This is another epic post that interweaves several themes lately on my mind: visceral and spiritual design, pursuing passion, connectedness, wabi sabi, reflection, simplicity and, as always, art, nature and transformations. If you are designing or about to start construction on a tiny house, and are a hurried and pragmatic sort, skip down to the 10 tiny thoughts section; otherwise, come take a meditative stroll with me and see why Tassajara has been such a formative part of my tiny house journey…
nothing on the paper
but cherry petals
~ Jane Reichhold
I love the word burgeon. I use it a lot in reference to my growing tiny house. It means to bud, sprout, put forth, develop. It originates from the late 1200s, Middle English for bud or plant shoot, deriving from the Latin word burra – wool or fluff, presumably from the down covering certain buds. To me it also represents imminent potential and those powerful forces of nature that make all things come into their own.
My recent sixth building stint was both a revel in a full spring blossom riot and a lesson in accepting that everything must take its natural time and course. You can’t hurry a bud. And sometimes you are your own bud. And sometimes you just have to be patient with yourself.
To my Bay Area friends interested in tiny houses – Dee Williams will be in town twice in May! On May 4th, she will be reading from her new book, The Big Tiny, at the Book Passage in Corte Madera, and on May 17th she will be teaching a one-day tiny house workshop. This is a great opportunity to meet one of the big pioneers in the Tiny House Movement. Who knows, you might just get so inspired your life could radically change (not that I know anything about that – ha!)
The Big Tiny book launch and tour
Take a Dee Tour and shake up what you thought a life should be: Dee Williams kicks off her national book tour on Earth Day next week in Washington D.C. To read about her book, see her tour schedule, or order a copy, visit The Big Tiny page on the PAD website.
PAD Tiny House Workshops
Dee will be teaching a one-day Intro to Tiny Houses workshop in the Bay Area on May 17th. If you are starting to think seriously about building a tiny house, this is a great opportunity to learn about technical and design issues that will help you be better prepared. Visit PAD’s workshop page for more information about this class, as well as the two-day workshop in Portland at the end of May.
NOTE: The early registration discount for the Bay Area class ends April 21!
Dee in the New York Times
The New York Times just did a great feature on Dee today with wonderful photos of her tiny house. Check it out here.
I’ll also be at the two Bay Area events along with other tiny house enthusiasts. Hope to see you there!
UPDATE: I just learned that the Bay Area workshop will be at The Crucible in Oakland – very cool. There will be a mixer after the workshop for the general public (5-7pm), so come join us! I’ll share more information on this as it becomes available.
To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.
~ Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living
I’ve never kept a journal. There was that little red one with silver gilt lettering I got when I was seven or eight. I kept it around for awhile because I was fascinated that it had an actual lock with a key I could hide away. I scribbled a couple deep, earth-shattering secrets in it but couldn’t be bothered after that, leaving pages and pages accusingly blank. The key got lost. I made several attempts later in high school and college but just felt way too self-conscious writing about myself. I also lack discipline. I decided I was not born to write. Continue reading
I just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Atlanta for a friend’s cd release party (check out the band Roxie Watson: “When you have a group of women who are natural story-tellers, who soothe their aggressive musical chops with beautiful harmonies, temper their rock-n-roll sensibilities with an understanding of Appalachian tradition, and come off as a little bit Keith Richards, a little bit Bill Monroe, you get Roxie Watson.” – Lisa Love, Georgia Music Magazine.)
While I was there, I was telling them about how my journey to tiny houses was influenced by Robyn Davidson’s camel trek across Australia (On camels and tiny houses) and the funny coincidences that have arisen from that (On camels, cameras, courage and kindness). This morning, up early due to jetlag, I got to wondering when the movie based on her memoir, Tracks, was due to open. I found the trailer and was very happy to see that, for the most part, the scenes and images look very true to what I pictured in my mind’s eye upon reading the National Geographic article back in 1978 when I was thirteen, and my many times reading Robyn’s book:
Something strange happened on my most recent build stint. My house became real.
I had thought it was real before, as the walls went up and the roof sheathing and layers of foam went on, but I was wrong. It took up space but it only had the faintest of heartbeats, personality, soul. It had vacant eyes and a bald purple head. I loved it anyway.
But this time, with only a little prodding from me, it came into its own. It now has a full roof and windows and a crazy smile. It’s still without siding and a door, but now there is a definite sense of interior and exterior, a defiant assertion of self. I feel like my child has just sprouted a wispy beard and gotten a driver’s license; it’s both amazing and a little terrifying.
The last few weeks have been a time of big changes and a girding of loins. Of peering through the dark. Of confronting fears and planting seeds and taking leaps of faith. As I look back on my fifth build stint and the pictures I took, there’s a preponderance of grays and black, of clouds and drizzle, of cold metal and granite rocks. Of shadows, winter twilight and aluminum crutches.
But burgeoning beneath all of this are oranges and reds, warm light and glowing wood, budding friendships, camaraderie and familial love, and the promise of spring and of becoming, bubbling up like lava, inevitable, molten, raw.
“My advice for designing your tiny house? Follow your gut.
There are many valid approaches to design such as the pragmatic (function) or the aesthetic (form), but these tend to be rational processes using the cerebral cortex, the thinking part of your brain.
Here’s the thing: if you want to live happily in your tiny house over the long haul, you need to tap into your amygdala. That’s the more primitive part of your brain that triggers your immediate visceral, or gut, reactions to sensory input.”
Recently there was an interesting thread of comments on Tiny House Talk’s post on John Labovitz’s house truck that highlighted some classic introvert versus extrovert perspectives. The arguments supporting John’s choice of living arrangement and lifestyle mirrored my feelings exactly, and bolstered some ideas I’ve been mulling over the last year regarding introverts and tiny houses.
So for all the introverts thinking of living tiny, I offer you this valentine and validation.
Bucking decades of negative labels, there is a burgeoning movement to acknowledge the value of introverts and the gifts we bring to the world. I have a theory that there are strong parallels with the rise of the tiny house movement. Based on the common themes I read on tiny houser blogs, I rather suspect that tiny houses innately appeal to introverts.
I don’t mean to say that there aren’t extroverts living tiny – clearly there are (though as we will see, introversion is not always obvious on the outside). I just wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is a high ratio of introverts to extroverts within the tiny house community. Agree? Disagree? Read on, then share your thoughts.
Why is this important? I’ve found that the more I understand my own nature, the better my tiny house design has become. I’m fairly certain that those who take the time to look inward during the design process are more likely to be happy with living tiny in the long run, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. There are big differences in how each interact with the world, and how they like to spend their energy. If you are considering living tiny, take some time to figure out what this means to you and the design of your house. This post delves into what I’m learning as I go through that process myself.
Tiny Homes.com invited me to be a regular monthly contributor to their new tiny house site and my first post, Catching up with Naj Haus, just launched today. It’s a compilation of excerpts from some of my earlier posts, so if you’re new to Naj Haus, it’s a quick way to get up to speed on my tiny house journey. :)
Tiny Homes.com was started by Lina Menard and Kenny Bavoso to connect people interested in tiny houses. By gathering a multitude of contributors, they hope to share a wide perspective from people who are designing, building and living in tiny houses. They are also growing it into a resource hub for tiny house workshops and events around the country. Go check them out!
Putting this post together was a nice opportunity for me to see how far I’ve come over the last year, from my first tiny dream beginnings through all the experiences I’ve had along the way. I would like to once again give a big, deep, heartfelt thanks to Dee, my original inspiration, mentor and comic relief, and also to my other friends at PAD, Joan (and Rita) and Lina, all of whom I’ve known just over a year but it feels like much longer; to all of the rockstar PAD work party participants who got three of my walls up so cheerily; to Derin and Ben at Shelter Wise who are making sure I will stay warm and dry under my stellar roof; Steffen and all my other friends and neighbors who have donated expertise and wood and an extra hand or two or three; to all of the other tiny housers and bloggers and readers out there who have become part of my tribe, sharing their knowledge and stories; to Trish for allowing me to take time off from work to do this crazy thing; to my Bay Area (and elsewhere) friends who have cheered me on and been patient and understanding as I’ve been largely missing in action; and most especially to my dear family for being so loving and supportive in ways too numerous to count.
There is no way I could have gotten this far without all of you. You’re so awesome.
Here’s to another year of adventure and friendship (and hopefully a completed house)!!!
Song of ice and fire
Okay, I know I’m really late to the party but as I was killing time in the airport on my way home from my fourth stint of building my tiny house, I picked up a copy of A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. The series, as most of you know, is called A Song of Ice and Fire, and this seemed rather appropriate for the last three weeks. Although Oregon was fortunate to miss out on the extreme weather of the “polar vortex” hitting most of the country, we did get temps down in the 20s and each day was a dance of trying to keep the barn warm enough to apply stains and other building materials, but not too hot to work.
So pour yourself a cup of mulled wine, throw another log on the fire, and listen to the epic saga of this last build stint: Continue reading