Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Some Days



Some Days
By Brian Ernest Brown

Some days
Are better than others

Some days
You just want to hide under the covers

Some days
Surprise you with possibility

Some days
Just slap you into sensibility

Some days
Offer the promise of a new love

Some days
You'll make peace with loneliness in leiu of

Some days
You'll feast on a banquet of delight

Some days
You'll make do with what's in sight

Some days
Everything turns up roses

Some days
Everyone is turning up their noses

Some days
You'll feel happy and secure

Some days
You'll just simply have to demure

Some days
That's just life

Some days
Either harmony or maybe strife


Friday, October 11, 2019

Storage, Baggage, and Minimalism


I awoke just a bit ago feeling very chilly and I hate the cold.  It's still dark out and the temperature is hovering at freezing.  I'm living in a rolling home, a 22ft motorhome, and I lazily parked for the night without propane or water.  So there's no water for tea and even if there was, there's no propane with which to heat the water for tea.  So I guess I'll shiver in silence.  You would think that after going on two years of this kind of lifestyle I wouldn't let myself get into this kind of predicament but then you would be underestimating my laziness.  ;-)

If it's too cold to sleep and definitely too cold to get out of bed what else does one do but surf Facebook?    Come on, you know you do it!  So, when I looked at Facebook it threw up my most "liked" picture of 2017.

Now as anyone who knows me can tell you, I take a lot of pics!  I really expected a pic of some beautiful vista, flower, or bike trail - one of my usual pics that is.  Instead I was confronted with the picture above of an empty 10ft X 10ft storage unit I had just managed to gut.  I guess my embrace of minimalism attracted admirers or perhaps voyeurs who wished to accomplish something similar in their lives.  The caption of the pic is as follows:

For the first time in my adult life I no longer have a leased storage unit. Now it's true that I still have some work to do on my embrace of minimalism but it's all under one roof now and able to be better sorted, re-homed, dumped, or made into a burnt offering. Making progress...

It was true. I had storage all of my adult life up to that point and had probably spent, all said and done, around $40,000+ on storage over the years.  And for what?  To shuffle things from one pile to another because I was hanging on to things that no longer fit in my day to day life.  Oh to be sure, there were valuable piles, some valuable in sentimental attachment, others valuable in monetary attachment but the operative word there is attachment.

Whatever my reason, it was an unhealthy attachment to things that no longer fit into my life for one reason or another.  I had moved on but instead of letting those things go, I dragged them along with me.

I originally simply wanted to do away with the expense of warehousing all of this stuff I had managed to accumulate over the years.  It was pretty simple really, I didn't want the expense of caring for this added baggage any longer.  Little did I know that this purge would soon spill over into other areas of my life as well, such as my relationships with people, personal, professional, and spiritual but that's a story for another time.  My brain is too cold at the moment to even explore and or unpack the topic.

These are the things I was thinking in the wee hours of the morning as I snuggled under my blankets trying to keep warm in the frosty darkness just before twilight.  Living a life of minimalism in a rolling home is great for introspection and that's good because that's all I can do right now.  It's too cold to stick my nose out from under the covers!


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Traveling


"Traveling messes you up, but in all the good ways. It leaves you always craving more, and addiction that can never quite be met. Every place, every trip, every person is a new adventure; pulling you deeper into the love of wanderlust. Your heart begins to hurt when you’re standing still, and your mind begins to itch over the idea of new places you haven’t been. Fill your soul with adventure and traveling and you will live a fulfilled life." —Unknown

Friday, October 4, 2019

Autumn


"Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?" -Hal Borland

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Desire Less

 

 “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” -G. K. Chesterton

Monday, September 30, 2019

I'm Not a Survivalist

The Boiler Room in Port Townsend Washington. While I never volunteered here, it is in drop-in centers such as this one that I've found some of the greatest joys of my life serving others in the community and being served at the same time.  

"I am not a survivalist. I am an incarnationalist. I don't believe we are here to just survive but rather I think we are here to revive and transform creation through the creative process of living joyously and loving one another abundantly, while celebrating the diversity of the universe we live in. I don't believe in libertarianism for the sake of some self-focused individualism that places the survival and welfare of self over the empowerment and welfare of other but rather I believe in the Commonwealth, only through which can the common good of all creation ultimately come to fruition." -Brian Ernest Brown
I wrote the quote above several years ago in a response to someone dear to me when we were discussing the whole prepper movement.  I think she assumed that since I was always looking for land on which to create community, that naturally I must have been a prepper, getting ready for armageddon, the zombie apocalypse, nuclear doomsday, or some such calamity.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In the event of an apocalypse of some sort I would hope that I would run to those in need of help the most, offering whatever assistance I could and sharing whatever it it is that I have.  I would hope that I would have the courage to walk the walk I've been talking about for so long and not hide in a bunker in the woods, protecting for myself, propane, silver, food, medical supplies, and precious resources.  I hope my belief in the social contract would encourage and empower my actions to be a helper and not a hoarder in such a circumstance.  However, I'm not naive enough to think I might not falter out of fright or greed but I would hope not. 

I've never been a survivalist.  I really don't think I have the gene for it.  I value my life but maybe I value yours more so.  Many of my friends and family have heard me say, "no one can take advantage of me because I'll just give it to them."  The same is true about stealing from me.  Ask, and I'll most likely give it to you.  You can't take from me, that which I'll give you.  It seems to be the way I'm wired.

I have always been a giver; a giver in the extreme.  It's almost always from a place of compersion for me.  What is compersion you ask?  Glad you did.  Compersion cannot be found in the dictionary, but Wikipedia defines it as “an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy.”  In many ways, I suppose, my giving nature is purely selfish; I derive great joy from people being happy and feeling joy.  While receiving gifts is not one of my favorite things, giving them is.

Simply put, I enjoy doing things for others.  Helping people in need but also even those in want more often than not.  I take great delight in the delight of others.

While most of my giving has been altruistic enough, with the exception of that little compersion thing that I get out of it, not all of it has been so.  I'm not quite sure what I feel about that but it's the truth and so I own it.

I have also used giving as a tool, a way of finding out what people really want from me.  Many times in my life when I've felt there were alternative motives in a relationship, be it personal, professional, or spiritual, I have given the person everything they asked of me to get to the bottom of the basis of the relationship and to see what was left when they had what they ostensibly wanted.  Many, times, though certainly not every time, that was the end of the relationship.  They got exactly what they wanted all along and I was of no use to them any further.

When it was all said and done, I could say, because of my love of compersion, "well at least I enjoyed the ride to the bottom," though the bottom was often a rough landing.  This kind of behavior has also offered me the occasion to start over many, many times in different arenas of my life.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, as it's a poor survival technique to say the least.  However, that's what this blog post is about, my lack of survival instinct.

I have said all of that to say this, I value relationship between people so much more than I value the false permanency of things or even life for the sake of life.  I value authentic honest relationship and helping others in need or even in want perhaps above most anything else in my life and I'm always willing to give my all in such endeavors.

I've had the big house, the precious collections, the expensive clothes, the fine jewelry, the foreign cars, the artsy galleries.  I've had it all and I'd trade it all again for authentic honest relationships and or to help out those in need or in want and that's a good thing because that's exactly what I've done most all of my life.

Now please don't hear me say that I don't like the finer things in life, nor that I won't always pursue those kinds of things.  I love to nest and I can be quite a collector at heart and in some ways, I'm just as materialistic as the next person.  One only need to observe my lust for new technology to realize that I'm speaking the truth here.  Hey, I own it!  Even so, I've realized over the course of my life that wanting is often sweeter than having.

As a result, I currently try to live a minimalistic life but not one a deprivation where I'm doing without for the sake of doing without but instead one of decadent minimalism where the things that I do possess or the things I allow to possess me are of great delight and quality to me.  And even then, I know in my heart that I will eventually part with them one way or another; so I'd rather part with things while I'm alive.  There's and old quote that's been hanging around for years and I don't know where it originally came from but it goes something like this: "Do your giving while you’re living so you’re knowing where it’s going."

In the end, it's community, the commonwealth, relationship, whatever you want to call it that appeals to me most, not money or material things  It's living this life together, for and with one another that is most meaningful to me.  If you are currently in my life, whatever our connection, thank you for your present!  If you were in my life but no longer, whatever our connection, thank you for the memories and the lessons.


Sunday, September 29, 2019

What You Shall Do


“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” -Walt Whitman

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Continuing to Downsize: 16,000 Emails


Today was kind of a bittersweet day. I spent much of it continuing to downsize. I had put off and put off working on my biggest collection yet, my email archives.

There were about 16,000 of them. Many of them were of no real importance but some of them were from friends and family who died and or from ended relationships of some sort. It was particularly hard to part with the latter; to in a way, finally say goodbye even to the memories but say goodbye I did. I deleted all but five emails, ones that would require my immediate attention.

 My final collection, almost as large as my emails, are my pictures. I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle that and I'm not sure that I will ever be ready to tackle that. Though ready or not, I'll turn loose of them one day, one way or another.

When I was getting rid of my molecular pictures I took digital pictures of them or scanned them into the computer. That allowed me the illusion of downsizing because now they were only digital and took up virtually no space in my physical life. Even though somewhere there is a server or several servers with my pictures spread around. Even digital things take up space.

The thing about downsizing is that we're all going to do it some day one way or another. I'm just continuing to do it myself, in the now.

I'm still not sure I'm ready to give up my pictures. Maybe tomorrow I'll be ready, or maybe next week, next month, or next year. Time will tell the story.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Mystic Swims


When I get in too deep and I feel myself slipping down, down, down, into the depths, I just have to remember to simply let go and float...

"The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight." -Joseph Campbell

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Does That Thing Even Run?


For the most part, my last year and a half living in a rolling home has been amazing, memorable, and for the most part the people I have encountered have been kind, hospitable, encouraging, and even envious. 

Sure, it's had its challenges, trials, and tribulations.  There has been a series of repairs, though no breakdowns which stranded me.  I switched vehicles in mid trip which was a journey in and of itself.   There have been some health challenges which seem to have been mollified for now. There have been longer than unexpected layovers where I spent much more time in one place or another than I had anticipated. And some of the shows and sales I have had haven't been up the financial levels I am use to.

However, all in all, my surprise life in a rolling home has been an adventure I wouldn't trade for anything and one I would recommend for almost anyone wanting to learn more about themselves and the world in which they live.

And then there are moments that just make me shake my head...

During my continued and extended stay in the Ozarks Mountains I rolled over to a retreat center/ministry place I have a deep and loving connection with.  The people who run the place are absolutely the best and I count them as dear friends.  Their hospitality, generosity, and kindness is the kind one rarely finds in this old world of ours but one often shared in these here Ozark Mountains.  These folks and their ministry are a blessing to me in every sense of the word.

I had been staying there in my motorhome, Milton, when a wedding party booked all of the lodging facilities on the grounds.  This didn't really affect me as, in the lyrics of an Arlo Guthrie tune, I was boondocked "off the side of a side road" and was in fully self-contained mode with no hookups, nor need.

I had been out and about on the town with a friend, when we returned to the motorhome to find a fellow wanting to speak with me.  He was with the wedding party.

Now let me say, never wanting to be a burden, I had checked with the team at the center to see if I needed to move off the grounds to make room for anything or anyone from the wedding party. They had assured me that I was fine.  I reiterated yet again my offer to vacate and they assured me everything it really was okay for me to stay there. Being parked barely off of a gravel road leading to several houses down the street and plenty of distance away from any loding or building and completely out of sight of the wedding circus tent they were raising, I thought I was in a pretty out of the way place.

This fellow with the wedding party didn't think so.  He said that they were going to use that area for parking. 

Now, my motorhome is a mini motorhome.  It's five feet longer than a conventional full sized van and  at twenty-two feet, just one foot longer than a 1972 Oldsmobile Delta Eighty-Eight Royale Convertible that I use to own. Milton takes up a single parking space and a half.  For an RV, he has a small footprint.

So I looked at the fellow, looked at the proposed parking area, looked at Milton, and asked a gentle and yet pointed question,

"Do you really think that a parking space and a half would make a huge difference in the parking spot availability?"

Seeing the logic in my question he shifted tactics...

"Well, the bride and groom want to take some pictures with an uninterrupted view."

I countered...

"And a grassy knoll parked with the cars, trucks, and vans of wedding guests wouldn't obstruct the view?"

By then I knew what was up, they simply objected to the motorhome itself.  Milton is an 1985 model and though he's in good shape for his age, he is not, however, the most beautiful boy at the dance.  I find most motorhomes and RVs to be terribly ugly and older ones can be even more so.  Milton might not be the most beautiful boy at the party but he ain't the ugliest one either.  One might gently describe him as homely, a fitting description since he is my home.

I quickly kicked into patronizing wide smile mode and was in the process of assuring him I would move and that it would take me a little bit of time to have everything ready to go, when he asked a question that triggered no small amount of egotistic irritation in me.

"Does that thing even run?"

I didn't say what went through my mind at that point.  My southern manicured manners wouldn't allow it. I won't even write it but instead I'll leave it to your colorful imagination.  I had previously turned around and was getting ready to climb in Milton to ready him for departure but this fellow had hit a nerve in me and he now warranted my full seething attention so I slowly turned back around.

As I turned I let slide across my face the most southern deprecating smile I could muster.  One that spoke volumes - with curled lips and almost fiery glaring eyes. One that would make small southern children quake in the realization that they just had just crossed a point of no return with their teacher and had better retreat quickly.  One that would make Pastor John rethink his refusal to the invitation to Sunday dinner from Sister Margret when they shook hands after the service.  I think I even straightened my shoulders and squared them off a bit when I offered,

"Why, yes of course he runs!  I've traveled in him quite a few places and in fact I live in him.  I am a longstanding visitor and guest to this place and am here, like you, with permission."

My ego got the best of me and to my shame I pointed out that not only was I a frequent guest and visitor there but that I had also, at times over the years, held mass there in the chapel and conducted other gatherings and retreats on the grounds.  I am ashamed of this part of the conversation as the proper and humble thing was to simply say nothing but smile and move on.  However, my perception at the time, rightly or wrongly, was that somehow he was treating me less than and talking down to me and that poked my usually slumbering ego into waking.

At that exchange the fellow looked at me differently and began to backpedal, trying to offer several alternative parking places for me, none of which would have really worked for the wedding party or for me but he was trying, bless his heart. He now looked a little less condescending and aggressive and perhaps even a little penitent and I dare say sheepish.

Inwardly I smiled at his new found humility and as quickly, felt revulsion and guilt at my own shameless display of peacockery.  I recovered my sanity and stinging with disappointment in myself, smiled tiredly and gently said,

"Well, that's neither here nor there.  I'll gladly move just give me a few minutes."

I told my friend that I'd be ready to go in a few and where I planned to rendezvous with her to figure out where to head next.  To my friend's ingenuity, and while I was readying Milton to move and the wedding fellow was still trying to find a compromise, she called her landlord, whom I had previously met, to see if I could simply park in the driveway overnight.  The lady and lord of the land graciously consented and we were off.  My friend and good old fashioned Ozark Mountain hospitality had saved the day.

In VanLife or RVLife people in more traditional homes and living circumstances can sometimes and often do, refer to us as homeless and I think they honestly see us that way.  They question our quality of life, the sanity of our choices, and often try to project their own needs, desires, and insecurities upon us.  People have even suggested I am punishing myself by living the minimalistic lifestyle I live.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

I always counter with: I'm not homeless, my home just rolls where yours stays in place.  And with: I'm not deprived at all but quite the opposite, I feel like I live a decadent life of comfort, freedom, and ease.  They then almost always ask solicitously, "But you really want a real home don't you?"

And I answer, "I have a real home."

The maybe unconscious condescension in these types of questions and assumptions sometimes challenges me.  It did so during this encounter. It may have been my own projection onto this fellow with the wedding party and I own that but it seemed to me that he began the conversation treating me as a seemingly homeless person in a broken down vehicle who was something to be pushed aside from the view of the bridal coronation that was to take place.  As something less than.

The whole exchange has offered me the gift of introspection.  After all, the only thing I can honestly do is to look within myself for a change in my own heart, rooting out my own insecurities and my own stinging pride and to change my own reactions when such encounters happen and they will always happen while I choose to live in a real home which just happens to be on wheels.

The wedding party fellow was only acting out of ignorance, wedding stress, and within a construct of societal norms and projections.  All of which were temporary, forgivable, and able to be addressed within the context of mind-expanding education.  He gave me a great gift though, one of self-discovery and exploration, and for that, I thank him.

It also gives me further insight into how people treat others who unlike me and those of us embracing this #VanLife or RVLife lifestyle may have been forced into a living situation such as ours, and how those unfortunate people may feel with the kind of condescension that often comes from others in regards to their forced lifestyle.  That's another gift of this encounter, one of broadening and deepening my empathy and again I'm thankful.

Hopefully, in the future, I will be more sensitive to everyone concerned with this kind of issue and in this kind of encounter.  Until then, I'll work on my own ego and tendency to project. 

I will also work on my deprecating southern smile. I don't really think it was withering enough!  More evidence that I've spent too much time in the northern states.

Happy trails!  Do what you love and love what you do!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

When I Grow Up or Expectations Run Amuk


Dreams, hopes, expectations...  We all got 'em...

A friend of mine wrote me a note and she started it out with, "when I grow up..."  She went on to outline what she might picture her life to be like as she grows older or perhaps what she might like it to be.  Her note made me dive deeper into my own desires I held as child and through much of my adult life; comparing and contrasting those dreams with the progression of my life and the trajectory it has since taken on. 

I always pictured myself owning a two story home in a downtown area of an artsy college town; some place with brick streets, architecturally pleasing homes, and delightful gardens.  To some extent that happened but it didn't last...

I almost bought a beautiful Victorian home in Eureka Springs Arkansas, an artsy town nestled in the Ozark Mountains.  I was also looking at that time for a home in my hometown of Springfield Missouri, just a few miles away from Eureka Springs.  I ended up purchasing the home in Springfield.  It was twice the home for half the price. It was sold five years later.

I always wanted to find a place where I could develop experiential continuity over the years.  The kind of continuity that wears down stone steps and makes well worn paths; ones used day after day, year after year.  I wanted a staircase bannister that would show the wear it had endured from a well placed hand as I descended in the mornings to spring forth on a new day.  I wanted a home that shared a deep and abiding commonality of life with me, my family, and my friends. I pictured myself growing old in such a place, planting flowers, giving dinner parties, sitting on the porch, loving people, pets, and a life well lived.

Instead of realizing this dream, I spent much of my adult life moving almost every three to five years, always with good reason, forethought, and hope on the horizon. In fairness, most of my moves have been vertical moves instead of horizontal moves, often bettering my life or living conditions in some way, shape, or form.

I have never found the continuity or commonality I have been seeking...

From my earliest memories I wanted to have a little shop where every morning I would unlock my door, sweep off my stoop, turn my open sign around and go to work.  As a child I didn't know what this shop might sell or entail, I just knew that it was to be.  As an young adult I soon realized it would most likely be an art gallery/studio of some sort.  To my credit, I've had several such places and have had a good career as a lampwork glassblower.  However, like my living conditions, I've never kept a single location open longer than five years.  Again, my moves were almost always vertical with better opportunities for the growth of the business and or my personal growth as a glassblower.  Interestingly enough, one of them, my last gallery in Eureka Springs, really fit the daydreams I had as a child, almost exactly.  I kept it for only one short year.

In the note my friend sent, she said she could picture her life with a partner or not but suggested she would like to have someone to sit on the porch with watching the sunrises and sunsets as they grew old together.  I have had much the same kind of dream as does most every younger person I suppose, but to my surprise, that too has eluded me for the most part.

As much of my life has transitioned from place to place in living spaces and gallery/studios, so has my personal life.  Interestingly enough, while most of my deep friendships have endured throughout my life, most of my more personal and intimate relationships have not experienced such longevity.  Many of my more personal relationships, one that evolved beyond more than just friends, have lasted a few years and no more, with two exceptions, one of eighteen years and one for twelve.

Unlike my living and working environments, I wouldn't want to categorize my personal relationships in hierarchical descriptive terms such as vertical or horizontal.  They have all been special, endearing, and important to me in their own ways, the ending of which,  also offered unique angst, despair, and no small amount of turmoil.

I've been thinking about my reality for some time and wondering, what has prevented me from accomplishing that which I have desired so very much.

Am I fundamentally flawed?

Did I not try hard enough?  Did I try too hard?  Am I just never happy because of some mental deficiency, or emotional immaturity?  I'm I lacking in some fundamental ability or skill to obtain continuity and interpersonal longevity in my life?  Am I so damaged by an abusive childhood that it is beyond my ability to stay in long term relationships with places and or lovers even though that's what I have mostly desired?  Do I really self-sabotage in some sort of weird masochistic self-fulfilling prophetical way?

Or is it something entirely different?

Does some part of me instinctively know when things just aren't right for me and subconsciously rebels against my status quo dream of going along to get along?  Does some part of me seek freedom at all cost, just to be free in and of itself?  Like the birds I have always admired and identified with, does my yearning to fly free override my desire to gather a permanent nest?  Or am I an experience junky looking for my next fix, hopping from one experience to the next collecting experiential data, sensation, and feeling: looking for the ultimately elusive nirvanic high?

Do I really think the grass is greener on the other side?

I don't think I have the answers to any of these questions but I continue to ask them of myself.  I continue to try to grow in awareness of those things which have made me who I am and how they still invisibly and visibly continue to play out their own realities in my life, creating a future which all at once eludes me, surprises me, delights me, wounds me, rebuilds me, encourages me, and sustains me all at the same time.

I don't know what my future holds.  I've given up trying to control it, manipulate it, and mold it, and instead I'm going along for the ride good or bad, quite literally since I've moved into a home on wheels.  Maybe this has been the secret all along.  Who knows?!

I do know, though, that unrealistic expectations can rob the joy from the now and so I'm trying to keep my expectations in check and enjoy that which is, instead of focusing on that which was or that which could be.  I'm trying to enjoy the now.  I hope you are too. Time is short.  Do what you love and love what you do!




Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Sensual Longing


“There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.” ― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Find Your Way Again


"And if you should ever look up and find yourself lost, simply take a breath and start over. Retrace your steps and go back to the purest place in your heart...where your hope lives. You'll find your way again." -Julia Brown, Everwood

Friday, August 23, 2019

Day #472 #VanLife: Minimalism and Freedom or VanLife vs. RVLife


Living in a Class C Motorhome is anything but simple at times and though I have many, many fewer possessions than I had when I began this journey, I feel less like a minimalist living in larger rolling house.

There's an old saying, less is more and there's so much truth to that.  As I've been continuing to downsize and minimalize, I'm coming to appreciate that truth as it translates within my reality.  Nothing could illustrate the point better than my recent adventure in moving from a full size van into a Class C mini-motorhome.


I started out this adventure in a 1995 Ford Econoline Chateau Club Wagon, the Kraken.  I spent a good deal of time working on a build-out in the van in which I could live when I did craft shows.  I meticulously engineered my build to meet my specific needs which was heavy on storage in order to store my tools, raw materials, displays, and inventory for being a traveling glassblower.

Now it's important to note than when I was getting ready for this adventure it was only going to be a part time gig while I was traveling doing craft shows.  It beat paying for hotel rooms and insured maximum profitability for me.  However after 6 months I returned home to a failed relationship and a completely new reality for my life going forward.  That's when I started evaluating #VanLife and what my needs going forward were or might be.

I spent another 6 months in the Kraken living in it as a home.  It worked in very many ways but there were a few things that were troubling.  I couldn't sit straight up unless I were sitting in one of the front seats, I absolutely couldn't make glass in side the van, and my climate control was fine for cool to cold weather but during hot weather I didn't have air conditioning or even screened windows to open.  It was also hard to entertain in the van.  It was a cramped space really only built for one. Now, it's not like I have an exciting social life but one always hopes for the possibilities and I do like to cook dinner for friends et cetera.

Years ago, when I was married I traveled in a Class C motorhome with a wife and three cats.  We traveled doing much the same thing I have been doing this last year, making and selling glass.  It was a 24ft older motorhome and lacked some of the creatures comforts of other similar RVs in better condition but I really enjoyed it.  My wife did not.  We eventually returned to living in a stationary house with all the bills and all the responsibilities that come with.  One year later my wife lamented leaving the road because "life was so much easier and sweeter in the motorhome."  Too soon we get old and too late we get smart.

Having had that early experience of traveling and living in a Class C motorhome I always thought in my mind that that was the perfect situation for me as a traveling glassblower.  I could work in one, live in one, sell from one, travel in one, and even entertain in one and all in reasonable comfort.  (Wow!  While typing this I keep thinking to myself, this sounds good and the option I should focus on!)


I was in Quartzsite Arizona when I first saw the RV of my dreams, a 1985 Chevrolet MRV Mini-Motorhome.  So when the opportunity arose to turn seven hundred glass hummingbirds into a 22ft Class C motorhome I jumped at the chance.  "Milton" became mine.

Everything worked in him and the roof didn't leak.  The refrigerator was new, to the tune of over a thousand dollars.  The generator was practically unused and Milton had been obviously cared for all of his life.  He also had half the miles my van had on it.  His awning was great and he had a new mattress in the full size bed.  Even his tires were pretty new.  All in all, he was a great vehicle and home.

I danced back and forth on whether to keep him or not.  I didn't go into this change of lifestyle blindly. Because of my former travels in in a Class C, I knew of the added expense in gas, oil, and fluids for travel; I knew of the greater cost of repairs not only in regards to the "house" part of the vehicle but also in regards to the mechanics of the aging van part of the vehicle; I knew of the parking challenges and I knew of the driving challenges.  I understood how greater luxury would mean less freedom because I would need more money for this new living arrangement and to make more money I'd have to work more, making and selling more glass.  Being more of a slave to money meant less freedom.  I knew all this and still I chose the new RV. I tearfully sold the Kraken and embraced my new life.

My gas mileage has been predictably bad but then I am comparing it to sixteen to nineteen miles a gallon in the van and so four to eight miles a gallon in the RV is terrible.  So far, my repairs have exceeded the amount I spent on the van the entire time I owned it and when I sold it the van was in pretty good condition.  I am even now at this writing struggling with an engine repair that may be more serious than I thought at first.

There's no doubt about it, moving into Milton and selling the Kraken has slowed my journey to a standstill.  If it's not the cost of repairs then it's the cost of fuel.  I'm not sure I continue to want to trade my freedom for some creature comforts or conveniences that aren't critical to my enjoyment of life on the road.

Embracing minimalism has taught me how little I need to be comfortable, content, and indeed happy and how needing so very little gives one a greater sense and reality of freedom.  I've also realized that I crave freedom much more than I do excessive comfort or material things.  This has been a lesson well learned.

I may or may not move back into a van but I know now what its critical to my comfort and what is needed for my space.  Time will tell the story...


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Day #365 #VanLife: One Year Later or Life Is What Happens When You're Making Other Plans


It's hard to believe that I've been living in a rolling home for exactly one year as of today.  So much has happened since that fateful day, some of it wonderful, some of it extraordinary, some of it beautiful, some of it challenging, and some of it beyond heartbreaking.  In short, what a ride it's been!

There's an old John Lennon lyric that goes something like this, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans."

I learned long ago that the sentiment expressed in that simple observation was profound and it certainly has rang true for me this year.  I started out with one set of goals, dreams, and vision and ended up with almost none of those plans working out or even mattering now.  What a difference a year makes.

This leads me to ruminate on something that I've been working on for a while and that is, that I think it's important to manage our expectations.  Expectations left to their own devices and desires can run amok in our lives and steal our joy if we let them.

Now I'm not suggesting that we do away with hopes and dreams but what I am suggesting is that we don't let our natural expectations define our moment.  I don't think we should use them as a litmus test of success but instead, we should use them as a measuring device of where we were, where we hoped to go, and where we are now.  We should always try to look for the joy of the moment, even in despair, frustration, and or perceived defeat.  It's there, if only we'll look.

My journey in #VanLife, when I first started out, was littered with expectations and if I let them, those expectations would convince me I had failed in my journey.  Almost every one of them played out in a different way for me than I had expected.

Some of those ways have been very hard to adjust to and some of them have been very uncomfortable but they have all introduced some much needed introspection and ultimately personal growth for me as a person, a glassblower, a writer, and as a person of faith.  It's important to state that, left to my own devices and desires, I would have not chosen a single one of them for myself and yet, here I am.

For those of you thinking about embarking upon #VanLife I would invite you to hold your expectations lightly.  I would invite you to be gentle with yourselves as you approach a new way of life.  I would invite you to be open to the beauty of the moment instead of getting caught up in perceived projections and or half-assed assumptions.  Try to be supple rather than rigid.  You won't break that way.

Let yourself be; let yourself breathe; let yourself grow.  Give yourself the gift of time and exploration.  Don't rush or try to control the journey but rather simply live it.

For what it's worth, that's my reflection after a year of living on the road in a rolling home.

I will turn half a century old soon.  Statistics would suggest I could easily live to be a century old before I retire this ole body.  Regardless of how long I have left, I plan on living my life radically different than I did for the first fifty years.

I'm going to try to let myself be; let myself breathe; let myself grow.  I'm going to give myself the gift of time and exploration.  I'm going to try not to rush or control the journey but rather simply live it.  I would invite you to do the same.

Be safe and do what you love and love what you do!


Monday, April 22, 2019

Day #350 #VanLife: Meet Milton or #RVLife


Oh my goodness, life has taken another turn on the wheel.  For me it's a time of transition, metamorphosis, and rediscovery but then that could be everyday really.

While visiting Arizona this winter, I went on a side adventure to Tucson and then to Sedona Arizona. When I returned to Quartzsite, my little world would change forever.

There was a Class C motorhome for sale in the vendors' lot where I had set up camp. It was a great temptation. It was an older motorhome but in great shape. As a matter of fact, I hadn't seen one this old in as good a shape for so little money perhaps ever.

The little treasure was a 1985 Chevrolet MRV Freeport Signature Class C Motorhome. In so many ways it was everything that I had originally looked for and hoped for when shopping for a vehicle in which to travel and stay in.

When I was originally looking for something to travel in for my glass business I was looking at Class C motorhomes but couldn't find one that suited my needs, in the condition I needed be it to be in, that I could afford. So I settled on my full-size van affectionately named the Kraken.

The Kraken was a thing of beauty and was in fabulous shape, a most handsome grey 1995 Ford Econoline E150 Clubwagon Chateau. I was able to do the build-out on the inside and make it everything that I needed it to be with a few glaring exceptions and best of all he was beautifully grey inside and out, more than 50 shades I might add.

Those exceptions weighed heavily upon me during this last year. Because of my storage needs for inventory and things for my business, my bunk had to be built a little higher off the floor then I would have liked. As a result I could never sit straight up in the van while in back. I also could not make glass in the van because there was no space to do it safely or even really at all. Entertaining was also a challenge and if I was ever to have a social life I thought perhaps I needed something larger with a full kitchen, a place for two people to comfortably dine, and more sleeping room. While I had grown used to personal hygiene practices in a van, I still felt that I would like a shower unit and the van was not conveniently conducive to that.

The Kraken had checked off all of my needs but the new motorhome seemed to check off most of the rest of my checklist in terms of both needs and wants.

All said and done the Class C cost me seven hundred crystal glass hummingbird suncatchers wholesale.

I ended up acquiring the motorhome and then began to decide what to do with two vehicles, which one to sell and which one to keep as I certainly couldn't keep both. After putting them both up for sale and taking them both down several different times I ended up selling the Kraken.

It was a bitter sweet day. The Kraken had carried me on the beginning of my journey and had seen me through some real heartache and struggle. He had provided sanctuary in a topsy-turvy world in which I unexpectedly found myself. He was my safe place. He went to a good home though. A good guy who was living the #VanLife from Washington State adopted him. They will, hopefully, have many adventures together!

Everyone who knows me knows that I think everything must have a name. The new RV, however, wouldn't give me its name for the longest time and people were asking, "what did you name it?" I usually like to live with a thing for a bit while we get to know one another. Eventually the thing usually offers it's name, we come up with a name together, or a friend offers a name that sticks. That wasn't happening.

When I was preparing to leave Arizona, I started the motorhome and was pulling out. As is my custom with all vehicles I've owned, I patted the dash and said , "okay, let's get going...Milton."

Wait! WTF? Where did that come from?! It felt like an epiphany but I thought, Milton huh?!  Next thought, Milton who? John Milton? Strange enough, it resonated.

It was weird but it felt/feels right. Not a name I would have necessarily chosen but Milton it was.

I have to brush up on my reading a bit. It's been many, many years since I read any Milton. He of course was the seventeenth century English poet who wrote, most notably, "Paradise Lost" and also, less notably, "Paradise Regained" among other works.

Perhaps I was channeling my anxiety about selling the Kraken and I felt that paradise was indeed lost. Who knows?! The name was a complete surprise to me. Hopefully I will find that while paradise was lost, it has also been regained.

Be that as it may, Milton is my new home on my continuing adventure.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

He Who Learns

Sculpture by Brenda Cossé

"He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God." -Aeschylus


Monday, February 11, 2019

The Glory of #VanLife


Ahhh, #VanLife in all of its glory! It can't always be good-looking sexy people on beaches at sunset cooking gourmet meals. Sometimes it's simply shades of grey and a good book. LOL! Here's to #RealVanLife 😎

Sunday, February 10, 2019

5 Days of Eros Writing Challenge Day 1: Hunger


I've taken up a writing challenge with Fleassy Malay entitled:

#5DaysOfEros

Day 1
Hunger

"Eating Glass"
By Brian Ernest Brown

Sometimes I find myself eating glass in my dreams.

I feel an odd compulsion to take a bite and then another.

I watch horrified and yet transfixed at the very sight.

Wondering what the outcome might be.

My hunger for you is much the same as my dream of eating glass.

Deliciously alluring but most assuredly deadly.

And I intuitively know the outcome.

You would shred me from the inside out.

Even still, I ache with an insatiable craving for you.


Saturday, February 9, 2019

Living Fully


"If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for." -Thomas Merton


Friday, February 8, 2019

Broken


"Broken"
By Brian Ernest Brown

You broke everything you touched
You broke everyone you touched
You had even broken yourself
Only I didn't yet know how badly

You broke cars
You broke glass
You broke dishes
You broke phones
You broke momentos
You broke furniture
You broke promises
You broke decency
You broke sobriety
You broke me for the first time

As time went by you broke others
You broke relationships
You broke hearts
You broke them
You broke trust
You broke jobs
You broke life
You broke her
You broke us

I should have known
You'd break me again
I should have known
You'd break me again

In my hubris
I thought I could
Unbreak you

In our breakup
You left me so broken
That I've lost my pieces
And I'm left less than whole

In your brokenness
You break anything and anyone
But it is you who is broken most
And I wonder if you can ever be whole

The real heartbreak is that
I'd risk breaking again
Just to help you
Put your pieces
Back together
If I could


The Indispensable Man or Splash All You Wish


The Indispensable Man
By Saxon White Kessinger

Sometime when you're feeling important;
Sometime when your ego's in bloom;
Sometime when you take it for granted,
You're the best qualified in the room:
Sometime when you feel that your going,
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions, And see how they humble your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that's remaining,
Is a measure of how much you'll be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop, and you'll find that in no time, It looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example,
Is to do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember, There's no indispensable man.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Life or Truth or Beauty


"Everything had changed suddenly—the tone, the moral climate; you didn’t know what to think, whom to listen to. As if all your life you had been led by the hand like a small child and suddenly you were on your own, you had to learn to walk by yourself. There was no one around, neither family nor people whose judgment you respected. At such a time you felt the need of committing yourself to something absolute—life or truth or beauty—of being ruled by it in place of the man-made rules that had been discarded. You needed to surrender to some such ultimate purpose more fully, more unreservedly than you had ever done in the old familiar, peaceful days, in the old life that was now abolished and gone for good." -Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Day 273 #VanLife: What Do I Do Now? or Chasing Seventy Degrees and Sunsets


When I started this #VanLife adventure I had a different life filled with family and friends, a house, and all the things that go with keeping a house.  It was a pretty standard life with all of the ups and downs I suppose and, for the most part, it suited me just fine.

Buying a van and doing a build-out to convert it into an RV was simply to allow me to set up at art and craft shows, selling my art glass across the country while avoiding the costs of hotel rooms. It also offered me the opportunity to see other parts of the country in the hope of relocating our household to a new community  in which I could more easily make a living as a glassblower and our little family could thrive.  #VanLife was a means to and end and not meant to be a way of life for me.

There's an old saying in relationships that "distance makes the heart grow fonder" and then, for some, there's a cynical addendum, "for someone else."  In a polyamorous or open relationship (a relationship based on consensual and ethical non-monogamy) which ours was, one would hope, and more accurately assume, that wouldn't spell the end of a primary relationship but it did for mine.

When I returned home from my maiden voyage in the van from exploring the Pacific Northwest, I came home to a world I no longer recognized and a relationship that had ended at some point while I was away.  Oh, there were several extenuating circumstances but because discretion is perhaps the better part of valor, let's just say that was the end of our twelve year relationship.

I left my home, family, and friends, heartbroken and feeling homeless and somewhat worthless.  Certainly, I felt less than and I felt very lost and completely alone.  That all happened this last October.

I naturally started doing a lot of introspection, soul searching, and otherwise trying to remake or discover what my new life was to be like.

Much of the time since then has been focused on my glassblowing.  I'm so very thankful that my career is as it is and that it afforded me the gift of distraction.  I've been able to focus, as much as one could with such a heartbreak, on something other than said heartbreak.  The roar of the torch is music to my ears and brightness of the flame helps illumine a very dark time for me.

In November and December I rolled into my Christmas show in a major mall in Kansas and poured all of my energy into making glass art and selling it to the Christmas shoppers. 

After Christmas I headed to the southwest for warmer weather and to meetup with the 2019 Rubber Tramp Roundup (#RTR) in Quartzsite Arizona.  Some five to six thousand of us camped out in the desert for fourteen days, sharing our lives and stories while making new friends.

Being out in the desert I had a lot of time on my hands to think and my thoughts seemed to follow a kind of horizontal spiral: How did everything go so wrong so fast? What did I do wrong? What do I do now? Where do I go? How do I live?What did I want the rest of my life to look like?  I had lots of questions with few answers.

After the roundup ended and we all went our separate ways I headed into Quartzsite proper to the annual RV gathering and setup on the main drag at a marketplace making and selling glass art to visitors, travelers, and snowbirds.

As a result of having been a glassblower, going on half of my life, being on the torch sculpting glass is very comforting and meditative for me.  Due in large part to familiarity and muscle memory, it allows my mind to wander and engage in a sort of free associative state.  If I'm not working out my problems on my bicycle, I'm working them out from behind the torch.

Currently I'm still setup in Quartzsite making glass and I still don't have many answers but I do have a few that seem certain: There seems to be no way to return to my former life. I am now, for better or worse, living full time in my van for the foreseeable future.  I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I don't want to be cold anymore and I'm going to be chasing seventy degrees and sunsets around the country.  One more thing is just beginning to dawn on me, for perhaps the first time in my life, I am free.

If there is one bright spot in all of this, it's the reality that I've fallen more and more in love with my chosen career.  It has been the one thing that has brought me the most constant joy in my life and for that, I am deeply and humbly grateful.  Glassblowing for me is as a life preserver for a drowning man.

More than that, I really do not know.  At this moment, my most pressing question now is: do I get a dog? 



Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Love Is


"The conclusion is always the same: Love is the most powerful and still the most unknown energy of the world." -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


Monday, February 4, 2019

Safe-Space Really?


About two months ago, the end of November, I made a post on Facebook and many of my friends thought I was speaking to them directly and there was no small amount of explaining to be done.  I told them that I'd make a more indepth blog entry about the offending post sometime in the future.  This is that sometime...

Prior to my offending post, a clergy friend asked an innocent enough and well meaning general question on their Facebook page and it was something along the lines of:
"To my clergy friends: Who do you seek out for counsel or goto for confession? A psychologist? Someone in the church? A Spiritual Director?"
As someone who had been involved deeply in the church for years and who had indeed reached out to several other clergy folk during times of difficulty or crisis in my life, only to have the situation made much worse by said clergy people, the question hit me wrong.

In fact I had, just the day before, experienced such a heartbreak and betrayal - that once again tore through my faith in clergy folk in general and certainly in this clergy person in specific.

Without getting into too many of the details, this last fall I experienced a crisis like few others in my life and I was in process when a clergy person I trusted enough to turn to, seemingly turned on me.

Now, in fairness to them, I was a raw nerve and perhaps they didn't mean to attack me but from my perspective, it sure felt like they attacked me none the less.  In anger, they faulted me with how I handled my crisis and said as much.  Unable to process their anger and my crisis at the same time, I recoiled from them in a self-protective sort of mode.

Now this clergy person was always one passing along "safe space" messages on their Facebook page and priding themselves on their ability to provide sanctuary to the hurting.   I remember thinking at the time of my own trials and troubles, "well, some safe-space they offer indeed!"

Shortly after this calamity, there was a post going around Facebook at the time for "Mental Health Awareness" month that went something like this:
"Reminder to anyone that my house is a safe zone. Coffee can be on in minutes, or if you prefer tea or soda, no problem. I will always be available - even if we haven’t talked in a while. Even if you think it's weird, or we aren't on speaking terms. Text me, call me, message me, anything. I will be there. I am always a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. Nothing is worse than being alone and going through things alone."
The post, though it was originally posted on an innocent clergy person's page, hit me wrong and tore open an already wounded place in my heart.  I began to think about my various encounters with clergy folk over the years who claimed to offer "safe-space" but in fact offered anything but and I composed my own post for my Facebook wall with them in mind...
I rewrote a popular post going around this month to better reflect my own personal sentiment. 😉 🤣 
Hilarity in 3...2...1... 
Reminder to ANYONE that my house is not a safe zone because in fact, it's not a house but a van. I live in a 19 foot van. 😐 I don't do coffee so you're out of luck there. If you prefer tea or soda, I don't have a way to make tea either and I don't keep soda in the van. Regardless, whatever liquid you might find to drink would be the same temperature as it is outside because I have virtually no climate control. 
I'm not always available, or really at all. I keep my phone on silent and block calls from numbers not in my contact list. For that matter, I block most calls from people within my contact list anyway. 
If we haven’t talked in a while, please don't bother me now. If you think it's weird, or we aren't on speaking terms, these are good reasons to leave me alone. Text me, call me, message me, anything and you may or may not hear back from me but don't hold your breath. I'm not at your beck and call. 
If you need a shoulder to cry on and or an ear to listen, keep looking and good luck. Nothing is worse than being alone and going through things alone except having people continuously trying to dump their problems on you when you have enough of your own! Good luck! 
#CrankyIntrovertAwareness
I felt my post was perhaps more honest than the endless and meaningless "safe-space" prattle offered by clergy across the Facebook platform.  What's more, I thought my renditionion very funny, in a tongue in cheek sort of way.

Oh dear...  So many of my friends thought I was talking to them personally.  To those of you who thought that, I apologize.  Sometimes my humor can be very subtle albeit stinging. What else can I say except, please forgive me, sarcasm is my native tongue.

To my former colleagues  within the clerical realm.  Please, if you are going to build your ministry upon a "safe-space" model please be sure that's what you're actually practicing and not simply offering lip service to a trendy phrase that looks good on your Facebook wall.  There are hurting people out there who need a safe-space and if you're not really offering such a space, you'll do more harm to your cause and to their heart than you know.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Creating Our Own Lives


"It is true that we are called to create a better world.  But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating our own lives." -Thomas Merton


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Loosen My Heart


“I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.” -Dawna Markova


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Maybe It's Time


Maybe it's time for the fighter to be fought for, for the holder to be held, and for the lover of to be loved.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Art of Contentment


"The art of contentment is the recognition that the most satisfying and the most dependably refreshing experiences of life lie not in great things but in little. The rarity of happiness among those who achieved much is evidence that achievement is not in itself the assurance of a happy life. The great, like the humble, may have to find their satisfaction in the same plain things." - Edgar A. Collard


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Day 249 #VanLife: Fifty Shades of Grey or Inside the Kraken

A lot of folks have asked about how I live in a van and what it looks like on the inside. So here's the video you've all been asking for!

Friday, January 11, 2019

What Draws Us In



"What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote." -Edward Abbey



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Sere Geology


"The desert sharpened the sweet ache of his longing, amplified it, gave shape to it in sere geology and clean slant of light." -Jon Krakauer




Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Your Coming Year


"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." -Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Gate of the Year

THE GATE OF THE YEAR

‘God Knows'

By Minnie Louise Haskins


And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” 

And he replied: 

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” 

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East. 

So heart be still: 
What need our little life
Our human life to know, 
If God hath comprehension? 
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low, 
God hideth His intention. 

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision, 
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him, 
All time hath full provision. 

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes, 
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail, 
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.


Happy New Year!


It's a new year! Let's all try and make the best of it! May you and yours have a happy 2019!

From CoolPeopleCare:

"Today is a new day!

You can start fresh,
wipe the slate clean
and begin again.

Today you can:

embrace kindness,
practice compassion,
stand up for justice,
talk to strangers,
ask for help,
offer hope,
listen with your whole heart,
work for the common good,
love well.

You can be the change
you wish to see in the world."