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Deserves to be Told


It was Mother’s Day and I was twelve or thirteen years old. We were sitting in a restaurant, perched high on the bank of a river with windows running the entire length of the dining room, ensuring there was not a bad seat in the house. I remember thinking it was a smart design; with a view like that, you really can’t have too much glass. I don’t recall my sister being there, she may have been working at her grocery store job that day. It was just Mom, Dad, and myself. At some point during our meal there was an eruption of loud gasps and worried remarks throughout the restaurant, and in no time the three of us noticed what was causing the excitement. Outside, two children could be seen in the distance up river, floating on inner-tubes with no lifejackets as the swollen spring waters pulled them closer to our location, which as everyone in the dining room knew, included a significant waterfall and a riot of rapids (Class IV, specifically). From our bird’s eye view, we saw the entire stretch of water laid out below us: the relative calm up river where the kids currently floated in sweet oblivion, the incredible whitewater just below our table, then the waterfall, followed by another stretch of whitewater before the river returned to calm. The expressive concern on the face of every adult in the restaurant was enough to convince my young teen self that those kids were in danger, and my god it’s Mother’s Day, please don’t let anything tragic happen on Mother’s Day

For the next moment or two, the kids had no idea what was to come. But just a few seconds later, they became desperately aware and fear washed over their faces just as it had taken over the dining room. The pace of the water picked up, rendering them unable to retreat to land. They were swept up in it now, and their only choice was to ride it out and hang on tight. I remember bodies pressed against the glass, which I’m sure amplified the gravity for these young kids, who could now see us all staring down at them. Surely a restaurant full of terror-stricken patrons was a sign of impending doom. Yes, it seemed that it was. 

I turned away from the glass for a moment to notice my father was missing. Looking further over my shoulder, I saw him running out the front door and down the many steps toward the river bank. There was a tall fence to scale - I had noticed that on the way in - and of course the waterfall and those rapids on the other side. Did he have some kind of plan? I turned back to the glass just as the kids passed through the whitecaps, tipped over the waterfall, disappeared for what felt like eternity, and then miraculously, watched as they emerged down river, floating away on calmer waters. They looked stunned, tossed around and turned about, but alive and above water. They would both see their mother again. Throughout the restaurant, elation replaced fear, but the adrenaline of both remained palpable. 

My guess is the entire incident took place in under two minutes, even though it felt like eternity. Those kids made it though the rapids and over the waterfall in so few seconds - as violent as those seconds were - that my father never had a chance to enter the water before they safely popped up on the other side. He was, however, the only person to leave the restaurant that day, compelled into action rather than frozen in spectating. 

Everyone settled down, returned to their tables and meals, and I’m sure those kids made their way to land then home to their mothers at the first available moment. My father rejoined our table and mom asked what he would have done if the kids went under, if they were trapped below the rapids, or under the waterfall? He replied, “I don’t know exactly,  but I know that I wasn’t doing anything by sitting here.”

And that about sums up my dad. 

My father is a great storyteller, one of the best I know, and the most incredible part of that is I’m pretty sure he has no idea. In fact, I don’t even think he realizes he’s telling stories at all. As a man of few words, his tales are brief, descriptive, often funny, and always sharp with recollection. That last part I am especially envious of. Last year as Thanksgiving approached, Story Corps put out a call for all of us to hit record on our phones, tape recorders, or whatever device we had, during the holiday meal as a means to capture story. Family story, community story, America’s story. I loved this idea and so wanted to walk away from the day with a treasured recording of snippets, quotes, family tales and memories, but felt too shy to suggest it, and would not have done so without everyone’s consent. Maybe next year. 

Anyway. I’ve never heard my dad retell what happened at the restaurant that day, probably because he would have to include the details of his own actions, and that is not the kind of story he ever tells. I guess that’s what us kids are for. Besides, I actually think about this day at least once a week, even after all these years, which tells me it should be written down somewhere. So here I am, telling a story that deserves to be told... one that I know he will never tell. 

The Sky Continues to Open


The weather app on my phone tells me there is cloud cover outside with a 30% chance of rain around 11am, but not until then. It is now 8:30 and has been 100% raining for the past two hours. I guess I should have just looked outside instead of at my phone. The gardens are thirsty, desperate really, and will be glad for every drop the sky is willing to give. We’ve reached the point where it’s hard to recall the last time it's rained with any substance, and with water for bathing and dish washing dependent on collected rain, one pays attention and tightens rationing when reserves dip below 30%. Although, I am not in Vermont at the moment so I have no idea if the barrels are filling under this same rainfall; my weather app tells me they are not, but we already know it cannot be trusted. 

It's good to be home for a few days to take care of the garden, some work-related wifi tasks (have yet to find dependable/speedy wifi up north), and to be with my family. As they drove down the driveway Sunday night and I was left standing there alone with Ozzy, I was overcome with the need to pack up and follow their tracks all the way back to Connecticut. So that is exactly what I did. It’s good to know I can close camp and be on the road in well under an hour. Plus, the drive gave me a chance to listen to the new Avett Brothers album in its entirety, which I did not mind. (Favorites: Ain’t No Man for its boot stompin’ summertime vibes, Divorce Separation Blues because for some reason I picked up on hopefulness which was unexpected, and I Wish I Was because it’s a sweet tune with even sweeter lyrics. One of their best. I’ll never look at a sweater the same way again. Actually, the lyrics on all three of these songs are so well-crafted. Enviable.)


I dove into the garden yesterday morning to find the first round of peas ready for picking and the potatoes flowering. Going to start stealing some newbies any minute now. I’ve been shelling peas, getting them into the freezer, and wondering if they will be done by the time I leave again so I can get the carrots and beets in the ground once the peas are pulled. The timing will be tight, but we'll see. The garden this year feels more utilitarian than usual, no experiments, no new varieties, only a small assortment of tried and true vegetables in large quantities. That's been the plan and so far I'm sticking to it. We'll have plenty of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, greens, basil for pesto, and of course berries. Peas we'll have a good amount of, but it seems we never have "plenty" of peas. We would have had plenty of peppers but there's nothing like going out to the garden one morning and discovering the deer had a midnight snack that involved your twenty four pepper plants... the very ones that already had fruit set on them. No recovery. Man, that's the kind of discovery that prompts an immediate display of every explicit word you know. Even a few made up ones, too. But then you carry on because that's just the way it goes sometimes.

Over the weekend Emily and I spent a lot of time at the lake and as always when visiting a lake in Vermont, I was struck by the accessibility. Here’s how it works: you park in the free parking lot, gather your towel and even your cooler of beer if you’d like, walk onto the free sandy beach, drop your gear, then run into the cleanest water you could ever hope to swim in, which is also free. It's a miracle. Those of you reading from Connecticut, don’t worry, I’ll be over in just a sec to help pick your jaw up off the floor. I'm sure there are lakes in Vermont that require a special membership to use, but there are plenty - more so than not is my guess - of lakes that are open and available for the public to enjoy. Anyway, it was a great time. Upon returning to our place on both days, the whereabouts of Adam and Scout were not known. Eventually they emerged from the woods, sweaty and covered in black mud, Adam with a saw in one hand and hatchet in the other, Scout looking pleased yet sort of crazed by whatever adventure took place beyond the thick treeline. I inquired about the tools, the mud, even the crazed look, and was given a cryptic reply which only made me wonder more. As intended, I’m sure. I have no idea what takes place in the woods when these two are on their own, and I imagine it’s better that way.

The sky continues to open as we clear and ready the earth for planting next year (at least that’s the plan). It’s not going to be easy, unless easy involves growing food on land that includes more rock and ledge than soil, but in some creative way, we’ll make it happen. At least that’s what Adam keeps reminding me, because apparently that is what I told him and he believes me. What a guy. But he might want to rethink his faith in me because each time I walk the intended area, it seems the rock and ledge have multiplied, and I question every idea I have. To try and feel better, I remind myself of the time I grew tomatoes and cucumbers in an area that received only two hours of direct sunlight per day, so maybe anything is possible. I'm curious to see how this will work out, and am trying to exercise patience along the way. And hey, in the meantime, at least we have plenty of firewood... and rocks. Maybe we'll build a stonewall. Hope springs eternal.

She Navigates Fine by the Moon

The square 1

There is a lyric about a moth in the song this blog is named after; I’ve always felt a kinship with that little critter:


... there’s a moth outside my kitchen door

She’s bonkers for that bare bulb

Flying round in circles

Bashing in her exoskull

And out in the woods she navigates fine by the moon

But get her around a lightbulb and she’s doomed


So you can imagine my disappointment when I confess that I might be cool with bears and being alone in the dark and homemade showers and a variety of other things, but I have little tolerance for flitty moths bouncing around my bedroom at night, always of course by the reading lamp beside my head. This is not a phobia, but an absolute irritation, not unlike the drip of a leaky faucet or even nails on a chalkboard.

Tonight I added something new to my short list of irritating nighttime disturbances: listening to mice in the walls of a tiny camper. Mice in the walls of a house? Not so bad. But a tiny camper? No way.

Fortunately there hasn’t been moths inside the camper yet, it just came to mind as I sit here typing by headlamp, serenaded by a merry band of busy mice in the walls who are incessantly chewing and scurrying at a rate so annoying that I’ve spent the last five minutes thinking of various torture methods that would feel more pleasurable to my nervous system than listening to their non-verbal banter. Phew. Felt good to get all that out in one sentence. Mice in the walls at home don’t bother me, but here, it’s just so freaking close I cannot tell you how much this is under my skin. Wish I could hang out with that bear right about now. 

The square 2

On Grandma June’s 90th birthday (9 1/2 years ago) I asked her what it took to make a life up here. Not financially, but emotionally. Spiritually. How does one create a vibrant life in a place so quiet, with so few “things” to do, at least according to societal standards. I’ll never forget her answer: You have to want for very little, and your expectations will need to shift. If you can do that you'll be fine. Also, surround yourself with animals, friends and family if you can, and take the time to enjoy all of this fresh air. 

What struck me most was her immediate proclamation of wanting for very little. You can’t do this, and that. Second, she knew the importance of surrounding herself with positive things that were within her control: animals, friends, and family. (Rumor has it the soirees on this ridge back in the day were legendary.) I don’t recall her mentioning it,  but her gardens were up there in importance with animals, friends, and family. Prettiest, most productive gardens you ever did see. And finally, what is it all worth if you’re not taking the time to feel your place here, and enjoy the fresh air. 

Now I’m thinking, who am I to be irritated, ungracious, put out by these mice. Seems I just showed up here a few weeks ago and as far as I can tell, this tin can of a dwelling was placed smack in the center of their friendly mouse turf. Funny thing is, they don’t seem to be the ones who mind sharing, in fact they’re quite pleased with the addition of this freshly insulated camper at their disposal. Heck, they’d probably high five me if they could. Maybe I should stop being irritated, and instead just want for very little. Who says my walls have to be quiet?

Anyway. I took a walk today, a two mile loop along dirt roads here on the ridge. Really nice that it brings you right back around with new scenery the whole way. I watched two turkey hens walking their broods across the road in orderly fashion, each set of hatchlings hovering close to their respective mothers. It occurred to me that I’d never seen this before: two mama hens together with their kiddos, going about their day in community,  surrounding themselves with friends. It was a great moment. After that, I came back to camp, took a shower, then headed to the farmers market and picked up supplies for the next few days. I joined Uncle Jeff and Aunt Johanna for dinner at their place and it sure was a treat after the handful of dried apples I’ve been having the last few nights. Which sounds pathetic, I realize, but it’s not. I like dried apples and they don’t create any dishes. But I sure was reminded of how delicious dinner can be once I stepped into Aunt Johanna’s kitchen. And then, I came home and well, you’ve already heard how the rest of the night played out. 

The square 3

The pictures in this post are from my walk earlier today; look who I found hanging out by his favorite logging crew. Sure would be nice if he came up here and told the mice in my walls to beat it. Not that they’d listen. Mice sure do have a lot of attitude for such little creatures. Good thing I’ve evolved and now want for very little (note to self). 

There is an unexpected comfort to these photos, being that I’m here alone, and that comfort is seeing him imprinted in each and every one. “I used to ride my dirt bike all over these mountains. Seems so long ago... We skied down the toll road in the winter. It was always a great run... The school bus picked us up here. It’s far from the house so the man who built these stone walls allowed us to stash our bicycles behind the wall while we were at school. He built all of these by hand, even wrote a book about it. He used to live in a house right there, but it burned down.”

To me, he is everywhere.


I guess my bear friend heard my telepathic call last night and he returned this morning. Careful what you wish for and all that. This bear, as I imagine most bears do, really makes himself known which I appreciate. Heavy on his feet, and of course the unmistakable heavy breathing that sounds as if he’s spent the last two days practicing intensive pranyama. A real master. I got to thinking about how Grandma June, just a parcel of land away, has lived here on her own for decades, without much disturbance from the bears that roam these woods. How did she keep them at a respectable distance? And then I remembered.




Right. She always had a dog or five beside her. So Ozzy and his compatriots aren’t just here for their good looks. What kind of bear would attempt to penetrate this crew? Surround yourself with animals... (and friends... and family.)

And want for very little. 

Wilder Than Imagined


Storms rolled through overnight and by morning, any rain still clinging to the trees quickly dried under the rising sun, if not by the continuous gentle breeze. A check of the weather revealed temps were to only hit low seventies; I knew I had to get on the trail. After doing a few things around here, I threw some basics into the car and headed out. Nearing the end of our driveway ("driveway" being a very generous description), I noticed Uncle Jeff on the road with his tractor. He was clearing some overgrowth between the roadside and old stonewall that runs along his property. I could tell he was careful to work around the blackberries; he sure does love his blackberries. I stopped to say hello and we exchanged pleasantries. The sun was climbing high at this point, and low seventies or not, Uncle Jeff was working hard and this sunny day had made itself known. I asked if he needed help, he said no thanks, that he was just about finished. I wished him well and said that I hoped he could spend the afternoon resting. He smiled and said that was the plan, which for some reason gave us both a moment of laughter, as if resting sounded great in theory, but who knows if it was actually going to happen. I told him I’d be over climbing Pisgah, and he wisely suggested that what I should do is drive to the north end of the lake and go swimming, instead. I nodded and there was another moment of laughter; just like before, it sure sounded like a good idea.

We said our goodbyes and I slowly pulled away, careful not to kick up too much dirt and gravel in Uncle Jeff’s direction, and continued down the road. A few hundred feet up on the left was Ozzy, Grandma June’s dog, lying there enjoying the day. He was not exactly off the road if we’re being real specific, but it’s not like there’s any traffic around here so a snooze in the road is not too great of a risk. Grandma June’s place is behind us, down the road in the direction I had just come, but Ozzy lives beyond her property, wandering throughout these woods and roads and fields each day, visiting with various family members and generally being a bit of a wild guy. Nowadays, Ozzy includes me in his rounds which has made my place here as official as anything. On this particular day, Ozzy has chosen to hang out in front of a newly formed entrance made by loggers who are working in the woods this summer. They seem careful, the work is happening deep in the forest which means things from the road don’t appear much different, save for the piled high cedar at the entrance, and trucks, skidders and loaders coming and going behind where Ozzy has taken up temporary residence. It seems he now includes these guys and this logging operation as part of his tribe. I figured Ozzy wasn’t about to move his comfortable body for my old car so just as I left Uncle Jeff, I drove by the boy slowly, careful not to kick the road toward his contented self. Dogs really do have the life.

I made my way off the ridge, over to Pisgah, and climbed. It’s not a huge hike, couple of miles, but the ascent is mostly at a steep incline and it’s categorized as “moderate/difficult.” On matters of aloneness, I realized that solo hiking sure does not include the camaraderie and encouragement one enjoys when hiking with others. I’ve hiked alone plenty of times, but I don’t recall doing so on a trail as vigorous as this. Adam is a pro at setting a pace that motivates and keeps things moving along, while also knowing when to adjust as the group requires. On my own, the hike felt long and tedious, but the weather was perfect and I was glad for it.


Once back at camp, Ozzy stopped by for an evening visit and though I’d like to think he was here to commiserate with me and my tired body, we both knew he only showed up because passing through suited his evening plans. My legs had not yet fully returned, but I went ahead and rigged up the shower anyway, and never had I been more thankful for two gallons of hot water in my life. Ready for bed by 6pm, I watched two turkeys forage outside my window, finished a book, and snapped a picture of myself because I realized I could not remember the last time I looked in a mirror. As suspected, I am still here and camp hair is wilder than imagined, but I do appear content, even if tired, which matches how I feel. Then I typed out these words, blew out the candle, and drifted off to sleep. 

To Not Feel Lonely


Adam left last night and things quickly quieted down after an incredibly productive weekend. And by productive I mean him moving from one job to the next while I followed behind with cold drinks and steak. Something like that. There is much he’d like to accomplish here and with his time being limited, I can already tell that my role this summer will be divided between helping him with the work, while also encouraging him to slow down and simply relax. During the week I tend to jot down a few things that we could use up here, as they come to mind - a certain tool, rope, a favorite pan - not much, just some things that he’ll bring up when he comes. A few minutes ago I wrote “fly rod” and “canoe” on next weekend’s list. I hope he brings them. 


Some questions have come up over the last few weeks as people learn I’m here in the woods (mostly) by myself. Among them: Do you miss your Vitamix? Are there bears? Are you lonely? The short answers are no, yes, and sort of. Because it’s a quiet night and I have a full charge on my computer, I’ll go ahead and write out the long answers, too. 

Vitamix. What Vitamix? Don’t get me wrong, I’m likely to throw a bunch of greens and fruit into a blender and call it breakfast as much as the next girl, but having the kind of power needed to run such a machine is not an option or priority right now. As it turns out, I don’t miss it at all. When priorities shift, expectations tend to follow suit. Although, this is all made easier I'm sure, with it being strawberry season. What better way to start the day than a bowl of yogurt with the finest tasting strawberries you’ll have all year? I do need to find a raw milk supply so I can resume yogurt making up here (that is one thing CT has over VT; in CT you can buy raw milk from pastured cows at the grocery store).  

While I don't think about the Vitamix much, I do miss regular access to bone broth. At home my usual method is simmering pot to freezer; think I'll pull out the pressure canner so I can have broth up here with greater ease.  Its absence is greatly felt. 


Bears. Yes, there’s bears. Check out the following text exchange from one night last week. I’m here, Adam in Connecticut. One of us grew up in these woods with bears, the other did not. 


We’ve done a ton of hiking and camping through the years all over the northeast and bears are just part of the deal. Especially (in our experience), in the Adirondacks. If you love hiking, and have never hiked in the Adirondacks, get on over there because it is the best hiking around (and you all know I’m smitten with the Green and White Mountains). The Adirondack hiking culture is the strongest we’ve encountered - hostels everywhere, ridiculously well marked trail systems, many sherpa style trails (a luxurious break from the straight up hikes of the Whites), and where else around here can a person bag 46 peaks in such close proximity to one another. The other thing to know about the Adirondacks is that more than anywhere else in the northeast, it feels like there is a bear hanging out behind every next bend in the trail. And the truth is, there might be. I’d say this is purely anecdotal - as I really don’t know if the bear population is higher there compared to other northern sections of this region - but the rangers and various huts promote bear safety more so than any other area we’ve hiked so perhaps there is some real truth to it. Watch out for those bears. And tie up your food. 

Am I afraid of bears, here on this land? Not really. I mean, I would prefer not to surprise one, and I’m very aware that we share the same woods (which I actually like knowing), but I’m not fearful as I go about my day. And as for the fella who made himself known that one night, I sure would have liked to catch a glimpse of him through the dense trees, but truth be told, he has about as much interest in befriending me as I do him. Hopefully though, we’ll make good neighbors with respectable boundaries.


On loneliness. This has occupied more headspace than I could have anticipated, and I’m writing about it from a mindset that is not fully formed, so please know I have no idea the direction this will go. Maybe by the end it will be sorted out, as so often is the case with writing. I should also point out that my curiosity with loneliness does not only have to do with my own experience, but how others experience it, too. It seems like there's a lot of loneliness in this crowded world and I'm trying to better understand what is within a healthy range and what tips the scales into the land of too much

I hadn’t given much thought to loneliness until I was asked, and now I seem to be thinking about it all the time. Hopefully not in an “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” kind of way. That would be awkward for everyone. Loneliness is not something I can recall ever experiencing; I’m fairly independent, not easily bored, and enjoy more solitude than the average person probably does. (For the record, I also enjoy people, and am not a recluse. I just really love quiet.) But here’s the thing - being up here marks the most time I’ve spent apart from Adam and Emily in the history of our family; and before that, since Adam and I have been a couple. And surprise-surprise, it’s a hell of a lot harder than this independent-never bored-solitude loving fool thought that it would be. It’s also really freaking beautiful because how could a dream realized, twenty years in the making, not be? The beauty feels easy and obvious but the way I am missing my people, and feeling lonely (at times) is unexpected. I say unexpected because of course I knew I’d miss them, but the the way in which I miss them individually, is specific, and that surprises me. Without Adam, I do feel lonely; he is my partner and the person who is most interested in hanging out with me and hearing about my day to day minutia, as I am with him. We listen to each other's fleeting thoughts and random ideas with the kind of unbridled enthusiasm that only comes from the one who loves you most. He’s got my back day in and day out, and while I hope he feels the same about me, the reality is he’s the bedrock of this relationship and I’m the untamed flora that keeps sprouting up in unpredictable ways, under less than favorable conditions, and is probably a lot more work than is reasonable. He tells me that’s what he likes about me, but I don’t know, seems kind of exhausting if you ask me. Anyway. He and I, we are in it for life. So the separation feels unnatural and there is something incomplete about our days when absent from one another. The only reason I’m giving this such deep consideration is not simply because I’m away for a few months and how will I (we) manage in that short time, it’s because being here is testing the waters regarding what it would feel like to be here year round with him maintaining his career in CT 3-4 days per week, and coming up here on the remaining days. Which brings me to my next thought: what I feel most strongly, and somehow it ties into the notion of loneliness, is guilt. It bothers me that his work does not have the same geographic freedom as mine, and I’ve attached a level of guilt to this that is illogical, I know, but the source of guilt and logic do not always appear rational. I feel guilty for what I have, as I wish the same freedom for him but know it is not realistic in his field. The guilt adds to the acute awareness of separation which adds to the loneliness. And so it goes. But also, have you ever been to Vermont on a perfect June day? There's nothing like it. The idea of me giving this up would break his heart more than the endurance of our brief separation each week. ("Break his heart" is a little much and not the right term to use there... I'm drawing a blank for something more accurate.)


When it comes to Emily, I don’t feel "lonely" in her absence, but I miss her in a way that can’t be described and is different from how I miss Adam. She is my daughter and I am here for her in a way that does not expect or need reciprocation. Does that make sense? Plus, she is 18 so like it or not we are in the beginning stages of nests emptying and wings flying. But, I probably would have driven back home already if it weren’t for the fact she’s working full time so her days are already occupied. The last thing she needs is me hanging around making meals and doing laundry. Oh wait, that’s probably exactly what she needs. Soon enough, that temporary summer job will wrap up and she’ll be spending more time up here so I’m holding out for that. I’ll also be heading down there to knock a few things off her summer bucket list. Anybody care to meet up at the American Museum of Tort Law or perhaps join us on a trip to Plum Island? What, no? I can’t imagine why not. (Do they even allow people on Plum Island?)

I miss her desperately but not in a way that finds me lonely, and it's also fair practice for what will be our full time reality in a couple of months. I gotta tell you though, so far I'm not a big fan of this reality. 

DSC_1683I guess that went pretty far down the rabbit hole, but as suspected, there seems to be some clarity here on the other side. Maybe it's not the feeling of loneliness that I've been thinking about as much as what it takes to not feel lonely.  And it seems the absence of loneliness includes connection, understanding, warmth, intimacy, humanity. Miles or no miles, seven days a week or four... I'll do whatever it takes to foster not feeling lonely, both for myself and for him. Bears and Vitamixes come and go, but as already mentioned, he and I are in it for the long haul.

(As for the kiddo, she's stuck with us. I mean, it takes some seriously unconditional parental love to entertain an afternoon at the American Tort Law Museum. Sort of kidding, I'm sure Ralph's museum will be great.)

I Don't Seem to Mind


I walked in the door and Scout came running to see me as dogs so dependably do. Kneeling down on the floor, he wiggled his body into mine for scratches and love. He was excited beyond belief, yet you can be sure he kept throwing an eye over my shoulder to see if Adam was walking in behind me, even though they had just parted ways a few hours earlier and it had been over a week since he’d seen me. It’s okay, I know my place. He felt so soft and it occurred to me that I hadn’t touched anything as soft since I last saw him. As he tried squirming his little body closer to mine than was actually possible, I realized he is the softest thing in my life. How could I have not known this before?

Home for no more than ten minutes and I find my way to a hot shower. Up north this feature is in the works but not quite complete yet, so we make do. Six days in the woods and not once did I feel desperate for a turn the faucet and receive unlimited hot water kind of experience. You figure out other ways. And yet, ten minutes in the door and it’s amazing how quickly you think, hey, why not... it’s just so easy. So I find myself in the shower and as hot water pelted across my skin, I couldn’t believe how intense it felt. Had to step aside kind of intensity. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it hurt, but I would definitely say that it almost hurt. I thought of uttering the word ouch!, but that would have been ridiculous and dramatic so I kept silent. Maybe if someone else had been home I would have, but there was no one to commiserate with except for super soft Scout and he doesn't exactly relate to such things. There was a brief moment where I wondered if the shower might be the most physically aggressive thing I put myself through each day. It’s not, of course, but in that moment it seemed possible. 

The kettle is on and our electric stove whirs steadily as the heating element works to maintain the chosen temperature of the dial. The refrigerator seems loud but not as loud as the dehumidifier that is one floor below me. Next to that, the hot water heater kicks on at the most surprising times and it startles me over and over. I’m about to start a load of laundry, my first since being home, and I can already feel the vibration and noise of the machine. Overload. This I have known before. 

The weather was mostly cold and rainy throughout the week. It was cold enough, especially for June, that nearly everyone I spoke to asked how I was faring. Overnights and mornings hovered in the high thirties, but I was fine. It didn’t occur to me that I should expect a certain level of comfort and warmth, so I just went about my day with an extra layer of wool and called it good. But then a friend who I consider to be kind of hardcore regarding this sort of thing inquired about whether or not I had heat, and that’s when I realized that had I been home and our indoor thermometer read 37 degrees I would hardly tolerate it. I’d probably crank the heat and go take one of those super hot aggressive showers. Hey, why not... it's just so easy. But it’s also good to know if those things aren’t available, I don’t seem to mind. And maybe, for a short while if not longer, it’s even kind of nice. 

Birdy :: Then and Now


Adam hitched Birdy up to his truck and drove north for her maiden voyage. With much relief, I am happy to say she arrived safely and everything seems to be intact. Many of you asked if I would share photos of her renovation, and I’m happy to, but I have to be honest and tell you I’m not feeling very enthusiastic about it. It's not that I don’t want to share photos, it's that there isn't really a tale to tell here, other than the painfully detailed saga of renovating a nearly fifty year old camper. Insulation, flooring, rotted wood... it’s kind of a snooze fest. The thought of it takes me back to the time when our former home was featured on a Victorian house tour (our house was actually a Craftsman Bungalow, not Victorian... never was good at following rules). The tours were led by the historical group in our town that orchestrated the annual event, and for some reason, people must have been rotating through lunch breaks or something, Adam was elected to step in and give a tour to a group of older ladies dressed in their Victorian best, fancy hats and all. Now, you have to understand, the idea of these tours was to tell the story of the home, and our home’s story happened to be about the life of a former mill manager, his wife, and her unwed sister. There were period and architectural details to mention, but mostly the tour was about the human story. Adam’s version of our home’s story, um, strayed from the script, shall we say. The highlight of his tour took place in our pantry as he shared every painstaking detail of various renovation projects - like in the very room these ladies were standing, for instance - they might be interested to know that the now beautiful oak floors were once covered with two layers of old, cracked linoleum that he chipped away by hand, and then “soaked the wood floor in boiling hot wet towels in order to turn the cemented glue into mud, then the mud was scraped up and placed into buckets and hauled away, before refinishing the oak floor.” The rest of his house tour went pretty much like that. The Victorian committee ladies frantically swooped in, thanked Adam for helping out, and I believe gave him a sandwich or something then told him to take the rest of the afternoon off. Truth be told, my husband has a long standing theory that if you don’t want to be expected to do something you'd rather not do, than you certainly don’t want to let people think you are good at it. In other words, calculated move. Smart guy. 

Anyway. This post! I won’t bore you with the step by step details, so let’s just do a bunch of before and after photos with maybe a small amount of narrative mixed in. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer (it may take me a few days as I do not have easy access to internet right now). 



  • 1971 Shasta 1400
  • 8x14 ft
  • we call her Birdy


Okay, let's take a peek inside. First, the kitchen area as it appeared upon purchase. 



Birdy trio

The kitchen area is to the right when you walk in the door. The size wasn't bad as far as small campers go, but I didn't care for the small closet that housed a chemical toilet and thought we could make better use of the space. More counters, bigger sink, even an extra window. We did cut into the wall behind the mirror to create a small coat closet. It still needs a door (we're not sure yet what we'd like to use), and the rod needs to be shortened and hung back up. The empty space below the two drawers we've left open. I'm keeping my eye out for the perfectly sized basket to slide in there.  

Removing the chemical toilet closet and redesigning the kitchen was the biggest part of the project. Prior to demolition there was a lot of "are you sure, Heather?" Yes, trust me, I'm sure!  

And now we have this...









Can you believe we have more windows and more usable counter space in this kitchen than we do in our house? It's true. One thing to point out is the window to the right of the sink; we added that. If you look at the before pic of the same area you'll notice this is where a fridge was. We got rid of that, but behind it was a large air vent that we either needed to cover up with wall, or use the already there hole and build a window. Always in favor of more glass and light, we went with a window. Behind the curtain is where we keep our cooler, which we get a block of ice for every few days. Works great. 

I love how Adam trimmed everything out. It was the most tedious element of this whole project for sure, but really finishes out the place nicely. 

Now let's spin around to the living area side of this tiny space, before...



Birdy trio 2



There really wasn't much happening on this side other than a lot of blue carpet. That had to go, as did much of the wallboard as there was some water damage and too thick insulation had been installed at some point so things were popping apart. We pulled all of that out, added the correct insulation, and went with wood beadboard through much of the space, painting the rest. The floors are now cork which so far I'm really loving. I knew I loved cork, but don't think I'd care for it in my "real" living space, so experimenting in a camper was fun. Feels great underfoot and the color warms up the place. It was very easy to install (so says Adam) and is lightweight and flexible, which being a camper seemed like an important consideration. Plus, it hides dirt which we have no shortage of. 

The living area today...







Our hope was to make the camper more usable for how we live, without erasing it's originality. Although aside from the kitchen, it was a blank canvas so not too much original detail to maintain, overall. 


 A few things worth mentioning:

  • We have no power on our property. Those LED twinkly lights are battery operated which we recharge once or twice a week in the most underutilized power source we all possess... the car. I need to venture out a couple times a week to find internet for work, so I take the batteries (and computer and phone) with me to be charged in the car. Other than that we have a couple of oil lamps for light but mostly just go to bed once it's dark. 
  • We have a yet to be installed hand pump for our sink and a rain catchment system outside the window. The two just need to come together. 
  • Love that shelf Adam installed over the back windows. Where else would I put my baskets and books?
  • I imagine we'll put cushions on the dinette benches at some point, just not sure what I want yet. Although leaving them as is, they are easier to keep clean. 
  • Adam built the furniture and designed it to fit basket storage underneath. The couch was built to fit a standard cot mattress. The space between the couch and table was left big enough to fit a folding cot. Sleeping for two.
  • When all three of us are here, the kiddo sleeps in the camper and the parents take the tent. We probably have that setup wrong, but hey, our hope is she'll actually want to hang out with us. 


That's about it. This was a really fun project and I'm glad she made it safely to Vermont. She sure does seem right at home. There are many more details of course, but I'll go ahead and sign off before you fall asleep on me. Please ask if you have specific questions and I'll do my best to answer. Thanks for visiting!

More Perfect


I’m not sure the night could have been more perfect. Picnics spread across the land and children running free. So many children. A great opening act. I do love a great opening act. While waiting for Brandi to come on, I received a message that a woman our family knew had passed away. We knew she was sick and that she had been in hospice for a few weeks, but there is still that moment of disbelief when you hear the news. I really adored her. I tend to adore people who possess their own kind of brilliance so pure and other worldly that more often than not, they find themselves deeply misunderstood and at times, criticized. I worked closely with Grace for a couple of years and in that time, by watching and learning from her, came to appreciate children between the ages of 3-6 as the coolest, most perfect beings of our species. They are old enough to take on meaningful tasks in life, and (selfishly, for me) are also capable of having the most interesting conversations; yet 3-6 is still young enough where life is infused with a sense of wonder and curiosity that has yet to diminish, as can too often happen when we grow older. The irony of Grace teaching me by example to appreciate the beautiful and unlimited nuances of this age group, is that any criticism toward her involved some people feeling she did not “get” the needs of children, or give them enough. That she did not encourage their “full academic potential.” But what those people did not understand is that Grace humbly knew her true work was to encourage each child’s full human potential. Because at this young age, we need human potential a heck of a lot more than we need workbook pages or reading readiness upon entry to first grade. This is a hard thing for parents to put their faith in. It goes against the high-pressure mindset of our Race to the Top culture and is not an easy place to parent from. Of course, Grace’s soft-spoken teachings did not go against the Montessori principles we adhered to; in fact, she was right in step. 

Grace amazed me with her ability to show up day after day for the children she believed in, while facing what I felt was more than her fair share of adversity from adults. It is worth noting that even in the face of negativity, not once did I hear Grace counter with her own gossip or speak poorly of another person; that is not who she was. Yes, there were times she needed to offer up a few words in defense of her being, or if something was not in the best interest of a child, but those words were always carefully chosen and kept to a minimum. There is a lot to learn from someone like Grace. 

She was an intensely private person and I remember this one time, during a staff development day, she had been tasked with sharing an element of her life with fellow coworkers so that we could glean insight into her non-work persona (such is the nature of staff development days, we all had our turn). I remember leading up to the meeting I felt worried for Grace, knowing that no matter what she shared, it was going to be from a place of incredible vulnerability. If she was nervous, she did not let on, for that too would have been personal and revealing. When the day came, we were all gathered in the main meeting room and it was nearly time for Grace's share. For the most part, during each of the prior staff days in which one of us shared, it usually took place within the main meeting room - a family genealogy scrapbook, travel photos, musical instruments, etc. But Grace excused herself to set things up in her classroom, which sat empty as school was not in session that day. She disappeared for about 10 minutes or so, then came back to the group and said very few words, just something about loving to take photos, and even more so, loving to blow those photos up "really big," and that we were invited to take a look if we'd like. We all wandered into her classroom and what appeared before us, hung at every imaginable level, from every imaginable surface throughout the classroom, was Grace's world. She quietly stood aside, hands gently crossed in front of her body, with a look on her face that could only be described as trust. The rest of us moved slowly around the room and took in everything that Grace held dear: her horse, her gardens, her partner Cecille, and so much more. These photos were posters, really. Huge. The light she captured was warm and soft... romantic. Their size allowed you to step inside. Every image was brilliant, pure, and other worldly, just like their maker.  I remember feeling really happy for Grace in that moment. 

It goes against the norm to discuss the harder aspects of a person’s life upon their passing, but anyone who knew Grace knew this was her reality. Then and now, the challenges she faced angered me and felt unfair. Grace was a gifted educator whose unique talent did not always fit into the workings of this world, but those of us who “got her” really got her, and are better people for it. Was Grace perfect? No. Did she have quirks? Sure. (If you’ve got ten hours I can list a few thousand of my own.) Grace lived a life that was perfectly human, and her greatest work while earthside was to guide young children in doing the same. 


After reading the message of Grace's passing, I put my phone down and glanced up to see this young babe before me. Look at him sitting so independently beside his mother, bathed in soft, glowing light that I can't help but notice is reminescent of Grace's photographs. I watched as he soaked in the warmth of perhaps his first summer evening, his bald little head protected from the setting sun by a handsome straw hat. I marveled at his humanness, his wonder, his curiosity. And I knew if Grace had been there, she would have too. Now that I think about it, I guess that would have made the night more perfect.

Yeah, Grace being there would have been pretty sweet.