Speed and Light

Just recently – I’ve hunted around to find where I read it, but I’ve lost it now – I came across someone writing on a topic about which I feel very deeply; the need to create situations that will safeguard one’s aspirations. 

For some years now I have longed to live in a small hut with a fireplace, a standpipe for water, in the privacy of a glade in a wooded place – with hens in an orchard.  Partly I wanted this for the thing itself, and partly because it would take away the spiritual workout of being daily presented with the decisions to do things the easy way or the way of my aspirations.

Most of the time I give in and do things the easy way.  So, for example, I’ll have a few days of cooking over the fire, then a lot more days of saying “Oh, blow it!” and boiling the electric kettle.  I’ll have a few days of composting, then go back to the usual water closet because I can’t be bothered.

The fridge, the toaster, the washing machine – I use all these because they’re there and easy and that’s how my life’s set up; and it feels complicated and silly to behave as if those facilities aren’t there when they are.  But if I lived somewhere which didn’t have these conveniences, then life without them would be natural – not easy, but clear.  It would be made simpler by removing choice.

The hut in the woods scenario is in my aspirations but not my plans, if you see what I mean – I love living with my family, we are in the right house that God led us to, we are walking in the way that has opened to us, all is as it should be.  But I am slowly working on aligning my life with my hut-like aspirations while still living in a regular house in the town. 

In two respects I have been able to achieve the hut-in-the-woods and dispense with difficult choice.  One was last September I gave away my car.  I thought I would have to keep it to make life easier for my beautiful mama; but driving suddenly got too hard for me.  So I stopped. 
Not having a car has (of course) taken away the continual weighing of how much to use it, when to walk and when to drive, what limits to set on distances and possibilities.  Go to the farmers’ market in a little village twenty minutes’ drive away or the small local shop?  Drive down to the station to pick up someone tired after their journey home or let them walk?  Drive out to the woods for a walk, or be contented with the park?  The cost and challenges of travelling by public transport solve most of those dilemmas at a stroke.  
Life is slowed down because everything takes so much longer.  Take, for example, conducting funerals (one of the vocational things I do).  In a car, I set out twenty minutes before the service, take a half-hour service, and take ten minutes to drive home: one hour.   Without a car, I travel to the crematorium and back with the hearse.  I must be ready at the funeral parlour half an hour before the service is due to start, to travel with the team.  I must leave half an hour to walk from home to the funeral parlour.  At the end of the service, the funeral directors cannot leave until all the mourners have set off – which is often about fifteen or twenty minutes after they have all filed out (which also takes several minutes).  So I can expect the time a funeral takes to escalate from one hour to two or two-and-a-half.  
I’d like occasionally to worship with friends at a little village chapel twenty minutes’ drive away.  But to do that on public transport on a Sunday would mean setting out at nine o’clock and getting home about two or three o’clock in the afternoon (depending which bus I caught).  
Travel by foot and bus/train alters time scales dramatically, and significantly reduces what can realistically be attempted in a day.  It also reduces the amount of groceries it’s possible to carry home from the stores, which means more frequent trips – the whole rhythm and profile of daily life alters as soon as the car goes.  I really welcome this, because it makes me live like I want to live but would never choose to live all the while I have a car.  I love the slowness, the smallness, the enforced lowliness.

The second thing I did is about light.

The Badger and I lived in the Garret of this house – the large, airy, two-room attic at the top.  Now, the Badger is firmly wedded to electricity and does not share my hankerings for off-grid living one bit.  He also lives away mid-week and is home at weekends.  In a few years when he retires from his present work, he will bring home his possessions from his mid-week roost.  For these reasons and one or two others, I made a change.  Now the Garret is the Badger’s room – and when he is home, I share his bed at night, under the sky windows that look out on the moon and stars.  But in the week when he is away, and in the daytime when he’s home, I have my own room now.  I love it.  It’s small, built over the entrance-way of our home, a little room 7ft by 9ft.  It feels plain and frugal and quiet, very humble and peaceful.  The Badger took out the electric light for me.  This has served to protect my aspirations, because I cannot say “Oh blow it!” and switch on the light for the sake of making things easy.  I have a small LED camping light tucked away in case of emergency, and a clip-on booklight for if I can’t sleep; but I find I don’t need them – mind you, it’s summer; it might be different when the days are short.  I am used to the candle-light now.  It feels peaceful and calm.  I find I look forward to resting and thinking and letting the day end when I go to bed – because my eyesight is not good enough to read by candlelight; I have to wait for the day.  It reduces the hours in which I can write (or read) and increases the hours of thinking and praying.

I do have an electric socket.  There are two, but I blocked one up.  Just one left, for my laptop, and for charging my cellphone.

Incidentally, I love having a room of my own.  I have this odd thing that unless I can see all the things that belong to me grouped together, I don’t know who I am.  When my things are mixed up with another person’s things I fragment.  In my little room, I can look at the things that are mine, and I know myself.  Next time I post, I’ll show you my room and the things in it.  And then maybe you also will know who I am.

P.S.  I just measured my room.  It's actually 9' x 6'8"


365 366 Day 227 – Tuesday August 14th  

A radiant fire.  This went to my beautiful mama when her heater packed up in the cold weather early in the year.  We had it 'in case' before that, but as we have a woodstove, an open fire, hot water bottles, thick woollies, socks hats and mittens, and the option of turning on the central heating for an hour or two if it's really cold, we seemed to have all eventualities covered.

365 366 Day 226 – Monday August 13th  

A mini-oven.  We got this when we had no kitchen for a couple of months.  Then we had a kitchen again.  This all took place within this 366 year.  So first this was acquired on a one-thing-in-two-things-out basis, then it itself was dispensed with, having become superfluous.  

365 366 Day 225 – Sunday August 12th  

Yet another table lamp.  We do seem to have had a lot of these!

365 366 Day 224 – Saturday August 11th  

A useful box thing that came out of an old piece of furniture.  I can't remember what we did with this at all.