WARNING! I am about to use a Bad Word here. I intend to use it many times in the course of this entry. If you are a delicate creature who does not tolerate profanity well, or have children you wish to protect from the realities of life on planet earth, consider yourself duly advised...
The word is shit. Not the worst of cuss words, but one of my favorites because it covers so much territory and has so many subtle meanings, aside from the obvious literal definition. I've been meaning to talk about this since we set out on this trip. It's been almost three months on the road now, and I think I can speak with some authority, on a practical as well as spiritual level, when I tell you will all earnestness, We all have to deal with our own shit.
Practically speaking, living in a trailer means we need to be in constant awareness of things like fresh water, gray water, black water, and storage tanks in various stages of being filled and emptied. We didn't give all this a lot of thought before we set out, feeling secure and comforted by the term self-contained. What we failed to consider was that we might not always stay in RV parks with full hook-ups, which are wonderfully convenient, but expensive and not always the kind of atmosphere we prefer. Spending the month of September in Ken & Vicki's back yard in Bellevue, just a hop across the lake to Seattle, we had to be super vigilant about the state of our black water tank. Gray water could be emptied into the garden, since we're careful to use only organic, biodegradable soaps and things. But with no sewer hook-up, we needed to be extra careful about how much we, uh, used the bathroom, and found ourselves dashing across the yard to use the one in the house in the daylight hours, saving our precious holding tank space for after dark.
We've adopted a new favorite movie line, from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Cousin Eddie, played by Randy Quaid, is standing outside his hideously ramshackle motor home, a generic beer in one hand, and a sewer hose in the other, emptying his black water tank into the storm sewer. When Clark (Chevy Chase) questions this, Eddie just grins and says, "Shitter's full." Shitter's full........ these are words we say often in jest, but dread having to say in seriousness. Few things in a gypsy life are worse than a full shitter and no place to empty it. We've been forced to make several side excursions just for the purpose of tracking down a dump station, and friends, let me tell you, that's not quite how I'd imagined us traveling backroads in search of amusing roadside attractions.
Then there's the category of shit more commonly known as clutter. We suspected, and we were right, that clutter in a small living space would be intolerable for us - most particularly for me. I'll see three things left randomly on the kitchen counter and proclaim it a "total mess" in here, dashing around to put all stray stuff back in its rightful place. We're very careful about what we bring in here, because there's just no room to collect things, much as we'd like to sometimes. We have enough of everything. We have clothes and dishes and cookware. We have books to pass on when we finish them and want new ones. I have slightly more than enough yarn to keep me knitting happily for the next month or two. And we have all the tools and equipment required for this little mobile life. So more and more we discover, and remember, just how little we actually need. I splurged the other day, on a trip to the gigantic Goodwill Store in Portland with Jim. I was dazzled by a ballerina pink chiffon scarf. They sell everything there by weight, so I paid a whopping two cents for it. When I got it home, I wondered what in the heck I was going to do with my crazy impulse buy. Turns out, it looks very sweet tied in a fluffy bow on Heidi's neck. As long as it has a place and a purpose, I can keep it... We do buy food of course, in small amounts because storage is tight. We can justify food, and we like good food. We cook it, we eat it, and then, yes friends, it goes away... in you-know-what form. There's an amazing circle of life sort of theme beginning to appear here.
There's one other form of shit that sooner or later, we all have to deal with, and it seems even more imperative when traveling and living in close quarters the way we are. I'm talking about the interior, mental shit we each drag around like a big plastic poop bag at the dog park. Everybody has one. And sometimes we become overly fond of our poop bags, for reasons that make little sense, and we forget to toss them in the trash can and walk away from them. Things that no longer serve us, like old beliefs, excuses, and justifications, are best left behind. Hauling them around makes it very hard to move forward. It seems I'm frequently, if not constantly reminded to let go of all sorts of old crap I've dragged around for years. What freedom to toss these bits of nonsense one by one into the universal trash bin. They get so heavy, and so very stinky if we keep them too long. My advice, which you can take or leave, of course, Let it go, my friends. Toss that baggie and leave that old shit behind! Taking too close a look at it can quickly become wallowing, like the baby who learns to take off her diaper, but then decides to dance in her own little shitty mess. That's wallowing. It's not useful, and it's certainly not pretty.
By now you're either feeling totally cleansed, or possibly, and more likely, like you need a shower. My apologies to the more delicate of you. If you've read this far, you're not as delicate as you think. I really felt this was a topic worth discussing, something most people are afraid to talk about. But I'm here to be real with you. And I know there are a lot of people considering doing something along the lines of what we're doing. It wouldn't be right to let you believe it's all sunny days at the beach and champagne beneath the full moon. There's plenty of that, sure, but a small, portable life is a magnified version of a "regular" life. If you're going to do it, you need to be ready to see every little bit under a microscope, and you need to be willing to get rid of everything that isn't truly useful. In more ways than you can imagine, and more ways than I've talked about here, you really have to be ready to deal with your own shit. Having said that, three months into this adventure, and learning new things daily, I heartily invite you to join us out here. The messes may not be fun, but they're easily identified, and not too bad to clean up, once you get the hang of it.