Paint Schoodic

Join Carol L. Douglas at beautiful Acadia National Park, August 6-11, 2017. More details here!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Things they don’t teach you in art school

This is as far as the Eco-Warrior can go. From here, it's on foot with a flashlight.
I learned a new word this week: dépaysement, which is that sense of disorientation one has on arriving in a strange place. It’s the perfect description of my initial shock at living in this cabin. As I’ve developed routines and some sense of familiarity, it’s gotten easier.

My bathtub, which I shared with a chorus of indignant bullfrogs.
I just finished my last night alone here. (I’m returning for one night at the end of my workshop, but I will have Sandy with me.) In the end, the things that I expected to bother me didn’t, and some things I never thought of at all proved very irritating. For example, I hate washing dishes without copious hot running water, but yesterday I succeeded at taking a sponge bath with a quart of cold water. 

This is a stovetop oven; it's a neat little device that replaces the toaster oven or microwave in the on-the-grid kitchen. Working in the dark is a fact of off-the grid living. 
Being alone doesn’t bother me but walking alone up a dark path at night makes me very jumpy. I read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood at an impressionable age and can never quite shake my fear of two-legged predators in the silent countryside. Last week, my sleep was interrupted by a serenading coyote who was close enough that I could hear the thrum of his vocal cords. I decided to discourage him by sprinkling human urine in a large circle around my cabin. He hasn’t been back.
There are, of course, many consolations, including the incredible beauty of the landscape.
I would not describe myself as a girly-girl, but three weeks without the luxuries of 21st century grooming have left me feeling pretty disreputable. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to neatly shave one’s legs without running water. And walking in sandals on dirt paths grinds one’s pedicure away in no time.

Beans and eggs to the right, boiling drinking water to the left. It's a propane stove hooked up to a standard gas grill tank. Without it, life would have been unbearable.
The fifteen bucks I spent on my portable toilet seat turned out to be my best investment. It is neater than using an outhouse, as long as one is diligent at burying waste, and the mosquitoes aren’t too bad if you go out to do that at first light.

My biggest difficulty has been in drinking enough water. I either need to boil it or carry it in, and I never seem to have enough time for the former or enough memory for the latter.

The off-the-grid coffee grinder. Really.
The darkness here is a force that presses against one’s consciousness, particularly in the deep woods. I love the beauty of the night sky, and the darkness feels friendly to me, but for many people, that much darkness is a problem. In winter in Maine, the sun sets in mid-afternoon. Then darkness will be an ever-present friend. In fact, for all the reasons that camping is more difficult in winter, living off the grid will be more difficult then, too.

The off-the-grid shoe-drying rack.
I have long been fascinated with the Tiny House movement, perhaps because I feel I’m saddled with too much house and too much stuff for this phase in our life. I find myself constantly bumping up against the lack of workspace in this 12X16 cabin. Put two people in here and it would be impossibly claustrophobic. Perhaps the people who thrive in Tiny Houses have no avocations except living in Tiny Houses, for my studio and my husband’s guitars alone would fill one up.

I think I could live like this if I had to, but having no sense of moral imperative to do so, I’ll be very happy to return to the interconnectedness of on-the-grid living.


Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME starts today! Message me if you want information about next year’s programs. Information is available 
here.

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