LaFever

When Nothing More is Just Right

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Zen isn’t extra time, extra effort or extra attention. Zen is nothing extra.

~Karen Maezen Miller

 

The ballerina enters, does a pirouette and then a small jump before arching her back gracefully. She looks at the audience for a moment and her eyes glisten with happiness and excitement as if she can’t believe her great fortune of being able to dance, just dance. A second ballerina, in pink leotard, enters and begins spinning and spinning, graceful in her own way and intent while she spins in ecstasy. I don’t understand how she doesn’t get dizzy and fall down. I am dizzy just watching. As the music comes to a close, the two dancers bow to the audience, smiles radiating from their beatific faces.

This show didn’t cost much, just a little bit of time really and I didn’t have to drive far or wait in line. In fact I was able to see this from the comfort of my own home, just by turning around in the same chair from which I ate dinner. Yes this was my own sweet girls doing their thing and it was spectacular.

For a brief moment as I watched Maddie’s intent and purposeful movements I thought she could be a dancer. But then as quickly as the thought arose, it passed away and I was left wondering where it came from and why I would jump to the conclusion that she should be a dancer. To be a dancer would require hours of practice, fancy outfits, competition and achievement. As I let this percolate, I realized that I had made something out of nothing. Here she was just dancing, naturally and freely and I had created fiction from something actual and real. We seem to do this all too quickly with our children and ourselves. Whenever we see some nascent talent or glimmer of interest, we jump to it being someone that they become. Oh you love animals, we think. Perhaps you will be a veterinarian.  We seem to have an insatiable drive for making something out of nothing, for more, bigger and different. Intoxicated with the notion that bigger is always better, that better is always better, we are left incapable of actually enjoying our lives in all of its ordinary beauty. Can’t my girls just dance for the joy and fun of it?

As I sat next to the most beautiful woman in the world watching and grinning from ear to ear, I understood that in fact Maddie is already a dancer. No stage or big lights needed; no years of practice and bettering oneself; and no fancy wardrobes (well, I will be honest, a pink tutu goes a long way). The reality is that no amount of striving could ever improve upon this moment, this dance, these girls; and no amount of polishing this tile could ever make her shine more brightly.


by David LaFever