One of the things I missed most about our old house was our chalkboard wall. One day, I took a workshop from my friend Ancel and she used chalk to write on her wooden walls to explain a lesson and I realized that I actually had everything I needed already – chalk and a wall.
This is kind of the way we have been living over the last two years.
What do we have and how can we use it?
In part one, I talked about things being unfinished. Today I want to focus on what we have been grateful for and we have used what we have to make the best of life even in a place where it can be challenging to build on so many levels.
When I count the blessings we do have and all the miracles we have experienced in the short two years we have lived here, the list is long. But the following list is what has mattered most lately.
Water. Lots of water. We have a robust rain catchment system that consistently has 12500-15000 liters of water at any given time in a town that can and has been experiencing a water shortage.
Simple cooking. We have a cooler, a gas cooktop, and a kettle which keeps us eating fresh and not wasting as much food and looking for simpler recipes with more fresh and less ingredients. We look for things we can eat with one bowl and one utensil.
Shelter. We have a beautiful deck for sunning with a roof over it and container rooms that keep us cozy on those windy and wet tropical storm days.
Each child has their own space which was important for my teens if they were to give this “jungle living/moving to a new country” business a shot.
If you asked them if they wanted their own room or electricity at this point, they would tell you how much they love reading in their room alone by candlelight.
A Strong Marriage. I have understood how love liberates my children but never quite knew how love could liberate my husband and myself as we continue to navigate our commitment to each other as we ourselves change and transform.
After the challenges of moving here and feeling the ebbs and flow of money and adjusting our paths to allow our own individual selves to thrive, I understand how love can liberate.
Love doesn’t have to be tied to anything external – the right circumstances, the right words, the right conditions. It is intertwined with trust.
It can be there as an intention when you are lying on a single sleeping bag on the floor beside each other while sharing half a shipping container with four kids for two weeks or lying in a tent with all of the kids, a tent that needs to be dismantled before 7:00am every morning as the construction crew comes to finish up the rooms or even lying and laughing in a hammock together at the life you are building on an even more solid foundation than you began 24 years ago.
Resiliency. My children empty pee buckets to help water the fruit trees and fill washing stations to wash dishes to save water and because there is low water pressure in the kitchen. They have been stung by scorpions, caterpillars, spiders, wasps and mysterious things that we haven’t seen but know they exist because of the bites we notice later.
One bright spot is that we don’t have many mosquitoes but we have been smacked in the head at night by a bat, a giant moth, a giant cockroach, or a giant grasshopper. (We learned quickly about the downside of headlamps.) When we moved in, it rained and rained and rained. All of us have fallen at least once in the mud.
We have tented. We have walked dogs and pee and poo buckets to the guest house so the crew could finish the bathrooms. We have cooked outside in the dark and in torrential downpour, misjudging our solar lamp light duration and not being able to find batteries for the flashlights, and hoping the unexpected crunch in soup was from an undercooked carrot and not from a bug. I have chased a kitten into the jungle and suffered a plant sting all the way up my leg. We have opened boxes where ants have built nests.
Nature. Even with all of that above, my children sometimes sleep in the hammocks outside to keep the dogs company or to stay up late gazing at the stars on a clear night. They strap on their rain boots to explore the creek or take a walk to have some clarity. They have their “sit-spots” in the house and outside of the house where they watch the same hummingbird build its nest or watch the tadpoles in the pond.
Can you find #5?
We map the times and dates of nature’s rhythms like the migration of the raptors or the time when thousands and thousands of a type of gnat swarmed the air so that we couldn’t even see in front of us and then having dead bugs all over after they all died on contact. We marked when the cicadas were loudest and when the howler monkeys are closest to our house (about every 4 weeks). And there is always a Morpho butterfly flying past at least once a day.
We still don’t know the names of all the plants or the birds we see but they are all coming back to the land as we all learn to live together.
My older ones love being alone at home and feel so peaceful being up there and lately have come to understand why we did this, why we are doing this.
Community. We don’t live in isolation. In fact, a lot of people joke how busy we are and how often we go down the mountain. It’s the price we pay for having homeschooled kids be part of programs and activities that constitute their social life. It’s just enough time to hang out with other kids of different ages without getting too much into the drama of having peers and the accompanying drama. The kids have mentors and teachers who connect with them and who love them.
We have met wonderful people who have helped us navigate life here and life in the jungle including our own community here on the farm. I facilitated “Mapmaking May” where the 11 farm kids did mapping activities together once a week for a month. Here are the kids working on invitations to be delivered to the other farm kids:
We have potlucks and car pools and the kids walk to the neighbours’ houses for play dates. We coordinate efforts in unique situations like when there was no gas available in the gas stations and one community member would send a message or stop by at the house to let us know that there was gas at one of the stations.
I have also found creative and supportive people in this community to partner with on projects that I am passionate about, fulfilling a desire to continue my love of learning and teaching.
Lastly…I have been blessed to have the opportunity to really be clear with the definition of home.
Home is really more than shelter. It is more than four walls, a floor, and a roof. It really is found in our heart and the space we create in there. I felt this strongly when we rented 7 different homes in just over a year and the kids wanting a stable place to land, to unpack, to rest and people to connect with. To slow things down long enough to appreciate this place.
What is essential is a sense of belonging, the feeling that we are loved and supported. The lessons that my children have learned about home have been ones that will stay with them forever.
Home will always mean the 7 of us, no matter where we all end up in the world. Home means feeling the familiarity of people and places – market days and Pilates on Saturdays and fencing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and strength club and beach volleyball with friends and silks class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sundays are for cleaning and dance parties.
And of course, ice cream always at the spot where they know our names and what flavors we like.
We may not have a finished house but we will always have a finished home.
Next post: A further thought on being unfinished and some before and after shots of our house with our favourite moments…