“Keep blossoming.” That is what a friend said to me the other day when we said good bye. With so much gratitude, I can indeed say that this summer has felt like a summer of personal blossoming. After one of the hardest and darkest winters of my life, where I fully surrendered to shadow work, it seems that I am now in a period of relative ease, where things are flowing and falling into place in such a way that I am humbled and can’t help but feel that there are forces bigger than me working in my favor. That is not to say that there aren’t still hard days and moments, and times when I doubt myself and feel scared or alone, but overall when people have asked how I am I can honestly say I am great. Possibly better then I have ever been.
It’s hard for me to capture in words the gratitude, joy and richness of being alive that I have felt this summer but I want to at least share some of the more tangible highlights. First of all, I moved back to Ithaca in April and I truly felt like I had returned to my spiritual and physical home. It felt so good to finally move to a place with the intention of putting down roots. To finally be someplace and not be tied to an academic calendar, a job, a relationship or really any external structure, perceived or real. I moved back purely because I wanted to and with my only intention being to create my life here. And to create it how I wanted, by my own rules, and on my own schedule. And, with the commitment to honor and listen to my highest self, whom I trust to be in accordance with the highest good of all, it seems that the world has opened its doors to me.
When I first arrived in Ithaca my intentions and goals were humble: They were simply to preserve spaciousness in my life and just stay present and centered in each moment in this place that I was so looking forward to returning to. I was grateful to be welcomed back into the ecovillage here, to a living situation I was familiar and comfortable with, and took back my old job as a substitute grocery stocker at the local food coop. Spring was just beginning and with it it seemed people, including myself, were emerging from their winter nests. I was so happy to be back! And I welcomed the familiarity of the ecovillage and the amazing local food coop, greenstar, both of which I missed so much while I was away! But I wasn’t quite sure what to tell people when they asked what I had been up to the last year and what I was doing now, and so I found myself telling them what felt like a convoluted story about my timber framing apprenticeship and other past building adventures and then glossing over the dark winter months with most. But the truth was I felt like I was back at square one in terms of “what I was doing with my life.” I had no idea if I ever was going to build again, I had basically let go of my dream of building “our” home for me and some partner that I no longer had, and I had discovered the hard way that things rarely go according to plan anyway. But, I was okay with being back at square one. If anything I welcomed it, for after a year of deaths of relationships, dreams, and ideas of who I thought I was and could be, square one felt like a pretty good place to be. By accepting this I felt like I at least was not at square zero. It felt like I had already been thrown into the fires of hell, been stripped of any and all protective ware, and had finally been spit out at the other end, raw and vulnerable, but grateful for the soothing waters of the womb of emptiness. I was in no rush to rebuild any false pretenses of “me” and was quite content to just live simply for a while.
So when a new friend John asked me soon after I arrived if I wanted to help him restore an old barn I responded with reserved curiosity. Did I want to give the building world another try? Was I ready for that? I honestly wasn’t sure. But John’s gentle, generous, and humble yet confident nature somehow reassured me enough to give it a go. The barn project was slow to get started and ended up not coming through, but in the meantime John invited me to help him just for a day at another project at Cayuga Pure Organics. One day sounded low risk enough and so I agreed. I was nervous and unsure of myself, but I guess I did ok as at the end of the day when I said, “I hope I didn’t slow you down too much,” he laughed and responded, “Are you kidding me?” I smiled and felt something open within me. I could see he was genuinely grateful for my help, and despite my feeling like I had fumbled my way through the day, he seemed to have complete confidence in my abilities. And so an amazing work partnership was born, and I will be forever grateful to this sweet and humble seasoned builder who has taken me under his wing. That day at cayuga pure organics became the first of many that I worked out there, helping them rebuild from a massive fire last spring that burned down their whole processing plant. And as John and I built together I felt my confidence in myself and gratitude for him growing. Not once did I ever feel like I had to prove myself to him, and he always welcomed questions and input. And it seemed like all our values and working styles aligned and complimented each other too!
As my work life transitioned from mostly working at greenstar to mostly building I also enjoyed a blossoming social life. As a single woman I enjoyed the autonomy of my weekends and evenings, going on spontaneous adventures that would start at the saturday farmers market, and nurturing sweet new friendships. I got to experience my first ever Grassroots music festival, which was a blast, and also finally went to my first Ithaca Dance Camp. The Ithaca Dances of universal peace circle, which hosts the ithaca dance camp, has always held a special place in my heart and to immerse myself for four days in these dances of love and peace was nothing short of blissful.
At a certain point I realized I was no longer just getting my feet on the ground here in Ithaca but had landed. I felt settled in my home, had planted two garden beds full of vegetables that were beginning to give back in their abundance, and felt surrounding by wonderful budding friendships and community, and had somehow found myself to be in a position where building had become my main source of income! And I was enjoying it all. Funny how it only happened when I finally stopped trying so hard. And of course, now that things were mostly in order I had the mental and emotional space to start to consider what were my long term plans? What did I want to actually do?
It was just as I was beginning to mull this question over when Maria had an open house for the Hammerstone school, her carpentry for women school that is on its way to building it’s second tiny house on wheels. The first tiny house was on display for the open house and as I sat inside chatting with the owner, Liz, and her friends and family a seed was planted. I had read about tiny houses and seen pictures of them but had never been inside one. Suddenly I realized, “this is within my reach and I could totally live like this!”
As many of you know, the dream of building my own home is one I have had for quite some time now. It has evolved in shape and form and even undergone its own deaths and rebirths. Because of this I was wary to share this new idea, and protected it as a little sacred seed whose roots were still fragile. Initially I just allowed myself to be intrigued, thinking perhaps next spring, after a year of working and living in Ithaca, this will be what I set out to do. Besides, I thought, I needed to save up more money if I were to do this. But the wheels began turning. A tiny house on wheels would solve the problem if me not owning land and not knowing who, in the long term, I would be happy sharing land with. A tiny house on wheels would allow me to build and be pretty much exempt from building codes and permits. John and I were now working on framing up a 20′ by 32′ house for a couple and I realized a tiny house on wheels was about a 3rd of the size of this house and that with the support and encouragement of someone like John I had the ability to do it. But money did still feel like the daunting factor. Materials costs for these tiny houses generally seems to be in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. For me that is a lot of money, more then I have ever personally had.
But then a few things happened that together convinced me I could do this and I could start now. So now I need to back track a little. Through the winter and continuing into the present I have been doing some deep inner work with the guidance of some very gifted healers who I am forever indebted and grateful to. Through this work I have developed a language and a framework that has become integral to by worldview. Core to this is the belief that we are all creators. That each and everyone one of us is fully responsible for our own experience in this world, down to the family and situation we choose to be born into, the life we choose to create, and even the pain, loss, and heartache we experience. This belief comes from a belief that everything, including what we experience as solid matter such as our bodies, the warm rock I am sitting on, the smoothie I am drinking, and even money, is really just energy. Vibrational energy. At this point, if you are starting to think I am crazy I guess I want to offer that even physics has shown that matter is really just made up of wave particles. I am not a physicist and will not pretend to be, but I just say this to say to those more science oriented people (which I am one of) that this is not totally out of the realm of logical explanation. So given the belief that we are all creators, fully responsible for our own experience here are three questions I now continually ask myself as I navigate my experience in this world: Why did I create this? Do I want to create differently? And how can I create differently?
To give some real life perspective to these questions, I want to say that these were not always easy questions for me to ask. For me on my journey, this meant asking the painful questions of, “Why did Stephen choose to die?” “Why did I need to experience loosing the first love of my life at age 21 to a heroine overdose?” and “Why, over three years after this traumatic life event, did I feel more lost, alone, and in despair than ever before?”
And yet, it was the surrendering to this utter despair that finally allowed me to take a really hard look at myself and ask these questions. And not to blame myself (I had done enough of that), but to understand and see with compassion and clarity why I had needed to create this and then to make peace with all that had come to be. And then to begin to shift things and ask how I do I want to create now.
With these questions guiding me as I continue to work to connect in more with my highest self I have witnessed my ability to create manifest outwardly as I begin within. And so when my car got hit on the side of the road and was declared a total loss my first question was why did I choose to create this way? Well, it turned out I was much happier living without a car. My car had become a headache of repairs and maintenance and I felt better not contributing so much to the fossil fuel economy. And biking, walking at hitch hiking my way through the glorious Ithaca summer turned out to be a beautiful exercise in slowing down, trusting, and asking for help when I needed it, leaning into the wonders of a community willing to share and support one another. And, I suddenly had $4000 of insurance money in my pocket.
Living simply I also found I was actually able to save additional money, despite only bringing in a modest income, and although I didn’t have anywhere near $20,000 upfront to pay for a tiny house I began to trust that the resources would come to support the manifestation of this dream. I remembered learning in one of my building courses about the “time – money – quality” triangle and how it was best to choose two of these three that were most important to you when taking on a project. I realized I wanted to build my self a high quality home and that if I started now, even though I didn’t have the money up front I did have the time. My current living situation is wonderful and affordable and my current work situation is one where I basically create my own work schedule. So really, now was the perfect time to start.
And so the tiny house adventure began. Within a week of getting clear within and telling John that I wanted to do this I began to see things manifest outwardly. Our friend Amy approached John and said she really wanted us to build her a tiny home too and so we decided we would build both hers and mine on John’s land and that she may end up fronting some of the material costs in exchange for my labor. The first step and test of my decision to do this was buying our trailers. I began to look and research and it seemed the general consensus was the trailer was not the place to skimp, and a new trailer was the way to go. The cost savings of used trailers were tempting ($300 vs. almost $4000) but as I sat with the decision I knew I wanted the new trailer, and the only reason I would go for the used trailer was fear of not having enough money. Fear of not having enough is no way to cultivate abundance and so I worked on releasing that fear, seeing this is a gift to myself and others, and trusting that the world would support me. Then in one whirlwind of a day Amy, John, and I drove out to Locke, New York where a guy named Steve Lamphier makes custom trailers, and we put half the money down for two trailers, designed specifically to support a tiny house, and will pay the rest when we go and pick them up in about two weeks. In the meantime we have now received 8 double pane, good condition windows, donated completely free of charge from friends and community members, one window in exchange for 4 hours garden work, and I took advantage of a Lowes sale to special order my four loft windows which needed to be a very specific size to fit the space limitations. I bought a beautiful front door at the Ithaca reuse center and we put in an order for kiln dried pine tongue and groove flooring from Collins Saw Mill, which will be ready in about a week. And Alternatives Bank is going to help finance some of this as a small business model with a $2000 grant. In the meantime we continue to search for windows!
Indeed as I practice envisioning my dreams and trusting, I feel myself surrounded by love and and support. Some have asked “When will it be done?” and “Do you have a plan?” Well, yes, I have a rough plan. But I also know that it will change and evolve. And I have to say I have no idea when it will be done. I have chosen to focus on quality and need to keep costs reasonable, not to mention that taking the time to reuse and salvage materials feels good to me and in line with my values. The process by which this house is built feels just as important as the outcome and it is a process that I want to be organic and not restricted by time. As one person reflected back to me recently, I am approaching this project from the artist side me and see this as me creating my own sacred sanctuary. A place I can call my own. And just as when I start a painting I usually have an idea but no detailed plan, and as it is hard to predict how long a painting will take or when it is actually completed, this tiny home will be done when it feels done, and not before. And there is a vision for it but only a minimalist plan.
And so my dream has experienced another rebirth and I expect this blog to begin to also shift focus to document and support this tiny house project. I hope you can see that really this is much more then just a tiny house project for me. It is a continuation of my journey of coming into my own, setting up my life intentionally in a way that gives me freedom and autonomy, and living simply and in line with my values. It is a practice of trusting and manifesting dreams in a way that supports and inspires others to do the same.
So I end this lengthy post with gratitude and a prayer that I caught at the Ithaca Dance Camp. And the simple drawing I made as a vision board that is tacked above my desk in my current tiny bedroom.
“I Surrender all that does not serve me. I rise to meet my true self. I accept my humanity. And I greet my divinity”