May 31st 2016
Setting up (semi)long-term. That was today’s mission. Upon returning from a short trip back to city life, I’ve been blessed with new appreciation for simplicity. So it was with a sense of lightness that I undertook today’s work. And it is with new hope that I review the last few weeks and sit down to write this blog for you.
So, while it has been a while since my last blog, it’s been far from idle time. It’s been more like a reorganisation or re-evaluation as life takes me in its currents. Rather than seeking white waters, it’s been a time to careen through the wider sections of the river: to consciously be and consider.
Coming up to the beginning of June, I’ve become acutely aware that this unusual journey into my wants and needs has been going on for about five months. The first month was mostly a time of reflection and destressing from a life that I knew to be wrong for me. With a vague idea of what onward looked like, I charged ahead trying to build the skills I’d need and edge myself closer. Next came cost of living reductions with the goal of maintaining a level of comfort. The renovation was the start of trying to re-invent what a lifestyle could be. I made plans (“When man plans, God laughs”) that didn’t really work out and after a short period of disappointment, moved on to explore more a hotbed of alternative living. The plan (again with the divine laughter…) was to pass through and just kind of have a nosey but two months on, it’s looking to be turning into something quite different.
Winter has reared its chilly head. In fact, the chill was such that one of my caravan windows cracked this morning as the morning light thawed the frost. The rain has also come after weeks and weeks of beautiful Tasman sun kisses. My newly tanned skin is no better insulated for the cold though. Luckily the recent experiments with bubble wrap and a rug plus an extra duvet are paying dividends.
A string of interesting WWOOFers has been a source of plentiful entertaining conversation. One of whom taught me HEAPS and rekindled an interest which fell away just as it was born: wild food. You may recall from a previous post (Coasting) that I made an attempt at identifying edible plants. However, I really had no idea how to begin and quickly got overwhelmed by the whole thing. There are a lot of plants out there and armed only with a field manual, it’s difficult to know what to look for, where, or whether to choose a plant and hunt it or, to try to find a plant first and identify it after. Luckily, this wild food guru gave me some pointers. He was also an avid dumpster diver and reminded me the shameful amount of ‘waste’ that our modern societies produce and throw away despite it being perfectly sound food.
It’s inspiring to see someone who has mastered using naturally occurring resources, be they completely natural or occurring naturally as a result of habitual human processes. Another WWOOFer may just have introduced me to my illustrator which leads me to the next, quite unexpected dilemma.
Now, part one was expense reduction: recognising the current limit in my situation (the drain on my meagre earnings). That’s going pretty well at this stage, all things considered. Part two is addressing the limit of income without trading off time. This one obviously has some complications… at least for those of us without surplus cash to invest. It is NOT however impossible and these days, with the internet, is becoming more and more achievable. My planned path at this stage is to produce some books about my driving passion for improving animal (and their humans’) welfare. Again the Gods guffawed. There have been complications, but still I plug on. Faced with the removal of my last excuse for not moving forward (the rest were removed by an encounter in Waihi), I’m forced to confront the real issue.
Despite the logical and compelling arguments of several authors and even a personal friend who embody entrepreneurial success, I struggle to embrace it. As it boils down, it’s becoming clear that the idea of having others do work on my behalf is a psychological sticking point. Unfortunately, this is what the whole idea of delimiting wealth creation hinges on. It’s not the first time that I’ve delved deeply into the depths of my psyche in an attempt to create life change. On the contrary, it’s become kind of a compulsive behaviour. However, every now and then, if you choose to stretch your comfort zone or challenge your beliefs, you hit a wall. This is one. Pair it with fears of both failure AND success and you’ve got a real mess. Alas, I digress and that’s for me to work out, not for you to suffer through.
Luckily, I’ve happened upon a couple of ways to earn an income without wasting my time by spending my time doing things I love. They don’t pay that well, but if you refer back to action point one (i.e. expense reduction), things are shaping up nicely. While you’ve no doubt hear people paying lip service to the idea that “less is more”, it turns out there really is truth to it. Sitting here in my tiny, unheated (though surprisingly well-insulated) caravan, I feel content and peaceful. My wardrobe consists of the same handful of shabby clothes brought to New Zealand in one suitcase. A small store of basic food lies in plain containers. A few key possessions bought for their utility rather than their service to an ego surround me or fill drawers and storage nooks. Still, the clutter of useless “stuff” creeps in.
But a funny thing happens when you choose to reduce consumption: you appreciate the things you do have and the things you do use. The empty space created allows gratitude for what comes your way. It also allows space for compassion for those who have less still. Furthermore, it helps to highlight the lure of things like drugs of misuse (coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, weed, naturally occurring drugs like adrenaline, or indeed anything harder) and the search for external acceptance which drives so much of human social behaviour. Taking a step back from habit causes us to examine the ‘why?’ behind actions. The lure of those habits doesn’t go away, although it lessens. What does happen is that a space is created between the self and the action. Well I suppose I can’t speak for you… or for anyone else for that matter… but that’s been my experience.
One unavoidable truth of such downsizing is that one is forced to be more conscious of resource consumption… or face the exhaustion of them. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to be linked to practically unlimited water supply, but electricity currently comes only from what can be generated by the sun and stored in the caravan’s battery. Gas for cooking is limited to what is left in the propane canister. And with money tighter, purchases are less frivolous. I am eternally grateful that these have become so clear.
The other thing to be grateful for is time. Reduction has brought free time: time to slow down and to enjoy the moment. For now, that time is spent enjoying my family (my dogs and my cousins), making improvements on my home comforts, listening to the sounds around me, feeling the breeze, smelling the flowers (occasionally also horse shit) and lie-ins reading books. Once I’ve got my home space set up, there should be time to start going bush again. This time I hope to develop a habit of harvesting wild food. All the while, taking time to explore and appreciate the stunning natural beauty of this area I get to call home.