Huh. It turns out it can be done.

Yeah, still talking about the weather. It’s actually a pleasant night for January in the high desert. The wind isn’t blowing. It’s in the high twenties outside, it’ll get a lot colder before morning but that’s not so bad for two hours past sundown.

But what got me thinking was that I actually caught myself standing in shirtsleeves in the kitchen, making myself a mocha, without a care in the world. I was neither too cold nor fearfully waiting for the cabin to burst into flames. There wasn’t anything I was feeling rushed about, or guiltridden about, or anxious about. I wasn’t using up fuel too fast, or buried in four sweatshirts. The roof wasn’t going to fall in, nor the walls blow down, nor the pipes freeze and burst. I was just a guy – comfortably dressed – making coffee – listening to the stove rumble. In his own house, with nobody to make him fearful.
My goodness, it took a long time to get here. But you know what? While I’ve often doubted that I was ever going to achieve this particular level of domestic comfort, I’ve never once – in over nine years now – regretted having moved from Socal to this crazy place. I’ve been frozen and baked and frustrated and hurt and even frightened, a few times. I moved here with no cash, no land, no plan and at almost no point along the way did I ever know what the hell I was doing. I got astonishingly lucky with my friends – people invited me in who should have shooed me down the road, took what services I could offer and integrated them with their own plans, made me a part of their community when most people would have…shooed me down the road.

This was lunacy from the beginning. I was one of those people who, when all hell was breaking loose around me at home and work which only meant it was Tuesday, would tilt my chair back in my gray carpeted cubicle and wish for a quiet cabin in the wilderness away from all this shit. But I was never one of those people who could rationally – that is, with large infusions of cash – make something like that happen. The only way I could ever have the tiniest hope of the kind of peace I’d always dreamed of was to jump off a cliff in that direction – and see what would happen. It wasn’t courage, it was desperation.

It shouldn’t have worked. I should have ended up hopelessly on the road, washing up who the hell knows where. But I actually found what I was looking for. I knew from the beginning, from the first time I ever visited, that this was supposed to be home. I had to find a way to make it work, no matter what. But I didn’t have the resources or the talents – all I had were some tenuous connections, and screwing up personal connections is my specialty. It’s the one thing I’m specially good at. It shouldn’t have worked.

But it did anyway. To the extent that this has anything at all to do with my qualities and not the kindness of others – it turns out that if you care about one thing to the exclusion of all others, if you’re willing to freeze and fry and pull a helluva lot of nails from salvaged lumber and deal with the results of all the mistakes, the burst pipes and the sizzling wires and the weevils in your flour and maybe an occasional propane fireball, you can muddle through. Maybe even to the point of a cup of mocha in your warm cabin on a frigid night, with not a care in the world.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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10 Responses to Huh. It turns out it can be done.

  1. M J R says:

    Out of the nowhere, into the here… welcome. You may not know it but along your journey to the here and now you have touched so many people in so many ways. Scratching a life out of rock and hard-pan MacGyver had nothing on you. Your modesty not withstanding you, sir, are one to ride the river with. So sit back and relax tonight you have earned it.

    One thing, If you ever manage to get sweaters on the chickens I want to see a video. Maybe you could con Land Lady or Ian to help. ;^)

  2. jed says:

    “… wish for a quiet cabin in the wilderness away from all this shit.”

    Amen, brother!

  3. ZtZ says:

    What M J R said. Working on my place – which is not a remote wilderness cabin – to the exclusion of everything else for more than 10 years through multiple disasters and discomforts but no regrets, making ideas real and by gosh, they work, and looking forward to a quiet moment like yours, very soon. Yes, it can be done and it’s a peaceful, satisfying life. You and M J R said it better than I ever could.

  4. MamaLiberty says:

    I’m so glad, Joel. Poetically put. And MJR did say it well. I had a dream as a young woman, and managed to make it happen in spite of the roadblocks. I could have done so much more, but I had to be content with what I was able to do and make the best of it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Few people really ‘go for broke’ like you did. Most opt our for ‘lives of quiet desperation’. Well done sir ! You are the example, not the cautionary tale.

  6. Ben says:

    What a great post to wake up to Joel! As ML said, “Poetically put”. Mazel tov.

  7. doubletrouble says:

    Achievement unlocked! Heartfelt congratulations

  8. midwest mike says:

    Happy for you Joel! So great to build and live the life you desire!!

  9. capn says:

    Well Done Joel,

    I am about four years behind you but slowly on the way.
    Having already “shrugged” I own my (20′) travel trailer and it serves as dwelling while I construct my “Handmade Hovel” on the frame of a second 20′ travel trailer. It will be larger 12′ x 28′. A travel trailer frame was used so as to be able to still call it a trailer and to be allowed to continue residing in this very comfortable trailer park outside of a small rural Texas town.
    I will be following your lead on several issues namely the solar power source and going back to wood heat. Gas is clean and does the job but I miss spliting the wood and fiddling with the fire as it burns. Not to mention that wood can be obtained with sweat no money needed. Oops, I did mention it.

    Enjoy your mocha and stay safe,


  10. Joel says:

    Gooch! Haven’t heard from you in years! Glad to hear your plans are progressing.

    Truth is I’d heat exclusively with propane if I could swing it. I hate constantly having to fiddle with the fire, shovel ashes, clean stovepipe, cut wood, find wood to be cut, et cetera forever. I do like my solar power system, though.

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