Saturday, June 25, 2016

Gratitudinal Calisthenics: Showering In The Alley

2016 now...a long time since a last posting...and lots to report.  We did indeed launch into a major re-do of our living space during the summer of 2011 and have now nearly emerged nearly intact.  Our old house is scarcely recognizable in the one and we are just beginning to feel the reality of having an actual house again.

Through these almost five years of unmaking and then remaking our space, we pretty much stripped things down to the barest of creature comforts.  Getting these back, slowly, and one at a time has actually been a fantastic experience.  There is no finer way, in my opinion, to enjoy what you have than to do without it for a while.  Looking back I woul/dn't trade any of our inconveniences for anything.  I learned too much and smile too much now thinking about them.

As we started the deconstruction, we moved into my office above my shop building, a 300 square foot space.  It had provisions for a bathroom, but only a toilet and sink when we started and no hot water.  As a result, from July 2011 until about November 2011 we performed out ablutions in the alley behind the shop (with a privacy screen...some of the time) using cold hose water.  There was a lot of squealing and particularly as Fall set in we learned how to get things done very quickly.  Pre-suds the hands, rub everywhere, grit your teeth, give the signal for your bathing buddy (this stuff is much more fun with a friend) and then brace for the chilly water.  You hop around like an idiot, flapping, doing what you can to get a fast scrub and rinse, more likely than not yelling instructions and just yelling about how cold it is.  And then it's done:  your turn to get revenge on the sot who just had a little fun hosing you down.

"Time for a Shalley Hour?" was the usual invitation to have a scrub.  It never took near an hour though.  We had a great time.  Cold bathing really makes you feel clean too in some weird way...and happy.  I learned later that this is actually a thing.  Cold water cures the blues.

By November 2011 we reckoned ourselves happy enough and managed to get shower upstairs in my office done and plumbed with hot water from our new on-demand heater.  This development can only be described as miraculous.  We instantly became the most appreciative of bathers.   For months we thought to ourselves, "Wow.  We have arrived.  What else does a person really need?"  I will never take hot water for granted again.

It took a lot longer for something resembling a kitchen to materialize in our new house.  So, in similar fashion we rigged up a cold water only camp kitchen out on the front porch of the shop.  We would I suppose heat water for the dish wash, but the rinse was cold and made the food out there rain or shine for 2 1/2 years on a two burner camp stove.  We still ate well...probably better than most people in fact...supplied from our garden all year long.  We had a fridge on the porch for perishables and a black plastic storage box for the rest.  On occasion we'd borrow a neighbors oven to bake a pie.  As with the alley showers, we mostly loved it.

In 2014 we opened the new indoor kitchen at least in partial fashion with our stove installed, the refrigerator, a microwave, and makeshift counters plus an actual sink...and hot water.  Unreal.  I think I baked four pies and some bread the first week just because I could...and because the house still had no heat and so running the oven felt good.  Once again we became permanently acquainted with a new corner of the pedestrian miraculous.  We'll never lose that.

The third major re-entrance into Valhalla involved our wood stove.  We still heat mostly with wood (supplemented by zone electric heaters), by keeping active, wearing wool, and cooking to warm the house.  The first fire we made after re-installing the wood stove--a plain and lovely Morso Squirrel--occasioned hours of transfixed bliss with the two of us parked in chairs scorchingly close to the fire door, rubbing hands together and once again saying to each other, " just doesn't get any better than this."

We meant that every time, sincerely, in a very present sort of way for hot water, a kitchen, stove, etc....many more times along the way.  It wasn't a comment about how other people live or what they like or about what's better in some objective sense.  It was just a distilled down appreciation made available to us by making do without for a while.  It reminded me of weekly fasting I did in school on year or the solid glee I have felt upon finding a warm rock in the morning sun after spending a cold night in the desert.