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Re-creation on the Rugged California Coast - Part 2
For the past two weeks, Larry and I have been housesitting for our friend Joseph and taking care of his cat “Kitty” while he is away. This post is about the second week. Read about the first week at Re-creation on the Rugged California Coast - Part 1
Here’s more about what it’s like to live in this place out on the rugged edge of the California coast and also tell you some experiences we are having.
There are no clocks in this house, so I can’t just glance at the wall to find out what time it is. Nor do I need to.
Here we have no appointments, no schedules, we are just here with each other and Nature. We can tell if it is day or night, if dawn is on its way or if the sun will set soon. Beyond that, we really don’t need to know what time it is on an ongoing basis.
I have a clock on my computer and on my phone, of course, but if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can’t just look at the clock. But it’s OK. It’s dark. Go back to sleep.
Ha! As I’m writing this I just noticed a clock ticking! Now I have to go find it…Ah! I found it. Sitting on a shelf. But the point is, I hadn’t noticed it at all until my attention was on not having a clock. And then I found it, not by sight but by sound.
After a week of this, I am noticing I am starting to disconnect from the clock-and-calendar time the industrial world runs on and instead am more aware of time cues in Nature.
Hmmm…as we were driving up here I was making notes on thoughts I was having about natural time and how to incororprate that in this Lifely blog next year. Good. I’m happy this subject is emerging in me again because when I first started learning about Nature in 1987, the first subject I studied was natural time.
The other day there was a knock at the door. It was a neighbor with a plate of homemade cookies in his hand, for Joseph.
When I said he wasn’t here, the neighbor said, “When is he coming back?”
When I said, “In about 10 days,” he said, “Oh, well then, these are for you!”
I have never in my life had a neighbor bring me cookies.
The people of this tiny town in a remote place create their own community.
They run their own community communication board online as well as issue a yearly directory that contains phone numbers and addresses of all the citizens and businesses, as well as zip codes, government contacts, medical and emergency, local services and all the hookup phone numbers for new residents.
Anything you could possibly need to know is in this little spiral-bound book.
When I signed up for this service ($10 a year) I wrote and said I was housesitting and we were considering moving here.
And she wrote back, “Welcome to our beloved town."
Our Daytrip to Eureka and Arcata
On our first Saturday, we took a day trip to Eureka and Arcata, two towns that are right next to each other.
They are the major shopping area for Humboldt county.
We wanted to see what was available and how long it takes to drive there because the reality is, if we move here or anyplace in this county, this is the only place to buy some things that are pretty important to me, like reams of paper and printer ink.
It took us almost two hours to drive from where we are to Eureka and then about 10 minutes to Arcata.
We started our exploration in Arcata because on Saturday mornings they have a farmer’s market.
Arcata is a college town. Humboldt State State University is well known for its marine biology program, and also for environmental sciences. My best friend in high school came here for a marine biology degree and Joseph came here for his degree in environmental sciences.
So it has everything you would expect from a college town.
In the center of town is a plaza with a park in the center, and old restored buildings with small local shops around the perimeter. On Saturdays, farmers come and create their market around the edge of the park.
The farmer’s market was smaller than those we have in Sonoma County, but they had some excellent produce. I bought some organic heirloom cranberry beans and some other produce. One farmer was there with small living evergreen trees for Christmas trees.
The surrounding shops were mostly what I would call “accessory” shops that sell clothing accessories and house accessories, not real necessities but fun to have. At one store I bought a handmade whisk broom, which I needed, and a cookbook on cooking Middle Eastern food—a flavor profile I wanted to learn about.
We went to the nearby food coop and stocked up on some organic food for the following week.
Then we went to Eureka.
Eureka is basically an industrial town where you can find all the big box stores that are the same everywhere. As much as I don’t like to shop at these stores, there was a Staples where I could buy a ream of 100% recycled paper. But it had none of the charm of Arcata. And no ecosystem at all Just all roads and cement and parking lots.
This experience led me to wonder if this shopping experience would be adequate for me if I lived here. I’m accustomed to living in more sophisticated places.
Of course, ordering things online is always an option and there is UPS and FedEx delivery here. Even living where I live in Sonoma County where there are plenty of places to shop, I find I am ordering more and more online simply because the stores don’t have what I need or want in stock.
And, this week I’ve found that my little local general store has more food items I want than I had realized. This week we needed a few things to make a dish Larry wanted me to make and we found them all at the general store.
One thing I noticed at the general store…well, first, it’s the only store in town. But it has an unusual selection of food items that I thought was strange at first, but then I realized that they stock what their customers want to buy. For example, there are some Mexican specialties that I think are there for their Mexican customers. It seems natural to me that over time the customers would say, “Could you carry ——?” and they would. This store is clearly stocked for the needs of their customers, not for the multinational food corporations who pay supermarkets to put their products on the shelves.
My conclusion about this is, if shopping is the most important thing, then this isn’t the place to live. But if nature is the most important thing, this is perfect.
I have been surprised to realize how much of my time at home is determined by clocks. At home we have clocks in every room hanging on the wall, and our day often revolves around going to an appointment or watching something on television.
Here there is none of that. Time is determined by the sun—it rises, it sets. It is morning or night. During the day we do what we want, determined by our own needs and wants.
There just is no routine imposed on my day other than what I determine for myself.
Time considerations aside, even at home Larry and I plan our days together. When we wake up in the morning, we ask each other what we need and want to do that day. We discuss priorities. Then arrange our day by deciding on blocks of time to do things individually, and blocks of time to do things together. We co-ordinate every day.
It’s not 100 percent free-form. I, of course, have self-determined responsibilities and agreements with others regarding things I will do, but I am free to do them as I please as long as I keep to the agreements I have made.
I once took a marketing course and one of the things we were taught was how to pack our day by schooling every hour of the day for efficiency. That may be efficient, but I actually work more effectively if I work when I am inspired to work.
I’m starting to experience my own inner time and getting back to flowing with the time patterns of nature rather than forcing myself into the time of industrialization.
Deer Deer Deer
Usually when a town or subdivision is built, the entire ecosystem is removed so houses can be built on bare land, and then the empty lots are landscaped with plants grown in industrial conditions.
Here it is exactly the opposite. The entire ecosystem is intact and houses are built within the confines of the ecosystem, using no more land than the footprint of the house and a small amount of land around it.
And so there are animals. In particular, there are a lot of deer. They just wander around and are allowed to go in yards because, after all, this is their home too.
Larry and I have been enjoying watching out for and identifying the deer in various locations.
We’ve seen mother deer with one or more babies. We’ve seen whole herds of deer.
Several times we’ve see eight or more deer in one herd, just walking along or sitting. This week we’ve been seeing deer with antlers.
At home in our rural suburban town we occasionally see one deer or two, but nothing like this.
After watching a flock of deer just walking around next to the airstrip, I made a note in my journal that the space and land here supports us, it does not impose on us. That’s what a natural ecosystem does, it provides air and water and food and materials and space and time to be alive.
The Fitness Forest
Almost every day we drive by a sign that says “fitness trail” with an arrow, so one day we turned left to find out what it was.
It is a trail created by the community that winds through a forest, with signs and simple structures to guide you to do various exercises. The concept isn’t new—I’ve seen such signs in parks, but what was different was it wasn’t in a park, it was in a forest—an actual wild forest.
We walked on a wide path along a creek, with a gentle incline that was easy enough for us to walk, but at the same time gave us some exercise. We stopped and did various exercises like stretches and walking along a narrow board for balance.
Near the top of the hill was a hand-carved wooden bench where walkers could sit and rest.
This is so much better than a noisy, crowded, enclosed gym. There was plenty of space and fresh air right off the ocean.
More like this, please!
A Beautiful Moment
One day we were driving down to the beach along a winding road that goes down a hill.
When we came around the bend to drive down to the ocean, I saw one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen. I wish I could have taken a photo, but it only lasted a moment, so I will describe it to you.
The sky had been overcast all day, so the sky was grey and the water was grey.
But just at that moment, the clouds parted enough for the sun to burst through in a huge display of light, with bright sunbeams in every direction.
At the same time, the there was a gap between the clouds and the water, so there was a band of light at the horizon as well.
It took my breath away.
One of the features of this place is that there are very high cliffs that come straight up out of the water. And so you can stand on those cliffs and see just miles and miles of sky and ocean.
Standing on an overlook, looking out to sea is actually the largest expanse of space I think I’ve ever seen. Just open open open space.
On our last Saturday, we decided to spend the day taking a backroads drive to Ferndale, a historic town just south of Eureka that has a Victorian downtown of about three blocks of shops and restaurants.
The drive was breathtakingly beautiful. It took several hours because the road was all twists and turns going up and down forested mountains. Some of the road wasn’t paved. In other spots whole pieces of the road had fallen down the slope so there was only one lane. We decided if we were going to live here we needed a four-wheel drive truck. We got through the drive in our Prius but then took the freeway back home.
We drove through fir forests full of “Christmas trees” and valleys with small farms and ranches. Just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
When we got to Ferndale, we were able to get a sidewalk table and have a really delicious Mexican lunch with handmade corn tortillas, actually served on a real plate instead of take-out.
And then we walked down the street to [The Blacksmith Shop]=https://www.ferndaleblacksmith.com/. I’ve been coming to this store for decades and it just gets more and more wonderful every time I visit.
We bought a beautiful black iron toilet paper holder for [the tiny house we are building]=https://tinyhousetoxicfree.com/ and made a decision to have all the hardware in the tiny house be black.
But then later I realized that no, it wasn’t that all the hardware should be the color black, but that I wanted all the hardware to be blacksmithed. I realized I actually had been collecting blacksmithed hooks for many years, not realizing until Saturday night that blacksmithing is not just pre-industrial, it is ancient and fundamental to life.
The blacksmith’s work of heating pieces of wrought iron and shaping with hand tools is so old it is found in mythology around the world. It requires strength and skill and art to be a blacksmith. I didn’t know any of this when I decided I wanted hand forged blacksmith hardware in my tiny house, but of course, that is what I would be drawn to, and not the fake black machine-made hardware from Home Depot.
Blacksmithing is definitely a lifely art and I am going to be learning much more about it. For now, the door was just opened.
We came here because we wanted to experience a re-creation. What happened was entirely unexpected.
What we found was that we really needed recovery first.
We spent a lot of our time sleeping and resting, alternating with being out in nature, going to the beach and on hikes through the forest, breathing the very very very clean and oxygenated air.
After all the stresses of our year personally and the stresses of the pandemic and the election, we just needed some time and space where our surroundings were supportive instead of stressful. And we got that.
I was also able to complete some unfinished tasks and make plans for expanding my Lifely activities in the coming year and Larry and I made plans for moving our life and relationship together as a couple forward as well.
We wanted to find out if we would like living here, in a place so remote, and as it turns out, we love it. We could see ourselves living away from civilization, near ocean and mountains. We found we really liked living near the ocean and it made a big difference in how our bodies felt. We love having our home be in nature and having to leave to go to civilization, rather than living in civilization and taking a vacation to nature.
But then the real shift happened.
After almost two weeks, on Friday night I woke up feeling different. My body felt stronger, I was happier, calmer, feeling closer to Larry. We both experienced this.
A change had occurred in our bodies and within us as a result of simply being in nature and not in human civilization. Our bodies responded that quickly and changed to align with the natural world instead of the industrial world.
This was so dramatic that we wanted everyone to experience this and were talking about how to make that possible.
Of course, now we will go home and our bodies will adjust back to civilization, but now that we’ve experienced this, we know what it is and will figure out how to stay actually physically connected to nature to this deep degree wherever we are.
This wasn’t about understanding nature or observing nature, it’s about having a physical re-set of our bodies being nourished by the elements of their natural environment, many of which are missing or diminished in our human-built environment.
We decided from this experience that it’s important to spend time in wild environments. Vacations are sold as consumer products to sell hotel rooms and restaurant meals, but I think it’s important to take a “time-out” from the industrial experience and visit the world of nature instead of a theme park. Now it seems to us this is why our bodies get so sick in our industrial word. We are missing this basic “nutrition” from the ecosystem. None of the body treatments—medical or alternative—restore this. A body just needs it’s environment. That is very plain to us now.
I didn’t know about this before. We didn’t experience it in any other setting. But we got it in only 12 days being here.
When we arrived, the time of our departure was open-ended. The owner of the house, Joseph, wasn’t sure when he would be returning and we didn’t particularly need to be home by a certain date. Larry and Joseph were talking about going crabbing when he got back, depending on the conditions in the ocean.
But seeing the covid numbers increasing so dramatically this week, and new restrictions are now here too, we decided to go back home before Joseph returns, since he has been at a family wedding. It just seemed like the prudent thing to do.
And then when we started reading that counties near us were going into lockdown, we decided to leave even sooner, while we still could.
All in all, we are very happy we came and are looking forward to spending more time on the rugged Lost Coast of California.
Since being home now for one day, things are going very smoothly as I am unpacking and setting up my office again as if I am moving into a new space. I know exactly what I want to do next to start experiencing my personal life and my work on a whole new level.