Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Speed and Light

Just recently – I’ve hunted around to find where I read it, but I’ve lost it now – I came across someone writing on a topic about which I feel very deeply; the need to create situations that will safeguard one’s aspirations. 

For some years now I have longed to live in a small hut with a fireplace, a standpipe for water, in the privacy of a glade in a wooded place – with hens in an orchard.  Partly I wanted this for the thing itself, and partly because it would take away the spiritual workout of being daily presented with the decisions to do things the easy way or the way of my aspirations.

Most of the time I give in and do things the easy way.  So, for example, I’ll have a few days of cooking over the fire, then a lot more days of saying “Oh, blow it!” and boiling the electric kettle.  I’ll have a few days of composting, then go back to the usual water closet because I can’t be bothered.

The fridge, the toaster, the washing machine – I use all these because they’re there and easy and that’s how my life’s set up; and it feels complicated and silly to behave as if those facilities aren’t there when they are.  But if I lived somewhere which didn’t have these conveniences, then life without them would be natural – not easy, but clear.  It would be made simpler by removing choice.

The hut in the woods scenario is in my aspirations but not my plans, if you see what I mean – I love living with my family, we are in the right house that God led us to, we are walking in the way that has opened to us, all is as it should be.  But I am slowly working on aligning my life with my hut-like aspirations while still living in a regular house in the town. 

In two respects I have been able to achieve the hut-in-the-woods and dispense with difficult choice.  One was last September I gave away my car.  I thought I would have to keep it to make life easier for my beautiful mama; but driving suddenly got too hard for me.  So I stopped. 
Not having a car has (of course) taken away the continual weighing of how much to use it, when to walk and when to drive, what limits to set on distances and possibilities.  Go to the farmers’ market in a little village twenty minutes’ drive away or the small local shop?  Drive down to the station to pick up someone tired after their journey home or let them walk?  Drive out to the woods for a walk, or be contented with the park?  The cost and challenges of travelling by public transport solve most of those dilemmas at a stroke.  
Life is slowed down because everything takes so much longer.  Take, for example, conducting funerals (one of the vocational things I do).  In a car, I set out twenty minutes before the service, take a half-hour service, and take ten minutes to drive home: one hour.   Without a car, I travel to the crematorium and back with the hearse.  I must be ready at the funeral parlour half an hour before the service is due to start, to travel with the team.  I must leave half an hour to walk from home to the funeral parlour.  At the end of the service, the funeral directors cannot leave until all the mourners have set off – which is often about fifteen or twenty minutes after they have all filed out (which also takes several minutes).  So I can expect the time a funeral takes to escalate from one hour to two or two-and-a-half.  
I’d like occasionally to worship with friends at a little village chapel twenty minutes’ drive away.  But to do that on public transport on a Sunday would mean setting out at nine o’clock and getting home about two or three o’clock in the afternoon (depending which bus I caught).  
Travel by foot and bus/train alters time scales dramatically, and significantly reduces what can realistically be attempted in a day.  It also reduces the amount of groceries it’s possible to carry home from the stores, which means more frequent trips – the whole rhythm and profile of daily life alters as soon as the car goes.  I really welcome this, because it makes me live like I want to live but would never choose to live all the while I have a car.  I love the slowness, the smallness, the enforced lowliness.

The second thing I did is about light.

The Badger and I lived in the Garret of this house – the large, airy, two-room attic at the top.  Now, the Badger is firmly wedded to electricity and does not share my hankerings for off-grid living one bit.  He also lives away mid-week and is home at weekends.  In a few years when he retires from his present work, he will bring home his possessions from his mid-week roost.  For these reasons and one or two others, I made a change.  Now the Garret is the Badger’s room – and when he is home, I share his bed at night, under the sky windows that look out on the moon and stars.  But in the week when he is away, and in the daytime when he’s home, I have my own room now.  I love it.  It’s small, built over the entrance-way of our home, a little room 7ft by 9ft.  It feels plain and frugal and quiet, very humble and peaceful.  The Badger took out the electric light for me.  This has served to protect my aspirations, because I cannot say “Oh blow it!” and switch on the light for the sake of making things easy.  I have a small LED camping light tucked away in case of emergency, and a clip-on booklight for if I can’t sleep; but I find I don’t need them – mind you, it’s summer; it might be different when the days are short.  I am used to the candle-light now.  It feels peaceful and calm.  I find I look forward to resting and thinking and letting the day end when I go to bed – because my eyesight is not good enough to read by candlelight; I have to wait for the day.  It reduces the hours in which I can write (or read) and increases the hours of thinking and praying.

I do have an electric socket.  There are two, but I blocked one up.  Just one left, for my laptop, and for charging my cellphone.

Incidentally, I love having a room of my own.  I have this odd thing that unless I can see all the things that belong to me grouped together, I don’t know who I am.  When my things are mixed up with another person’s things I fragment.  In my little room, I can look at the things that are mine, and I know myself.  Next time I post, I’ll show you my room and the things in it.  And then maybe you also will know who I am.

P.S.  I just measured my room.  It's actually 9' x 6'8"


365 366 Day 227 – Tuesday August 14th  

A radiant fire.  This went to my beautiful mama when her heater packed up in the cold weather early in the year.  We had it 'in case' before that, but as we have a woodstove, an open fire, hot water bottles, thick woollies, socks hats and mittens, and the option of turning on the central heating for an hour or two if it's really cold, we seemed to have all eventualities covered.

365 366 Day 226 – Monday August 13th  

A mini-oven.  We got this when we had no kitchen for a couple of months.  Then we had a kitchen again.  This all took place within this 366 year.  So first this was acquired on a one-thing-in-two-things-out basis, then it itself was dispensed with, having become superfluous.  

365 366 Day 225 – Sunday August 12th  

Yet another table lamp.  We do seem to have had a lot of these!

365 366 Day 224 – Saturday August 11th  

A useful box thing that came out of an old piece of furniture.  I can't remember what we did with this at all.


Anonymous said...

How amazing it is to know that I am not the only way that feels the need to have her things about her. My move to the woods ( a dream of mine also ) will not happen while my daughter is here with us. She requires to live close to a hospital and well, I am content with the fact that she is alive and doing well, my dream...that can wait or I can recreate that sanctuary within my humble cottage.

So far I am content :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts Pen ... Grace & Peace to you today,


Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Hi friend! God bless you today x

Bean said...

I have a sort of room of my own. Since our older two children are grown, married, and in their own homes we have had a spare bedroom for a number of years and I took it over. The spare room is my sewing room, I have a nice chair by one window, a table in front of the other window with my sewing machine on it, a long table to my left for cutting etc. There are several shelves on one wall left over from when our daughters shared the room, I use them partly for storage and for display and two large closets. I love my sewing room, and have spent many happy hours in there, my husband will come hang out for a bit and relax in the chair. It is good to have our own space, my husbands space is in the garage, he has a little tv for sports, a cooler for his beer, and various projects he is working on at hand.

I always like it when you post about light, I don't much like bright artificial light, we use very few of the lights in our home. I enjoy the ever changing natural light throughout the year.

Blessings to you,


Pen Wilcock said...

:0) That sounds lovely.

I felt guilty at first about saying I wanted a room of my own. But I just felt the need of my own space. It is turning out well. We have no garage, bit the Badger has his shed, where he does his woodworking, and now also the garret, where I think he is enjoying having as a room of his own too. x

Bean said...

Boy are you up very, very late, or perhaps very, very early :)


PS my hubby also has a nice comfy, old office chair he sits in in the garage, and a box fan to move the air and keep him cool. I have a folding chair to sit on when I join him in the garage :)

Julie B. said...

There's something about having a space to yourself, no matter what size or how simple. I completely understand your need for this. I love your room exudes peace.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) I think something happened to me last night, Bean and I briefly became an owl or a bushbaby - eventually dozed off around half-past two.
When I was eighteen I lived for a while with some monks in Devon, and I remember Brother Jonathan saying he'd found as he grew older he needed more rest but less sleep. I gave this piece of information to the archivist in my head and she tucked it away safely. As the years have gone by she sometimes produces it for verification and, yes, I am finding it to be true.
I leave the Badger strictly alone in his Shed (the Wretched Wretch believes it to be Badger's House - the main house he believes to be mine). The Badger likes to concentrate on one thing at once and he already has Radio 4 chatting away to him down there.

Pen Wilcock said...

Julie B :0) hiya . . .

There are one or two changes in my little room since I showed you the pics, and another pending. It does indeed feel peaceful in here. xx

English Lady said...

Hi Penelope
I am very interested in getting your book 'Remember Me' and would like to do so through Crossway Books reviewer program which gives out copies for free. I know some people have signed up to this program but I cant see any way too and dont know if its avialable in the UK.

Would you be able to give me any info on this?

Alice Y. said...

So excited that you found a way to get a space of your own. Well done Ember Pen! Great post too. xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Alice :0) Waving! x

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Medieval Girl :0) Nice to meet you.

Here are some options.

1) Perhaps your library would be willing to get a copy in, and then you would be able to borrow it.

2)If you go on the website of my publisher, Crossway, you will see at the top right of the home page a "Contact" link to click. It may be that they will send you a copy in exchange for a review if you ask them; I'm not sure. This is their web address:

3)You can read several pages of this book on Amazon, which may help you make up your mind if you would like to read it. Find it here:

If you decide to purchase a copy, is a better route than for a paperback as the UK distributors are not efficient and the wait will be long. And of course Kindle is cheaper and instant.

4) You can throw yourself upon the mercy of my readers here and ask if anyone has a copy they have read and would be prepared to give you. I myself have so far been sent only one copy, in which I need to mark any errors that slipped through the net in production.

I hope this is helpful.
God bless you.

English Lady said...

I actually did send Crossway Marketing department an e-mail earlier so hopefully might get a response soon!

Thanks for the help, just a madcap Idea of mine

Pen Wilcock said...

Okay - good luck! I looked on your blog for contact details, thinking that I might forward them to Crossway myself, but couldn't see an email, name or address.
I see you are interested in reading and reviewing Mel Starr's books too. His publisher is my UK publisher. Again if contact details are provided, I can pass them on.

Bean said...

Now to comment on your comments about acting as if you don't have a car and actually getting rid of the car. I found them interesting, and you made a very valid point. We never use a clothes dryer, we have one, it needs a new burner, but we chose not to fix it two and half a years ago, and do not miss it. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that if we had a working dryer it would be used some of the time. We have a dishwasher, we disconnected it, so we never use it, I find it quicker to simply wash the dishes as I go. We get used to things and sometimes we have to remove the temptation out of reach to change our habits.
I would like to drive less, but we are about 15 miles from the closest good grocery store, there is a small one about 4 1/2 miles away but doesn't carry all that we need.
I did once walk to our local library to return books, it was a nine mile round trip, it took over three hours, compared to fifteen minutes in the car. I enjoyed the walk but it is not practical for us at this time.
Anyway, changing habits and being good stewards takes time, and life style changes that keep are best incorporated slowly over time.

I love your observations on things.

Blessings to you,


Pen Wilcock said...

Nine miles! Wow! Everything's bigger in America . . .

This morning I walked to 10.30 Mass, just over a mile. Things seemed a bit odd when I arrived.
Only when I sat down and observed Father Andrew washing up the vessels from the Eucharist did I remember. Ah yes. On a Wednesday Mass is at 10.
I caught the bus home.

Anonymous said...

Tried to send you a letter earlier, unsure if I succeeded. Let me know if it was received, if not I will try again. Have a blessed day!

Ganeida said...

Interesting ~ as always. One of the things I have always found hard about being married is not having a room of my own; my own space. I always seem to be carving out spaces that others invade....

Pen Wilcock said...

Thanks DMW - I'll look out for your letter. Not sure who you are or where you're writing from, but just to let you know that today I'm going away for a few days - won't be back until Tuesday. Others will be here, but I shan't be opening mail until Tues - so if you're in the UK there may be a greater delay than you expect in receiving a reply. God bless you. Waving!

Hi Ganeida - yes, indeed. I think it's now that my children have grown up that things have changed with me there. I still automatically turn round if anyone anywhere (even in a passing car!) says "Mum!" And I well remember the days when it was impossible even to go to the bathroom without a faithful attending retinue of small people. For a long time the concept of having my own room would have had no relevance. And when the kids were growing up, we had small houses, so I and their father slept on the living room floor or on boards on the attic joists - wherever we could find space. Even now it's not quite so much I need a room of my own, but to be able to express the need to gradually learn to espouse simplicity, and try to shuck off the tight dragon-skin of modern life. xxx

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh! A thought! DMW - where did you write? If you wrote to me at my US publisher, I will get it but not for some while. Letters from my UK publisher get to me quickly, because of my domestic arrangements (I married my publisher!) x

Ganeida said...

Oh Ember! I thought I was finally loo free, but no. I have one cat happy to sit in my lap regardless...

I'm told that as a small child I would walk around the house on returning from holidays loudly proclaiming, "MY bed, MY chair, My table. I think something of that mentality still remains. ☺

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I unsuccessfully attempted to cut and paste a letter to the comment box, to save myself a drive to the post office. But I went the paper route today and your publishing house should receive it in around a week or so. I am new to commenting on blogs, so a bit awkward. I am a grateful reader from MN, USA

Rapunzel said...

Is it not ironically amusing that in a world of people building bigger houses to hold more and more stuff there are those of us who find we need our own room/space in order to have Less Stuff in it. ;)

Bean said...

Hi Pen, I put some pics of my sewing room on my blog :)
Hope you had a good trip.


Hawthorne said...

Hi Ember! When my late husband's alcoholism worsened I was in desperate, desperate need of a room of my own so I moved into the tiny spare room. I am still there now and love my little haven of peace, my sanctuary. I bought a single bed from a charity shop and made my own duvet cover and pillowcase from a cheerful yellow gingham fabric with daisies on. I loved the challenge of having such a simple room, with space for so few 'things' in it, sorting out what I really needed.
Most of all I loved that it was MY room, MY space, a place to just be ME again.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Ganeida! Waving! x :0)

Hi DMW - I'll look forward to your letter finding its way to me! You are doing fine with your comments x

Hi Rapunzel - discovering and falling in love with and then defending space seem to be inevitable stages of simplicity! x

Bean - just the minute I've sorted all the lovely emails that came while I was away, I'll whizz across and look at those pics! x

Hawthorne - I love the sound of that room; yellow gingham is one of my absolute favourites xx

Rebecca said...

I can identify with much here. I am waiting for a small room of my own (AND to see pictures of yours)!

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) What will your room be like, Rebecca? x