Ruminating upon personal space and community lately, as I have been
reading Little House on a Small Planet.
Sitting in this small home we have made, looking out at the clouds and the signs of wind or absence of it, listening to the rigging of neighboring boats, I feel enlarged not cramped. My abode is as big as I want it to be: our boat, the marina, our small town, the entire peninsula . . .
We watch our neighbors come and go. The delicate etiquette of the marina provides for privacy and community both. People wave as they go by if they are feeling gregarious, or keep their heads down if they want privacy or need to get somewhere. Rick has remarked more than once that we are many times more social here than we were in Miami, and comfortably so. It is so easy to welcome others into our home, perhaps because there is less physically separating us from them. It could be because we all share a way of life, but I think that's not entirely so, as we have entertained landlubbers as well, with almost as much ease (there is less spontaneity, as we have to invite them into our world).
Despite our heightened social activity, our small personal spaces are womb-like, protective. We feel snug and serene in a cabin the size of many "normal" bathrooms, in a way one never does in the yawning rooms of modern insta-mansions. It might be hard to fathom if you have never experienced the comfort of an enveloping "hobbit hole", or gnome-hole, as my girls call their cabin, but a small space has a way of wrapping around you like a shawl, providing just the right amount of security.
Some say that finding this ease is a matter of developing one's interior space, of becoming mentally calm and oriented. With the richness of an inner life, it is easier to take or leave the physical stuff we tend to accumulate. This is definitely an ongoing process, not a goal to be attained at once--or ever. It is something to practice daily, finding the interior which is so huge that it frees us from attachments to things and outcomes.
My sweetheart and I have conversations about the stuff. We got rid of a lot of it before moving, but it seems we kept quite a bit as well. We have tools, things we use (clothes and kitchen items fit here as well). We have books, which are mostly tools, but some are entertainment. We have artifacts, for pleasure, for memories. Some things are all about potential: art supplies, fabric, things that "might" prove useful.
Where do we draw the line? I gave away so much fabric, buttons, art supplies, but still have much left--it is in storage. The storage dilemma caused an argument last weekend. If everything is crammed into the storage, it is essentially unusable--because you can't find anything when you need it. So you might as well get rid of it. Or organize it, which may call for a bigger space. And, is that what we want? How will we use it? Will it just amass more stuff? Or can it be a complement to our lifestyle, allowing us to keep the boat relatively uncluttered, while still being able to use the snowshoes when we like?
And that brings me back to community: part of what we are able to do by keeping a small home profile is to utilize our larger surroundings for Living. Instead of pacifying ourselves in a home theater or exercise room, we can and must get out: biking, playing on Hollywood Beach, snowshoeing, exploring tidepools, just walking around town. Or we have people in, and create community here.
Here, we are together more than we are apart. Rick "comes home" from his sailboat office for a snack, for lunch, and finishes work at 3:30. We work together on fixing and maintaining our home. We rise and sleep more in rhythm with the sun. We all have the freedom to come and go, but we tend to do that together or in pairs, preferring each others company over absolute solitude.
Maybe I was always meant to live this way. I grew up in an enormous apartment in a tall building in New York City. I gave my parents fits because I was prone to hiding and really did not want to be found. I would hide behind or under furniture or in my walk-in closet. My favorite spaces for playing were the tiny maids' rooms (the building was built in 1926 and we had 3 rooms intended for live-in help) or my card-table play house, a screen-printed fabric tent that showed an idyllic country cottage with green shutters and white picket fence. The opulence that surrounded me was unfathomably large to a tiny girl, a place of adult parties or enormous silence when my father was at work and my mother off shopping. I used to fill it bouncing a rubber ball against the walls of the foyer, or roller skating down the long hallway. I had all the privacy I ever wanted, but no community.
As I write, the kids are working on projects in the salon--the space that is part library, part dining and living room, part galley (kitchen). They are singing Irish drinking songs taught to them by Captain Gary over many nights of cozy dinners in our snug space that is truly a "family" room. They called me in to see the Maritime Maid, a neighbor on the pier pull out of it's slip on the way to the fuel dock.
We are both in our space and of the larger world around us, and it is effortlessly fluid.