Friday, April 17, 2020

Lost: One Tiny Trailer Life--Please Call If Found

A light snow Wednesday, April 15

I can't find my tiny trailer anywhere, but I have found this small garden hut in my driveway, beside my garden. It has wheels and is rigged to tow, but it's blocked in front by bales of straw. It could be a tiny trailer if I could travel and camp. It could be my tiny home away from home if Iowa's campgrounds were open. Right now our tiny trailer is our meditation retreat, our mobile office, and our dacha beside the garden (which I've written about before).

A second snowfall today, April 17

We have very close family interactions here in town, and we've been trying to understand and to redefine how those connections work and will work in the next year or two. Can two households establish safe measures to interact? Can even one household establish safe measures? Do we need to have food delivered? I think these questions are being asked by many when long-term lifestyle changes are reckoned for our future as individuals, families, and communities.

We are working to create a safe environment--one self-contained family living at two locations, food eventually delivered. Right now I am going to the store about once a week, early in the morning, wearing a face mask and packing alcohol hand-sanitizer. We may cut that out or lengthen the time between grocery runs soon because my greenhouse will begin delivering greens in about a week. We have always kept a supply of food on hand since we cook mostly with bulk, unprocessed natural ingredients. Sandy and I can pretty much hole up here at home and pull the hole in and disappear. If we can create that same situation for our daughter and family, then can we carefully interact--being ready to invoke a two-week quarantine if the protocols are compromised?

It's a day-by-day situation with a recognition that the worst is yet to come in Iowa, expected in May. Right now our county has had four confirmed cases of COVID-19, with no deaths. Other places in the state have higher infection rates. Today the governor just announced the K-12 schools would be closed for the rest of this school year. Several meat-packing plants in the state have had major virus outbreaks among the employees. Meanwhile, I'm focusing on staying at home and tending my garden.

There's this sense of loss, though, a sense of discomfort and sadness, even though sickness and death from the coronavirus have not struck our community yet with a heavy hand. One article I read that provided perspective for me was from the Harvard Business Review, "That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief." The article introduced some new perspectives for me, one being that we are experiencing loss of our normal lifestyle, economic loss, and loss of connection--several kinds of grief. One concept that I hadn't heard of before was that of "anticipatory grief," that unpleasant feeling we get when we are anxious about the future.

It's especially difficult for my wife, who feels an obligation to help out with the children and grandchildren. My years as a school teacher have helped me, I feel, deal with the separation. Teaching is a career-long process of giving everything you have to the children before you, of completely dedicating yourself to their inner and outer wellbeing--and then letting go and allowing them to go on with their lives without you. It's tougher with family, but the same principle applies: they grow up and leave the nest. Sure, I'm grieving, but the pain is worse for my wife.

I've written a long introduction to finally arrive at discussing my tiny trailer. Sandy and I have just taken probably the shortest drive to a camping site ever. I hooked up the trailer and moved about ten feet forward so that I'll have space to put up the awning without having the guy wires block the walkway. Our camping will take place in our driveway in front of our garage and next to the garden. For my nature inspiration authors this season, I'll take less inspiration from Thoreau and Muir and more from my gardening books. Rather than oak, maple, sycamore, and juniper, I'll be communing with kale, lettuce, peas, and green beans. And lettuce, arugula, cilantro, chives and onions, okra, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes (red and yukon), asparagus, chard, spinach, squash, and a few other vegetables, I'm sure. I shouldn't forget the flowers either, the day lilies, peonies, irises--and the annuals, the cosmos, zinnias, and marigolds. And, of course, our peach, cherry, and pear trees . . . and raspberries. Hmmm . . . sounds like I'll be busy this year!

A photo from the kitchen window, after the first (and lesser) snowfall

I'll be able to set up our mobile office so that Sandy can work outside while I putter and plant in the garden. Not today, though, because we got about 5-6 inches of snow last night, our second snow in a week. It will melt soon; it was thirty-two degrees at dawn, but wow! The ups and downs of spring! I'm writing right now in the early morning, the sun up but the day gray with a canopy of cloud and white with a blanket of snow. In the next couple of days, it will warm up enough so that I can plant peas outside and possibly even transplant some of my kale starts that are up in my mini-greenhouse.

COVID-19 Iowa

We'll start living more outside. And  with our family situation? It's a time of hard assessment. We may decide for our households to continue our quarantine of households with groceries delivered and no other interactions before (or if) we interact again. Increased pressure from the environment may determine that we continue our quarantine. Or we may decide that we have created two safe "bubbles" in this COVID-19 polluted sea. The entire world is working this out, trying to determine long-term liveable solutions. We all know the short-term protocols.

What is odd is how integral to our plans our tiny trailer has become. It's there in our driveway, just waiting for some time inside or a chair or two out front. We can build a fire. We can watch the sun go down. It's a world apart, even on a journey of only ten feet.

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  1. Well written and, yes, we are all "living the questions" (Rilke). I was 3 weeks into a 9-month trip and decided to return home. I've camped in my own driveway ever since, and spend at least part of every day hiking and biking the woods of Kansas City. I don't have a garden, but I'm learning to forage in the woods. I'm learning plants and wildlife by observation, reading, and art. I'm keeping a "traveling-in-place" nature journal rather than the travel journals I typically create. I've taken on the radical slowness of a snail, focusing on the intimate landscapes that surround me rather than my faster world travel of prior days.

    I can't wait to be released though. I enjoy your blog. Thanks for your comments about releasing our children and grandchildren. Mine are in town; I too struggle with these questions.

    1. Thank you so much for your response. It is supportive to know others are dealing with the questions of safety and family--that "safety" not only applies to the physical body but also to emotional and spiritual safety.

      My wife and my extended family here in town are meeting (outside in our daughter's backyard) this weekend for a family discussion of this situation. The main issues are that even though we want to meet together, our social "ecosystem" is not completely closed. Individual households still grocery shop once a week, for instance. If we interact, then we are more socially supported but the chance increases that if one person gets the virus, then it will spread through the whole family. Questions regarding the possibilities arise, a main one being that if the adults are hospitalized, then who takes care of the grandchildren. If the grandchildren are hospitalized, then family can't visit them.

      I wish you well, and it sounds as if your pursuits are truly worthy of respect. Here is the URL for a little article I wrote about delving deeply into one place when camping. You'll probably have to copy and paste.

    2. Yes, trees are harder to identify than one would suspect. I'm still working on that. Thank you for the link to snail-like travel.


  2. Sounds like your plan will make the best of what we've got right now. Here in Michigan we have a much higher case and death count then you do. We've been under stay at home orders for a few weeks. I go to the grocery store with mask and gloves every 2 weeks. Other than that I stay home. We can't purchase annuals or seeds because the garden centers are not essential, though it's too early to plant here anyway. We got snow yesterday too, but today it will be in the 50s. Spring in Michigan. So far I'm fine with having to stay in, but I will miss camping in the woods if I don't get to go. I camp alone, so it would be nice to be able to go, but I understand if the parks don't open. IF that happens I'll set the tent up in the back yard. Katie the dog who camps with me will be just as happy.

    1. It's not a perfect plan. Our family "distanced" meeting yesterday was a walk around the neighborhood while we talked. We are going to "quarantine" each family for two weeks, except for trips once a week to the store. (And I'm going to try to stretch ours longer, now that I have some greens coming in.) Then we will begin our interaction between our two families.

      In two weeks, though, the situation here in Iowa way be much worse. So far the governor has been reactive, and therefore always behind the progress of the virus.

      I'm setting up our camper for my wife to use as her mobile office. That way she can get out of the house, have more fresh air and sunlight, and she will be able to look out the window and see me working in the garden. Thanks for the comment, and safe and healthy times to you.