Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An ode to the Sea

One of the obvious benefits of living in Homer is proximity to the ocean and to miles and miles of coastline that is easily accessible. We spend hours each week at the beach, walking or collecting special rocks or just sitting and staring at the waves. I go with the kids during the week, and we go as a family on the weekends or sometimes weeknights too. Occasionally the kids stay with Grandma and it's just Steve and I, and sometimes I go by myself, soaking in the solitude with only a cup of tea for company. 

Nothing represents the raw beauty and emotion, the highs and lows of life better than the sea, and I think that's what draws me. I feel so small and my problems so insignificant - it is truly a place of refuge. My soul is always nourished by visiting the ocean, there is magic in the pulse of the waves that even the most pragmatic can't deny.

Seeing the pull of the water speak to Riggs and Raina is a special gift in itself, and I could spend countless hours watching them immerse themselves in the sand and the surf. They spend an hour exploring a single, tiny tide pool, their eyes alight with wonderment at every detail, noticing things I'd never have seen had I not taken the time to get down on their level and patiently observe. There is something sacred about the water, and we are grateful for how it makes our lives better.

The heart of man is
very much like the sea,
it has its storms, it
has its tides
and in its depths it
has its pearls too.
- Vincent van Gogh

Thursday, August 18, 2016

life right now

Living in an airstream isn't conventional by any means. There are so many aspects that require extra planning and extra time, like making sure our personal items are put away in their little 'homes' every time we use them (toys included), putting away the kids' beds for the day - and then getting them back out again, heating water to wash the dishes after every meal and then drying them and putting them away (we only have one set of dishes for each of us), making sure we have everything we need in the shower bag on shower day, making sure to dry out rubber boots every night after a full day of play in preparation for another, the list goes on. But going through these simple routines creates a rhythm to our days that is satisfying in it's own right and that requires us to live more intentionally. We spend even more time outside than we used to, and more time together as well. There's not really space to get away from things, and so differences and even underlying tension is dealt with right away rather than put off and allowed to fester.

Life is good, we are all thriving and have this feeling of finally having solved our personal 'mystery of home' - "a set of feelings focused on the desire for and the experience of being in the right town or area, being connected with the place in which we live, and being enchanted by the sensation of home the place provides" (Thomas Moore).

Laundromat life - fun and exciting for at least two members of the family. Despite the inconvenience of having to drag our laundry down to the laundromat, I like having it all done in an hour and folded on the big folding counter, ready to take home for the next round of wear.

Showers with an audience - the kids are bathed at home in a little plastic tub and only shower with us at the Washboard (our local laundromat) about once a week, so usually they just play on the floor while we're there. 

Kids sleeping arrangements: Riggs on the couch and Raina on one side of the dinette. We leave the table set up and just take the back cushion off. She usually nurses at 5:30a and spends the rest of the morning sleeping with us. Riggs usually wakes up around 7:30 or 8, depending on how late he went to sleep. Steve wakes up around 6a, and both kids usually sleep through his morning routine of making coffee, reading, walking the dog, and packing his lunch. 

Dishes ready to be washed after dinner. I've been putting them in the dishpan instead of the sink lately until I have a moment to wash them. I usually wash dishes twice a day during the week and then three times on the weekends when we're all home. We only have one fork and spoon for each of us, same with plates and bowls, so they have to be done in order to eat the next meal. We aren't using the water system in the camper right now, so we fill water jugs at Safeway (they have free potable water) and then heat it as needed.

We built this outhouse when we bought the property in 2006, boarded it up when we left Homer later that year. We've been using it since we've been back at our property and aren't using the toilet in the Airstream at all so we don't have to drive it down to town and empty the tanks. Making a door is one of the next things on our list - it will be a 'dutch' door with an old salvaged window incorporated into the upper part of the door (the same type of window we used for a door in the chicken coop at our Palmer house).

We spend most of the time outside, and use what would typically be 'inside toys' outside whenever we have the chance. The kids have a little reel now that Steve brought home from work that they play at, but a sheet of plywood was great for a while to set up train tracks on and use for coloring as well. My nieces have come over a few times to play, plus Grandma too.

Most of the time our 'yard' looks like a construction zone, with tarps and lumber and tools and buckets and totes everywhere you look. But it's productive chaos, and it makes me happy to see a little progress being made everyday. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Settling In

Last week it stopped raining for about two days and we rushed around to finish some projects before it started up again. It's a good thing too since it started up again right away and hasn't really stopped since, besides a quick break yesterday. As is typical in Alaska, August is proving to be wet and moody and we're actually able to slow down somewhat and enjoy it now that our shed has a door, we have a deck to stomp the mud off on and the dog has a little home to stay dry and warm in.

We worked outside until about 11p both dry nights last week, and it was tiring and deeply fulfilling at the same time. It feels so good to be working on projects that help us feel more settled on our property. Steve and I both feel a certain satisfaction in taking the time to make things ourselves, even when it takes longer or is sometimes actually more expensive. Making things ourselves lends a deeper sense of connection to the home we're trying to create, if that makes sense. Thomas Moore describes this feeling well - "The warmth of the hand in things gives something to the heart and helps chase away the chill that so much of modern life instills with its machine-like efficiency, sharp corners, and smooth surfaces." We are trying to incorporate as much 'warmth of hand' as we can into this little piece of earth that we call home, and making memories to hold with us for a lifetime in the process.

Shed mostly finished - on poles Steve brought home from work and a floor salvaged from another small building. It took about a week to get a door on from when this photo was taken. It's so nice to have a 'home' for some of the things we use regularly but don't have room for in the Airstream, plus some keepsakes and seasonal items as well as the tools we'll need as we work on more significant building projects. 

Every little project is magical and fascinating for the kids, and they love to help. In the top of this picture you can see our bed platform (that Steve made when we lived in Palmer) roped up and stored in the otherwise unused ceiling space - our mattress is wrapped in plastic and is stored on top of it. 

Deck with bench and hooks finished and already getting lots of use. We keep our shoes in a tote just outside the door and its nice to have a place to sit-down on put them on or take them off. It also cuts down on how much dirt and mud makes it into the camper.

Riggs has been a huge help and stayed up late one night to help Steve limb some trees to make a spot for Tutka's new dog house. He is such a hard worker already and loves to help dad however he can. 

Simple but efficient. The roof hinges open to clean out and refill with fresh straw. Steve is adding a 'shelf' with holes to fit the food and water bowls so that they're at a more comfortable height for Tutka and left a bit of an overhang on the roof to shelter them. 

Shed door built and installed the last dry night at 10:30p - I just painted the door and half of one side of the shed yesterday with plans to finish today, but it's pouring so it will have to wait. I'll update a picture when it's done.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Favorites

Now that we've sold our home in Palmer we can begin to focus completely on building a place here, including finalizing our plans and thinking about the details we want to include to maximize every bit of the space. I think I'm going to try and use a 'Friday Favorites' post format to share what I've been brainstorming and obsessing over each week, are you ready?

Mud kitchen: top of my short list of things to do. I love this one with the little roof.
wood stove: one thing I'm looking most forward to when we build our place.
I prefer more simplistic modern designs like this, and a window is a must.
built-in bunks: we are planning on designing the kids room to incorporate built-in bunks and lights,
as well as a built in drawers for their clothes. I love the simplicity of this design, but we want a double
bed on the bottom bunk.
flooring: this is just something that caught my eye as I was scrolling through pinterest. I
love the contrast between the texture and color of each type of flooring.

I read an article this week that I liked, you can read it too, here. Her first two points: "My kids don't always want to play outside" and "I don't like doing crafts" - I could have written these. The rest isn't really very relevant for me and my kids, but I love that she shared this other side of her parenting experience.

I learned about the concept of "hygge" and how it helps families thrive in Denmark. And I want to see this new documentary comparing Scandinavia's nature-based education system with America's struggling education system.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Reflections on our Summer so Far

poles ready to be loaded in Palmer
One of the reasons I finally feel motivated to start blogging again is to document the journey we are on right now. We're at a turning point of sorts, since our house in Palmer has officially sold and we are done with the stressful process of moving. But I feel like if I don't take the time sit down and reflect on our summer so far, certain aspects of our struggle will fade into oblivion, and I want to remember how hard we have been working for our goals.

These last three months have been rough. From the day Steve got the work call to Homer Electric Association, it's felt like mayhem. Listing our house, living in two places, then living with family here basically out of our duffel bags and driving back to Palmer five out of the last six weekends to pack and drive loads of poles down to Homer - it's been nonstop.

SO many trips back and forth - four loads of poles and one load of household
items plus a few other random trips; the kids have were troopers on every single 270 mile (one way) trip.
There have been so many moments that both Steve and I have seriously doubted the process or journey we chose on the path to reaching our goals. We could have rented a place here in Homer, but then we would have spent at least $1k a month in addition to our mortgage (at least until our house sold). And since we couldn't find anything other than year-long leases, we would have ended up spending at least $12k toward a temporary place to live - money we could have been investing in our own building project. And we didn't need a year lease anyway, since we plan on building this fall and being in our own place early in the new year.

Both of Steve's parents were happy to let us stay with them and so we chose to take them up on their offers. Steve had already been staying at his moms and so when the kids and I 'moved' down to Homer, we stayed there along with him, the four of us all sleeping cozily in one small room. It actually went more smoothly than we expected, but it started to feel overwhelming to not have space or time to ourselves, especially for Steve, since when he was home his mom and her husband Rick were home from work as well. We loved the extra time we got to spend with both of them, and were so grateful to them for opening their home. After about two weeks we decided to 'move out' to the Old Sterling, where Steve's dad and his wife, Dorle, lived during the winter months. They spent the summer across the bay in Little Tutka, so were were ably to have the space to ourselves. 

Dorle was actually on the Homer side every Tuesday, and she spent the night at the house before heading to work and then back across the bay on Wednesday. It was fun to get to see her and have dinner with her on the nights she was there. Their beautiful home would have been like a little retreat if it weren't for the kids, who despite behaving very well still are only four and two and only capable of being so careful with fragile and breakable things. We were still basically living out of our duffels as well, since all of our stuff was still boxed up and split between Homer and Palmer and to be honest it got old trying to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen with unfamiliar tools and sleep every night with all of us in the the same room, Raina in the pack-n-play and Riggs on a camping pad on the floor (also: a multitude of beautiful windows with no curtains or blinds in the middle of summer in Alaska). We felt sort of trapped and like we were just treading water, unable to settle in and feel at home in Homer. It was a hard time for Steve and I - we felt stretched thin. 

Earlier this year, before we had even fully decided to move to Homer, we talked about buying an Airstream and going on a big road trip down states where Steve could "tramp" (take high-hour, short-term work calls at different IBEW locals) around depending on where we wanted to travel and where work was available. The biggest problem with that plan was that finding a used Airstream in Alaska with a floor plan that would work for us was somewhat akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Realistically, we probably would have had to fly down states to find and buy one, then ship or drive it back up; to Alaska and that just felt like too much to us. That idea was moved to the back of our minds, and we decided to sell our home in Palmer and move back to Homer.

So while in the midst of being basically homeless, finding a well-layed out, barely used 2005 28' Safari on Craigslist in nearby Soldotna seemed almost too good to be true. We went up there first thing in the morning to look at it, and agreed to buy it that afternoon. Steve had already put a driveway in on our property earlier in the summer and within a week of buying the Airstream we were able to to park it at our property and move in.

Getting it set up was a slow process because our house was in contract and we were driving back to Palmer every weekend to pack, clean and finish repairs required after the home inspection, which thankfully were very minor. Steve developed a bad cold in the middle of it all and things were still pretty miserable and stressful for a while, but having our own space and being on our own property after all these years added an element of comfort and fulfillment that made the difficult things more bearable. 

Finally, on the second day of August the sale of our Palmer house was officially final and that chapter of our lives was closed. Since then we have been working on projects around the property to make every bit of our 250-square-foot Airstream as functional and comfortable as possible. It has definitely been a bit tricky logistically downsizing from a 1300 square foot house and two car garage to a camper and a shed, but we are figuring it out. I have a feeling we'll be purging even more stuff than we already have as time goes on as we go through boxes in an effort to organize things better, and honestly it feels very freeing the more material items we are able to let go of.

I feel so much more at home in Homer already then I expected to this early on. I love it here: the land itself, the people, and the way of life or values that many in the community share just feels so right for us as a family. The kids seem to be doing well with all the change - they go to 'school' at a Waldorf-inspired, Lifeways certified outdoor preschool a couple of days a week and love every minute of it. This has been the longest post ever, so if you are still reading, thank you for hanging in there. It gives me a sense of closure having recorded this here and feel ready to move on completely to the next chapter in our lives. We are so ready to get fully settled in here and to get some serious work done around our property!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Advice from an Estuary and a return to blogging

Advice from an Estuary
Look ordinary
Don't ask for much 
Travel to your edge, then go further
Empty out
Let the moon refill you
Embrace opposites easily
Host travelers without borders, feed them
Listen to the distance in their songs
Nurture the invisible, harbor the young
Send those you've raised out into the world
Digest insults. Reframe and cleanse them
Adopt silence while others speaks all around you
Measure change calmly
Mirror the sky
At times,
Be still.
- Wendy Erd

This poem is resonating with me lately, rattling around in my brain and my heart, the message present in the background of everything I do. I'm returning to blogging, mostly to document the process of living in an Airstream while building our own small home but also as a space to share the things that I find meaningful and beautiful in my life and the world around me. 

I'm at Homer Public Library using the internet to post this, and the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra's string quartet is performing Vivaldi's Four Seasons in a children's concert - just another reminder of why I love this community. The room is packed and the music is beautiful and I'm so glad to be here in this moment. 

I'm looking forward to be able to share a tiny piece of Homer with you through the experiences I have living here and hope you feel comfortable enough in this space to interact freely through commenting here and on photos I share in my instagram feedThank you for stopping in. ♥