To get grounded, to get free.
The above pictures (taken from the web) are of Curry Village in Yosemite National Park, where I lived and worked nearly twenty years ago. Myself, along with most employees in the park, lived in these clustered tent cabins. We worked and played, hiked and swam, made art and music, read books, and cooked in our free time, which we had a lot of. The tent cabin, no larger than 10 x 10 feet, was mostly a place to rest, to store my belongings. The rest of my days were spent out of doors, not in the recreational sense, as we tend to think when we think of a national park, but in the sense of literally living outside of my home.
It was an idyllic setting, living at the base of a peaceful valley amongst the backdrop of sublime glacial walls. The simplicity of my home, my lack of possessions, the abundance of friends at my doorstep, the secret swimming holes, the night sky as my theater - I can’t recall a time in my life that I felt more free. Granted, I had far less responsibility than I do now, but perhaps that is the essence of what tiny living is about.
Since then I have lived in a few other small dwellings. For most of my twenties I insisted that all of my possessions should fit in the back of a van. I needed a physical limit to what I considered to be enough. I spent three years in a 200 square foot studio basement apartment in San Francisco. And another eight months in a 1950s mobile trailer on the turquoise shores of Abel Tasman, New Zealand. These sort of conditions seem to suit me. They provide a nest, a place of solitude for my introverted nature, yet they are too small to spend significant amounts of time in. They encourage stepping outside more often, staying in tune with one’s surroundings, whether that be a forest or city block, a neighbor or a bird.
Small quarters limit our ability to acquire. It creates a framework for making concessions and compromises. It helps us evaluate what is essential and worthy of our time, our money, our attention. It is truly remarkable how little I actually need to be content. I’ve been testing the boundaries of this, and have found for myself, the more that I own and the more that I want, the more burdened I feel. The conscious choice to live with less, for myself, is akin to freedom. There are plenty of inspirational quotes that say that far more eloquently. You’ve probably heard them.
That said, we’re all in need of shelter, and have different perspectives on what is enough depending on an infinite number of factors. I’ve been rambling for most of my life and at some point felt that I needed a HOME. A physical place to ground me, a place to return to. Though personally, I don’t care to get weighed down by mortgage payments, home maintenance and decoration. Maybe I’m just lazy. Who knows. Who cares. What matters is that I’ve had a taste of what it means to live with less responsibility, and it’s more joyful. I’m referring to a personal kind of responsibility - the kind that has everything to do with me, my comfort level, my preferences, my status. It is an entirely self-imposed responsibility based on distinct life choices.
I can live in a very small home, with fewer possessions, and still be a highly responsible adult. In fact, I’d argue that it makes me more responsible to my community and society as a whole.
I know myself.
Sears Silvertone 1482
Another weekend, another destination. This week: Hangzhou. Arriving into Hanzhou, bucketing with rain, prospects for a memorable weekend were not looking optimistic. However, it was on this misty, drizzly weekend that I had one of my most memorable moments so far. We went to check out the tea fields at Longjing, the famous Chinese green tea. Pouring with rain, it was not a popular tourist desitination on this particular day, therefore, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Meandering around the cute tea town, we started conversation with some old Chinese ladies on their way up to the tea fields for another day at work. Amazingly, they agreed to take us up to where they work, an area usually not open to tourists. We ascended up the slippery steps and reached the peak, where only straw hats dotted the luscious green carpet of tea bushes. These incredibly kind and gentle ladies showed us how to pick tea, giving us an insight into their daily lives. The bottom photo shows the lady erupting into giggles as we try to explain the concept of ‘selfies’. She seems entertained by the result