Monday, 18 January 2016

Poco a poco

First thing this morning. Last night's well-fed fox, leaving calling cards of greater abundance than usual liberally distributed about the (grooved wood) deck of Komorebi. Sigh. Some forms of gratitude, however well-meant, candidly one can do without. But I’m glad he liked his supper.

On reflection, I thought what I said in that last post (about Rising Early) sounded a little demanding. Stealth simplicity, slinking along in the margins, asking nothing, using nothing, abstaining from all gas and electricity and plumbing.

But how will I charge my computer, I imagine you wondering; I won’t be able to use my curling tongs. Or straighteners, I suppose it is now, isn’t it? Life like a game of Simon Says, changing direction.

What I should have added in, is that one doesn’t need to be 100% about this. Father Tom, in his simple, computerless, phoneless wooden house, still had showers and electric lights. Though he travelled on a bike and blended his soup through a mouli-grater.

As Alfieri so well puts it in A View From The Bridge: “Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better.

Being something of a hundred-per-cent-er myself, I have not found this art – or is it a skill? – easy to learn. All or nothing, me. By turns.

But with application and patience I am managing to incorporate into my practice the wisdom expressed by Jim Harrison: “The reason to moderate is to avoid having to quit.” 

So, yes, we go to the spring for our drinking water, and we collect rainwater in massive barrels for our plants to drink in summer. Sometimes – not always – I lug rainwater up to the bathroom to add to the hot water and make my bath the right temperature. We line dry our laundry; but we wash it in a machine that runs on electricity. We have solar panels for both hot water and electricity, but we do use the gas boiler to (liberally) augment the work of the sun. We export electricity to the National Grid – but we use electricity from it, too. Some of us earth closet some of the time, but not always. We burn scrap wood and timber from old, diseased trees, and gather our kindling from what the old trees chuck down to us; but we put on the central heating if it’s really cold. We turn it off at night though; all of us have hot water bottles.

We make some of our clothes and pots and furniture, and we buy some too. Some of what we buy is the work of local crafters, some is mass-produced, affordable. Our food comes from beautifully run organic farms and wholefood co-ops; also from the supermarket. We moderate, to avoid having to quit. We settle for half because it makes life possible. Little by little. As the Peruvian proverb says, Poco a poco se anda lejos” (little by little you can go a long way).


Emily Stratmeyer said...

Thank you for this encouragement, Pen. Little by little you can go a long way. Often, I forget that starting at 100% can be too much, and I find myself frequently overwhelmed. Little by little I can simplify my life. Little by little I can get things done. Now I just need to remember this...

Jen said...

I too am not good at the middle ground, I am quite binary. I am trying to learn to be more in the middle. I wonder if it is the hyper mobility in some way? I've heard others say the same thing

learning to live in the grey is difficult, but I am getting there. OK, I haven't managed to find the 1 bag that suits all circumstances, but I have narrowed it down, and more importantly STOP LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT. I have 3 pairs of winter boots - proper walking boots, smart boots and less smart boots. Having 3 pairs means that the all last better at their given function. But I am no longer LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT boot that will do all situations.

I think your hermit friend wrote something simillar on your site - simplicity is not necessarily the same as minimalism, sometimes you do need multiples which actually allow a simpler life.

Or something.

kat said...

Hello dear thing - I've been rather non present on the www for a while, but I'm still here, honest! Had to comment on this though - I reacall a similar "gift" being left on the back doormat in St Matts - just in the right spot for me to step in with bare feet, being too much preoccupied with delight in the early morning back garden to notice. Cue much hopping about on one leg, frantic foot wiping in dewy grass and general undignified scrabbling about ;-)

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Emily ~ yes, overwhelm is the pothole on the road travelled by the conscientious!

Jen ~ "No longer looking for the perfect" ~ that's the ticket!

Kat ~ It took me by surprise to realise this is the only way they have to leave a note, to sign their names.

:0) xx

Sandra Ann said...

Yes small steps and being kind to oneself :-)

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh, that's so important - because people who aren't kind to themselves aren't usually kind to anyone else either. xx

Buzzfloyd said...

I've been ruminating on this, and reflecting that nothing has been more effective in keeping me from change than people insisting it must be all or nothing. Nothing it is, then. I can only do anything in little steps.

Pen Wilcock said...

I like the thing you said some years ago, about 'one thing'. Do you remember? It was about shopping, I think. With all the dizzying plethora of things to keep in mind - organic, fair trade, local, ethical, healthy, cheap, fresh ... to make sure it fulfilled at least one category even if it missed the others! x

Terra Hangen said...

I admire your lifestyle. Years ago my husband built us our first home by himself. No he did not hire a contractor, he did it on his own. It was very satisfying to live there.

Pen Wilcock said...


Thank you.

I think, for a long time, I didn't really realise we had a lifestyle as such - it was just us, living, doing what we could think of to get by. Then gradually I began to notice how effective it is to have little and be of no account - and to live simply enough that what one has goes a long way. We do like things and buy things, but we try to keep it simple, because that protects our freedom. x