I loved, I lost, I insulated some walls

In March, the love of my life went AWOL, and I insulated some walls.

Don’t talk to me, don’t ever come in my workplace again and sit there staring at me while you drink your coffee, I told you I wanted to be left alone, I told you to respect my boundaries, but you continue to ignore them, I want to remain friends with you but understand that nothing can ever happen between us again. Fine. I can live with that, because I know this has happened before, and with worse fighting, and we’ll just end up in bed together inside of 2 months when he gets lonely. I try to put away my concerns and focus on the trailer.

It’s finally starting to come together; the trailer looks more…real with the floor in place, like it could be a place to live, not a dingy mobile equipment shed. My stepdad comes over with his Sawzall to cut a hole in the side and top of the trailer to install a window and skylight. Since I can’t cut through the metal ribs that form the trailer’s frame, I chose a small window specifically designed for use in a trailer. There’s also trailer skylights available-try looking for an “RV skylight”, it’s just a specially shaped plastic bubble that can be installed on the roof of a trailer. I installed the window and skylight, sealing them against the weather with a healthy bead of caulk.

Then I started in on the insulation.

My father suffers from the after-effects of chronic Lyme disease, which he waged war against on various fronts for many years; one of these fronts, eventually, was IV antibiotics. They came packed in giant cardboard boxes, cushioned by gel refrigerant packs and squares of styrofoam. It was the foam squares I was after; we had a huge sack of this spent ordnance from the Lyme wars lying around the attic. With a little inventive measuring and cutting, the foam squares fit between the ribs of the trailer’s frame perfectly. Basically, I was following the pattern of a traditional frame wall, with a frame inside, insulation in the gaps, covered inside by paneling and outside by the trailer’s aluminum skin-an insulated, weathertight “sandwich”. I chose foam board for insulation over fiberglass or spray foam for several reasons, the most important being that it’s super easy to install and takes up very little space (important in my trailer.) I couldn’t have it sticking out past the metal ribs, because then I couldn’t attach my wall panels, so I went for the thickest piece that would work, which was about 1″. I also bought 3/4″ foam  board insulation to use on the roof, as it would bend to accommodate the slight bow in the roof. All in all, it took 1 bag of foam board squares and 3 large sheets of foam board insulation to insulate the ceiling and 3 walls (I left the back door uninsulated, planning to hang an insulating curtain in front of it so I could still use the door.)  Meanwhile, things seemed to be warming up a little between me and my angry lover. I even thought I might get to see him soon.

Motivated by foolish hope and happiness, I began to put my walls up. Most of the original paneling was in good condition, marred only by a few easily fillable dents, cheap trim, and ugly paint. I pried off the cheap plastic trim with a flat-bar and reinstalled the panels in their original locations, even using the original fasteners and pre-drilled holes (this was convenient, because the panels had to be attached to the metal frame, and drilling pilot holes into the metal was a pain. i went through many drill bits.) To fasten anything to the trailer’s frame, I had to use self-tapping screws, a type of screw that cuts threads into metal or plastic when screwed in. They’re identifiable by the small notch cut into the tip.

For the ceiling, which had previously been bare, I used sheets of 1/4″ plywood. I had to cut it into sections to be able to bend it enough. I cut it into thin strips that just spanned the gap between each set of metal ribs. Then, I covered every other section of the roof with the plywood, attaching it on both sides to the roof-ribs with 3/4″ self-tapping screws. To cover the spaces in between, I cut the 1/4″ plywood wide enough to slightly overlap the plywood I’d already attached. Obviously this didn’t look super finished and professional, but I liked the shingled look it gave my roof. Unfortunately, the wall panels didn’t reach all the way up to the ceiling, so I was left with a gap in the paneling where the top edge of the wall met the ceiling; it was at an odd angle, with nothing really to screw into. This would prove to be quite a pain later.

Then I made the worst mistake of my life: thinking he was about to come back to me. I was convinced that beyond all odds I had managed to be patient enough to merit a final chance at redeeming myself, but this was my downfall. Almost a month after he had first gone missing, he told me he was reunited with a previous girlfriend, who he had been seeing before me. He described her as the love of his life, and told me not to feel replaced because “what I have with her is nothing like what I had with you”. He reminded me that he had lived with her before moving to the area, a privilege I had never enjoyed. Every time I closed my eyes I imagined them together. It was torture, despite my daily reminders to myself that other people were far worse-off and had more difficult things to bear than I. So I tried to concentrate on building the trailer, so I could move on, away from a town where everything reminded me of him. But the construction was delayed for weeks while I flailed around helplessly in a soup of ugly feelings. Finally I managed to pull it together enough to salvage some trim from a trash pile behind a notoriously snooty local dance studio, and paint the walls with 2 coats of linen white left over from my mom’s house. Installing the trim was difficult; the trim nails were hard to drive in because the paneling behind the trim was really thin and absorbed the force of the hammer blows by bending or bouncing back. It was easy to bend a nail or smash a thumb; I did both many times. If you’re doing a trailer conversion like me, remember to nail into something solid, or consider using small screws, or use very thin trim and just attach with construction adhesive.

Anyway, I made it, and the hurt is a little less every day-even less now that I’m busier and know that I’m getting out of here soon.

 

And my walls still stand, and protect me from rain and wind just fine.

The Imaginary House-Builder


 

Are you having trouble picturing yourself building a tiny house? But you still desperately, desperately want to? Do have absolutely no construction skills to speak of? I mean, maybe you know which end of a hammer to hold, and which end to smash your thumb with, but that’s about it? Well, less than four months ago, I was in the same boat as you, and now I have a house-trailer sitting in my dad’s yard, ready to move. The trick to not letting the crazy scale and complexity of the project scare you, is to cut it down to size.

I don’t mean to make it even smaller-tiny houses are tiny enough to begin with; I mean breaking it down into small, manageable segments. And then picture yourself doing each thing. Yes, some things will be new to you, and you’ll have to learn. You’re going to have to learn some basic electrical wiring, very basic plumbing (possibly), joinery/cabinetmaking, installing insulation, painting, installing flooring, installing windows, heating and ventilation…and that’s just the start. But if you break it down into small segments, it’s less scary and more doable. That’s the trick here: you’ll never be able to do anything if you think you can’t. When I was working on a trail crew, I discovered that if I tried to lift a heavy log while thinking of how heavy it was and thinking that I was weak, my arms tired in seconds; but if I thought, I’ll give it my best try and see what happens, I found I had extra reserves of strength I had been holding back-plenty to lift the log into position.

Can you imagine yourself building a whole tiny house?

Probably not.

But can you imagine yourself buying a trailer to build it on/in? Yeah, probably (unless you’re completely out of cash.)  Can you imagine yourself reading books about construction? Can you imagine yourself building walls? A roof? Insulating the walls? If these individual steps seem too much for you, break it down ever further into each individual task, from measuring to cutting to attaching pieces together. Remember, this (or any project) will take time, so be patient with yourself. And read, read, read! There are plenty of books on carpentry, basic plumbing and electrical stuff, wood heat, composting toilets, rainwater catchment systems, etc. etc. at your library. Reading up on what you’re going to do is sometimes better than sorting through a whole bunch of search results. It also helps you break down the steps of what you’ll have to do and what order it should be done in. If I can do it, so can you!

Good luck.

Of Love and Power Tools

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Just recently, I checked out a book on carpentry at my local library. (It outlines everything from basics to how to frame a house, the part I’m interested in. Written by this guy, it’s an excellent read-I highly recommend it.) Anyway, I started absently flipping through it during a lull in the lunch rush at work. I turned to the safety section and expected the standard, stern lecture on being constantly vigilant on the job and having no excuse for ignoring safety procedures. Instead, I read this: “humans simply cannot be plugged in like power saws and run all day long. Besides a body, you also have a heart and mind that need protection…most of my workplace injuries have occurred when I went to work with a battered heart.”

This was surprising and refreshing; I’ve never heard anyone talk like that in my 5 years of workplace experience. But it’s so true. I work as a cook, and have reached the level of skill where I don’t often get cuts or burns. But this spring, I had the final chance with the love of my life and royally screwed up. I can track our growing apart by my gradually healing burn scars: this batch are from when he said he never wanted to see me again, these ones are from when he told me he was back with his old girlfriend, and this cut is from when he wished me a happy birthday and I couldn’t think straight all day. I remember crying in the kitchen during the worst of it, my co-workers staring as if they had never seen anyone cry before, unsure what to do about it. Thankfully they were understanding when I sent out the enchiladas to the wrong table, but I’ve worked with and for many people who think that a human CAN just be left running all day like a power saw. I’ve done it all: the 15-hour days, the sleep-deprived commutes, the “flexible” schedule that you discover has flexibility for the boss’s schedule but not yours. And let me tell you, you’re better off working 30 hours a week calm, happy, and mentally present, than working 70 hours a week while miserable and spaced out. (There have even been studies confirming this!) So if you’re working on a project yourself, whether it’s (relatively) big-like a tiny house-or small-like knitting a sweater-follow your instincts. If you’re heartbroken, angry, or anxious, don’t force yourself to work, unless you think doing something will help you clear your head. Take care of your heart and mind, as well as your body. Try meditation (I say this, I should be doing it too!) Take on a big project in small, manageable parts. And if you are in a managerial position or own a business, be attentive to people’s moods and make sure they feel safe discussing personal concerns (within reason obviously!) ultimately you will be better off for it.

With A Little Help From My Friends

Ok, I keep saying I built my own house-on some levels that’s true, but on others levels it’s pure unmitigated bullshit. Yes, I built my own house-but there’s no way I could have gotten anywhere near done without the help of many wonderful people, in big and small ways, intentional or unintentional.

First, there was the guy who sold me the trailer. Bob and his wife agreed to drive 2 hours out of their way to deliver the trailer they sold me; I never would have been able to get it otherwise, because my current vehicle can’t tow so much as a skateboard. Then there was my father, who generously let me take up a big chunk of driveway parking the trailer, and an even bigger chunk of basement space with the construction materials that accumulated during the building process. He also offered invaluable help in other ways, from helping remove the original wall panels to letting me use his table saw to prep many feet of flooring (yes, I still have all 10 fingers.) Without being able to use his tools and space, I never would have gotten anywhere. Then there’s Melody, the woman who was generously giving away a room worth of recyclable wood flooring for free (see my previous post about the trailer’s floor.) My friend Tommy helped me finish the floor, spending 6 hours on a sunny March day crawling around the floor sanding off the old finish. He’s also been an invaluable companion on other missions, from Home Depot trips to junkyard excursions. He even took one for the team when a 10′ piece of ABS pipe I bought to make a solar water heater put a crack in the windshield of his Civic. (We were in the drive-through at Taco Bell, so his sour mood was soothed by cheesy tacos, and insurance did cover it.) Then there’s my stepdad, who came over with his Sawzall and cut 2 holes in my trailer, for a window and a skylight. I could go on all day; there’s numerous other people who have offered me advice, inspiration, building tips, encouragement, travel suggestions, and moral support. They are restaurant regulars, friends, hardware store staff, family, former co-workers, random strangers-and even my family’s dog (that’s the moral support). Anyway, my point is, it takes a village to raise a house. In America, we like to celebrate the “self made” person, who made their way in life with no help. Unfortunately, I think this has led to a culture where people reject help unnecessarily, don’t offer help when they could, and can’t accept that any big project inevitably is a group effort, whether or not that is easy to see. There is no shame in accepting help when it is offered; be happy that you have people around who would like to see you become successful. Don’t be afraid to take the hand that is extended to you. Just always remember to give credit to those who have helped you become successful, and remember that one good turn deserves another!

The 24-Day Minimalist Challenge

As someone who hates to sound self-righteous, this post sounds a bit self-righteous. Please know it’s not intended to come off like that-I have plenty of problems with unnecessary hoarding of crap, and I do a slightly less structured version of this bout once a year.

Before you begin: Identify the most cluttered parts of your living space; if you have things in a storage unit, garage, or at friends’ or relatives’ houses, include these too. Identify how minimal you want to go, and why. Your minimalist challenge will play out differently depending on how much and why you want to get rid of stuff.

Day 1: Where will stuff go when you need to get rid of it? Clear out a designated area of your house for things waiting to be donated, sold, or tossed. Research locations to donate items-you can start with Goodwill, but there’s lots of places looking for specific donations of specific items-for example, the library might light your old book collection, or some shelter dogs could sleep on your old towels. Also, sometimes you can re-sell your old books and clothes to a consignment store or used book store; just be sure they’re in good condition. Get plenty of empty trash bags and have a couple recycle bins handy.

Day 2-8: Identify the worst-offender cluttered areas. These don’t even have to be messy, just anywhere stuff has been sitting collecting dust. Sort that stuff into what you use every day (like your favorite coffee mug, your laptop, and-hopefully-your toothbrush), what you use maybe once a month (that weight bench in the garage) and things you only use once a year or less (does anyone in the family even like enforced snowshoe outings?) Put the daily stuff back in its place, but keep out the once-a-month/once-a-year things aside-you’ll be doing a little more sorting with these.

Day 9-10: What’s most important to you among the things you only use once a year or once a month? Decide your priorities-you would probably rather ditch a shirt you don’t really like and wear little, but not equipment for a hobby you can only practice seasonally. Also, for things you use this infrequently, see if you can’t do without some of them. Look into the options of renting or borrowing tools or equipment, or getting a gym membership rather than constantly stubbing your toes on workout equipment. You’re aiming to get rid of most of the “monthly” items and all but a few of the “yearly” items.

Day 11-15: Now it’s time to sort the stuff you decided to get rid of. Refer back to the list of donation places you made on day 1. Sort out donations, box them up, and designate a day for donation drop-off. Sort out items to be sold, too. You can sell collectible stuff, electronics, etc. on a site like Ebay or Craigslist, or through the classifieds. Less valuable stuff, like stuffed animals or old furniture, can be sold at a tag sale. Anything that’s just beyond the pale gets recycled or thrown out. Recycle metal, glass, plastic and paper; old ragged clothing can be cut up for cleaning/shop rags, and unfinished wood scraps and wood items can be burned in a nice bonfire!

Day 16: Have a tag sale! (you can skip this step if you live in an area that doesn’t permit it-instead, resell or donate as much as possible.) If you have kids who are reluctant to part with their old stuff, encourage them to sell old unused items by giving them the profits from the sale of their old clothing, toys, etc.

Day 17-23: Identify the paths through which excessive crap finds its way into your house. (Trash counts too!) Weigh out all the trash you make in this week and figure out where it’s all coming from. Is it your to-go coffee habit (I know I have that problem!) or is it excessive junk mail? Are plastic bags choking your trash can? Figure out a strategy to combat trash generation, whether it’s buying a shiny new travel mug to keep in the car or unsubscribing yourself from the junk mailing list. Also, look at your shopping habits-are you tempted by the lure of sales? Ironically enough, window shopping can break your bad habits. Often, it’s enough to just admire the items you like in a shop; you’ll discover that you can enjoy looking at whatever you lust after (whether it’s chocolate-covered Oreos, a new chainsaw, or anime figurines) without NEEDING to buy it. Unless it’s the chocolate-covered Oreos. Don’t fall into the trap of buying stuff on sale because “you might need it later!” Stuff is still going to be on sale in the future. And besides, by the time you really do need the thing, you’ll probably have forgot about the sale. (The only exception here is winter clothes and swimming suits; end of season sales are great for these, and you know you’ll need them eventually.)

Day 24: Pat yourself on the back. You made it! Now you actually have space to walk through your garage/basement/efficiency apartment/wherever! Congratulations! Go out for pizza or whatever floats your boat.

 

Salvage Sources & Dumpster-Diving Safety

Salvaging materials is a great way to not only reduce costs on your project, but also lower the environmental impact. Up to 45% of waste that goes in landfills is construction debris, some of which is perfectly re-usable material. Many materials you’ll need to build a tiny home or trailer can be picked up for cheap or free, from plywood to drawer pulls. Here, I’ll share some of my favorite sources of salvageable, reclaimed, recycled, and scrap material, and give some tips on safety and general salvaging guidelines. The beauty of building tiny is that you can use many pieces that would be considered too small/scrap in another application.

SALVAGE SOURCES

  1. Habitat For Humanity ReStore

These stores sell leftover, scrap and salvaged construction materials, furniture, fixtures, paint, finishes, fasteners, tools, and just about everything you can imagine, at a reduced price vs. what they would costs new. Just a warning: some stores are more furniture-specific than construction-specific, so call or check the website before you drive 2 hours out of your way. Still, it’s an adventure every time you go, and all proceeds from your shopping go to support Habitat For Humanity!

2. Construction site dumpster

You’ll definitely find construction debris here, but you’ll probably have to dig through a bunch of junk to get to the useful stuff. There’s also probably lots of drywall dust, insulation, sawdust, and other nasty stuff you don’t want to breathe in, so wear a dust mask. You also run the risk of pissing someone off if they bust you rummaging through their trash. It helps if you know a guy who knows a guy…

If you must go this route, scout out the site before you go there. Do you see any debris worth salvaging? Are they easily accessible? What times is the site unoccupied? Where will you park your ‘getaway vehicle’? What’s your plan/explanation if things go sour? I probably would not recommend doing this unless you ask the folks in charge of the site first.

 

3. Dumpster behind lumber supply company

Reward:risk ratio is pretty high here. Lumber supply companies throw some CRAZY stuff in the dumpster. I’ve found almost half sheets of good plywood, pristine flooring samples with various finishes, pine siding with only a small warp/defect at one end, broken (but usable) trim pieces…either ask the store owners if you can take or buy scraps from them, or wait until after hours to grab your present from the plywood fairies and make a quick getaway. One person’s trash is another’s treasure.

4. Abandoned barn or old building

A pretty reliable source of salvage goodies, depending on how long it’s standing and how well it’s picked over. Avoid places with no trespassing signs unless it’s REALLY REALLY abandoned. It’s one thing to take some old pieces of barn board from a falling down building in the middle of nowhere in a field…another to bust into some place someone’s actually trying to fix up. In this case, you’re better off if the building is on your or a friend’s property, or ask the building owner first. Also, with very old buildings, be cautious about taking painted stuff, because it may have been painted with lead paint and you don’t want to put that in your house.

 

5. Friend/relative’s garage

Probably the safest source, and usually free. Just make sure to be polite and grateful; offer to mow their lawn or something. You would be surprised what people have had sitting in their garage since the Nixon administration. They might even thank you for clearing out some extra storage space for them.

 

6. Yard sale/tag sale

This may be not the best place for finding castoff construction material, but it’s a great source of furniture that can be reborn in new forms. Also a great source for second-hand tools, but be sure to ask to test power tools before buying. Anecdotal evidence: my dad has a tag-sale find table saw and it works fine-all it needed was a new blade.

 

7. FreeCycle (https://www.freecycle.org/)

A network of local non-profit groups through which people list, trade, and give away useful items that would otherwise be thrown out-for free! This site isn’t construction material specific; you’ll find everything on here from mattresses to dishware to used trampoline frames (to name a very specific example) and everything in between.

 

8. Craigslist

Check the Tools, Materials, and Free section. The Materials section is a great resource; it’s mainly people selling either salvaged materials or new materials left over from a building project in amounts to small to complete another project-perfect for a tiny house! Even with the new items you can usually save money over going to a store like Home Depot. The Free section is useful for finding free firewood.

 

9. Local paper/advertising section

People will often sell old tools, furniture and occasionally scrap material through the ad section of the local paper. This is usually a pretty trust-worthy source, especially if you’re in a tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone. not the best source for scrap, better for finding old tools-but keep a sharp eye out for a good bargain and don’t be scared to negotiate a bit.

 

GENERAL SAFETY & STEALTH GUIDELINES

-Wear comfortable, durable clothing that’s easy to move around in. Cover arms and legs to avoid splinters and nail scratches.

-Wear sturdy shoes or boots with thick soles to prevent foot injury from nails or falling objects.

-Wear a dust mask if you plan to be salvaging in a dusty area or poorly ventilated old building.

-Wear work gloves if you plan to be doing demolition type stuff or handling things with nails sticking out of them.

-Park your vehicle out of sight if you’re dumpster diving, plan a drop-off route that won’t make you conspicuous, and be prepared to explain yourself. If asking for materials is an option, take that option!

-If you have to actually take things apart to get at what you want, bring pliers, a hammer, flat bar, flat head and phillips head screwdriver…this should cover most of your bases.

-If you’re dumpster-diving, it may help to bring a friend as a lookout.

Above all try to stay safe, keep things on the up and up, and if you have the option of asking for scrap rather than dumpster diving for it, take that option! And don’t do anything too dumb like I would. Happy scrapping!

Dead Turtles, Renaissance Faires, and Stripper Memoirs: a meditation on mental freedom

I’ve had a strange couple of weeks. Or informative, depending on how you look at it. The weeks leading up to my 20th birthday invited a lot of depressed navel-gazing about what I’ve done with my life, where it’s going, and my continuing discomfort with who I am and how I present to the world. I’ve always seen myself as too big, loud, awkward, inauthentic, ignorant, or just generally unworthy to let my authentic self hang out for everyone to see. This gets pretty painful in social situations and makes it hard for me to find like minded people. I’m always mentally dissecting myself and editing my personality. I wear baggy clothing in public to avoid attracting stares, and I always hesitate to start a new activity because I’m so harsh on myself when I’m in the learning phase; I even hesitate to tell people about my hobbies until I get good enough to “show off.” Other people notice. Everyone from my friends to former lovers have commented on my lack of self-confidence; in fact, I scared off the love of my life by relying so much on him to prop up my self worth, that I was more of a barnacle infestation than a girlfriend.

The week before my birthday, I picked up a copy of Bare, the memoir of a woman who worked as a stripper in Seattle. She eventually ended up leaving the business for a career in journalism, but before she did, she wrote extensively about the lives, views, and relationships of her co-workers. Contrary to what I expected, a lot of them felt no sense of embarrassment or shame about getting naked in front of paying strangers-in fact, some even said it gave them a sense of power.Many of them used the money they made stripping (lots of it!) to fund creative and educational endeavours and travel. One said that she liked working as a stripper because she was surrounded by other educated women! (This may be biased, after all they were in Seattle…) what a contrast between my philosophy (shame, hide behind a baggy sweatshirt) and theirs.

 

I was still thinking about this when my friend pulled the tiny baggie of dried mushrooms out of the trunk of his car a week later. “I ate a bunch yesterday, and gardened all day!” he said. He had been explaining to me that he ate the magic mushrooms once a year to mentally reset himself. He became too tense, too tangled up in the world’s expectations. That sounded like an exact description of what ailed me. I, too, needed a factory reset, I thought, as I chewed and swallowed the leathery little caps.

 

Within half an hour, the world swam and buzzed around my head, and the forest seemed suffused with an inner light of its own. The trees swayed in the wind, and I swayed with them; I only had to look at the bark on a tree or the veins on a leaf, and I became transfixed with the layers of infinite detail each contained, each layer laid out in such amazingly precise and complex pattern. The shades and colors of everything seemed not just brighter and more contrasting, but somehow alive-I could see every shade from cool lime green to rosy pink to hot orange in the dead wood of a fallen tree. My friend and I wandered through the woods and talked about things as they came up. I’m going to give you my favorite pearl of wisdom from my magic mushroom munching friend:

“The Earth is just a giant stomach that’s digesting everything on it. and once you realize this, you will worry a lot less about some things.”

This is true. Everything is born so it can die. The natural order of the universe is chaos. And why is this? So it can feed the cycle of life. And why is THIS? We don’t know. Some people believe that we create the universe in our minds. I believe the opposite: the universe creates us in its mind. We are the dream of the earth. And we are each a fleeting and tiny part of this dream. But do you know what that means? That you are no more or less important in the dream of the universe than the smallest dust speck, or a whole galaxy.

A week later, I found the turtle on the train tracks. Well, it was just dry bones and a shell at that point, but it looked to have been cut down in the prime of its life. And it wasn’t just dead, it was ripped apart and scattered along the train track; I found its bones spread out over a 15-foot section of track. As I squatted down by the tracks to pick up the bones, I thought about how the turtle had been smashed by a train as if it was nothing. And I realized, yes, I am like the turtle in a way, so are we all: we will all be crushed under the wheel of time as if we are nothing. I am just as vulnerable to age, heat, cold, sickness, injury, natural disaster, misfortune, as any one else, or as the turtle is to the train. I too can die.

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(Skull, claws, vertebrae, and shell-an architectural masterpiece)

But I didn’t want to be fixated on death. So I went to a Renaissance fair. A Renaissance fair is a crazy celebration of color, sound, smell, taste, texture…almost like my mushroom munching misadventure the week before. There were vendors of clothing, jewelry, toys, dishes, armor, feathers, flowers, and ornaments of every description; food, dancing, and music, and acrobats, and pirates, and snake-handlers. And then there were the guests’ costumes. For me, this was the best part of the faire. I went in costume and felt incredibly nervous-I thought I would be the only one there dressed up, or that my outfit wasn’t good enough. How wrong I was! More than half the guests were in costume, with outfits ranging from authentic custom-made armor to rainbow fairy wings to Gothic getups to pirates to a weaver in a dress made of genuine homespun cloth. And no one seemed self-conscious. People of all ages, body types, etc. were dressing up, getting in character (including attempts at old-timey speak, with varying degrees of authenticity!) and having lots of fun. I actually got stopped by several people who liked my outfit so much thy wanted to get pictures. So much for self-consciousness!

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(The woman next to me in the blue dress was a vendor-her dress was amazing!)

 

Anyway, the (metaphorical) fire burns low and my tale must draw to a close. But heed me well and listen to these lessons that I myself am still trying to learn, imparted by these events: Don’t be ashamed of the way you look. Be realistic, but don’t be ashamed. Don’t take yourself so seriously, don’t take others so seriously either! You, and they, are fleeting dreams of the universe, ultimately destined to meet the fate of the turtle on the train tracks, as is everything you hold on to so fiercely. Don’t be sad though, just appreciate the now for what it is. The earth is a stomach that’s digesting everything on it, but before you are digested, the dream of the earth wants you to be happy, and laugh, and wear bright colors, and get naked and roll around in the dirt, and eat ripe plums until you’re sick, and whatever else you need to do. Don’t worry-the universe is not taking score.