Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stacking Zen

One of my favorite books of all time is Margaret Craven's I Heard the Owl Call My Name.

Early in the story the young Vicar arrives at his remote posting in a North Coast Indian village to find that the vicarage has no running water, no indoor plumbing, a wood stove for heat, and significant holes in the floors, walls and roof. He goes to open a door and the knob comes off in his hand. He surveys the situation and thinks to himself, Just keeping myself fed and clean is going to consume most of my day!

And while we have running water, both hot and cold, indoor plumbing and no holes in the walls, floor and roof that weren't put there deliberately, it still seems to take an inordinate amount of time to just stay clean and fed.

We are comfortable, but no one could ever pretend that living in an RV provides a life of ease. Cleaning is a series of shuffling objects from one surface to another so you can clean under them.

Taking a shower is a half hour process as the tub is used to dry wet coats and store items which will not fit anywhere else. Would you want to shower with a broom and a wet mop? No, I didn't think so. The window coverings are rolled up in the morning and... put in the bathtub. No place else for them. So, a five minute shower ends up taking 30 minutes, once you have unloaded the tub, stowed the stuff elsewhere temporarily, undressed, showered, dried, dressed and then reloaded the tub. Nonetheless it beats a sponge bath or a long walk in the cold to the bath-house.

I was just reading a blog entry about how to achieve a tranquil "minimalist" look in your house. Floors, counters and other surfaces are supposed to be free of objects, objects de arte included. Apparently my "stacking" system, with larger flatter items at the bottom of the stack (some would call it a "pile") and smaller, irregular items on top, in ascending order, doesn't qualify as either "minimalist" or "Zen". Okay, I admit it, winter decor in an RV is less like Zen and more like baboons with furniture.

RV life is easier in summer. For one thing summer clothes here consist of shorts, a T and a pair of Crocs. No socks, boots, no long underwear, gloves, toques, scarves or down coats, all of which get wet and have to hung in the tub to drip dry. No covering the windows at night. No putting up with an insane cat who is convinced that if he can get you to open the door just one more time it will be summer outside. He was so dead set on going out this morning (in a temperature of -15 C and six inches of snow on the ground) that I finally let him sit on the steps for a few minutes. He sat and sniffed the air, gave the yard a look-see from the steps and then came in and went for a nap. Thoroughly disgusted.

Looking back at entries for our previous two Fall/winter seasons in the Okanagan, I see that cold weather and snow held off longer this year than it did the previous two years. For that I am profoundly grateful.

I look out the window at the 30 or so small birds industriously digging at the peanut butter and millet combo I smeared into the tree trunks and onto seed bells. Ever so often a gust of wind sends them all reeling away like little pinwheels. No matter, a few seconds later they are back, chirruping and pecking like mad. They certainly look like they are having fun.

And in the moments when I feel somewhat grumbly about moving this to get at that I stop and think, I'm here by choice, both in my wee tin can of a home, and here, on this whirling ball of volcanoes and iceburgs, on the edge of an ever-expanding universe. And while the surfaces may be messy, inside it's pretty Zen.

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