Monday, February 22, 2016

Positive Change



I'm thinking about George Carlin's Monologue on Stuff

I wish I could draw a cartoon right now. If I could draw a cartoon right now it would be of a room full of boxes with a tiny little person's head (me) sticking out (barely) above the top of boxes. How did we get so much stuff? It always looks so manageable when it's spread out all over the house. And the barn. And the tack room. And the tool shed. Marty thinks we can get moved in a month. I'm worried that it may take a hell of a lot longer. I'll let you know.

I am NOT a saver. Never have been.  As a matter of fact, I purge. I love to get rid of stuff. I have always been this way. My mother was a saver. But I have to say she was saved nice stuff. Not junk. I'll give her that. For example, she had beautiful ceramics on shelves all over the house and the kid's artwork stored neatly in the finished basement. I guess I polarized. I am the opposite of her in that way. I detest housework and dust so to minimize both I minimize stuff. I like to travel light. That way if I feel like up and taking off for the Caribbean I can do so at a moment's notice. Dust if you must.....

When I was at the University of Iowa I lived in a dormitory the first year. I wanted to live in a rooming house with my friends but they wouldn't let me so to ease the pain I chose the dormitory that had the most character that looked the most like the singular living I wanted.  I don't care for all slick and modern. So I chose Currier Hall. It was the oldest. It was brick and covered with vines. The rooms and hallways were spacious  the way they did it in the old days. The other dorms were modern, sleek and efficient. And small. And ugly. There was no "there" there.

I had a roommate, of course. Her name was Debbie and she was the opposite of me. Opposite in every way. She was short. I was tall. She was a brown eyed brunette. I was a blue eyed blonde. And she was a little bit off her rocker. One night she went off to the demonstrations against the war in Viet Nam and came back with a nasty bleeding cut on her forehead. She said the police knocked her down. I knew she was lying because she lied all the time and was constantly being caught in her lies. She didn't care. After I left the dormitory I heard later that she had been institutionalized. Girl interrupted.

Well, anyway, we shared the top of the dresser half and half. Her half was so covered with jumbled up stuff that you couldn't see the dresser top underneath. To the left of her side was my side. My side had maybe, maybe, four things on it all neatly arranged. You could see the top of the dresser. When I saw the bleak Woody Allen movie "Interiors" I panicked.  Would I someday find myself walking into the ocean to drown because I messed up my life by being too obsessed with how things look? Well, I didn't drown and I didn't mess up everybody's life including my own. I've made peace with purging.
I think it's good to be streamlined. I think it's good to only have stuff that makes a contribution. It's simple. When I consider buying something I ask myself "will this enhance my life? Do I really need this?" If I can answer yes I buy it and if a year later I haven't used it - which pretty much does not happen because I've analyzed it - it goes bye bye. 

And yet as I box up stuff for the move I'm still thinking how did I get so much stuff? I've got to do better. Moving gives me the chance to evaluate how I live and make positive change.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Four Acres and a Mule




We bought the farm. Actually, I mean, we bought a farm. It nearly killed us but it didn't. It's a good story.

Our property is just north of Fresno near the little town of Madera. Madera is in the middle of California and the raisin growing capital of the world. But the road to get to Madera was anything but fun. What got us through is that we are stubborn when we really want something. We don't give up easily. 

Let me tell you a story.

When I was young I spent most of my time outdoors. My mom and dad weren't happy and rather than keep quiet about it they let the whole world know. You could hear them yelling at each other from almost anywhere in the neighborhood. My self-defense was to leave the house and walk as far away as I could until I couldn't hear them anymore. As a result I got very comfortable being alone in nature. In summer my favorite place was laying down in tall grass watching the clouds going by like leaves on a lazy stream. In winter I walked the uncut rows of field corn rows. The stalks trembled and rustled like old bones in the wind. Out there I felt peace.

It's not hard to figure out why I love the country. It's kind of a wonder why I didn't come back here sooner.

This ranch has been great. The thing I'm going to miss most about it is the peace. No freeway noise. No neighbors mowing lawns. No nothing. The only thing breaking the silence is the honking of geese flying in to the lake or the random motorcycle way out on the road.

The only problem with it is this: it's not ours. We really need our own place. A place where every little dirt clod kicked over has a purpose and makes a contribution. A place where we can build things that make sense to us. According to our plan. A plan that we decide on. So that is our new place.

We almost didn't get it though. It's a seller's market for fixer upper property in California. Buyers from all over the world and mostly the Orient are coming in to California and buying up property cheaply with cash, fixing it up and re-selling it for a profit.

We started looking in July 2015. We made offers on 3 places only to be skunked by cash buyers every time so when we saw this place on realtor.com we called up the agent and, sight unseen, we made an offer. We knew from painful experience that we needed to get our foot in the door immediately or the place would have an offer on it and we would get skunked. This way we might have a chance. We could always back out if we saw it and it wasn't right. 

So we made an offer for a little more than the asking price that was still in our comfort zone and not out of line with the comparables. Then we took a chance and agreed that the owner could stay on a bit after closing to move herself out. Lo and behold, we got it! Just so you know, we did see the place and we did decide it was perfect. 

Honestly, it feels like a bit of a miracle.

Four acres (two and a half, flat and arable) land with plenty of water, trees, outbuildings (in need of  repair but, so what, we can do it!) and a modest house. Now we just have to get a mule!