A Cleaning and a Fresh Coat of Paint.
It's only January, but we've just completed our spring cleaning. And not just a routine wipe down. We've taken cotton swabs to the baseboards and toothpicks to the crevices in the mirrors to scrape out those stray dog hairs that have lodged in there (how??) in the last year. We've scrubbed the floors, handled every piece of clothing and every condiment bottle to make sure it was absolutely necessary. We've been KonMari-ing our life since before it was a hit. And each year, as we swap out that lighter jacket for the heavier one since we will be spending another November in Vermont, or giving up those four more dresses in favor of art supplies-- it sparks joy. Giving up the comforts of home isn't a sacrifice, it's a trade-in. And we are grateful to be trading in for another year of life on the road. This year, for one of our biggest adventures, yet: Alaska.
But before we hit the great outdoors, we need take care of our little indoors. We've been in the same use-for-only-2-weekends-a-year 16' camper for almost five years, full time, with nowhere else to call home. We've lived in there with three different dogs, crossed the country laterally six times and longitudinally more times than we can count, and have replaced more axles, roofs, sides, caulk, tires, and grease than we care to divulge.
In the beginning, we panicked at every bump in the road-- literally. But as we've become road-privy-- and occasionally road-weary-- we've been able to handle the burnt up axle with a bit more confidence... or zen. Maybe it's experience, or maybe it's surrender, but all those things we said "We'll laugh about it later," we are finally laughing at. Or, at least we aren't crying, anymore. And we are definitely appreciative.
The yearly spring clean of our little house always takes us back to the first night we had the camper. Our first stop off the lot-- before we even got it to our driveway-- was at Home Depot to pick out a new paint color. In some sort of foreboding twist, our truck battery died while sitting in the lot. We had to have a buddy come and jump our new-to-us truck while we sat inside our future home, smelling the plastic on the mattress, the anitfreeze in the pipes, and wandering into each vacant cupboard, trying to configure which of our belongings would make the cut to fill them. When we finally got our home to our home, we stayed up late painting it-- white with yellow trim. If this was going to be our home, it was going to be our home-- no preset factory colors. No preset expectations. We were carving our destiny.
Since then, our destiny has been carving us. And carving out cracks in the paint. We have scratch marks in the entryway where the dogs scrape their bowls against the bottom of our closet each morning and night while trying to get the last piece of kibble. There are blotches on the ceiling where the water leaked through from the second time our roof came off and we got caught in a rainstorm in Omaha before it was fixed. There's a gash going from our bathroom entry all the way to the kitchen cupboard from when we hung our art bag on the door and the scissors split through, swinging back and forth on a long trip from Michigan to South Dakota before we realized what had happened. And then there are the peelings from Scott's guitar case scraping against the wall, or when we tried to hang battery powered lights to the walls because our camper battery kept pooping out after an hour and we needed to be able to see to read our books at night and were worried that Butter was afraid in the dark while we were in shows she wasn't allowed into. It was a total failure-- the lights. They sucked up their batteries within an hour and weren't nearly bright enough to read or even see by... but we've kept them up until this year, on account of being afraid to rip them off and scratch the paint.
We aren't afraid the scratch the paint, anymore. In fact, we are embracing it. Last July, after letting our little home get rickety and utilitarian, we decided we needed to stop treating it as a means to an end, and simply treat it as our home again. We had Alaska in our sights, which meant at least another year in road life. It was time to be present. So, we made some new curtains. And then, we Wabi-Sabi-ed.
Here's a quick Wikipedia definition on Wabi-Sabi:
In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印, sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常, mujō), suffering (苦, ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空, kū).
Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
We'd first heard of it through pottery-- when a vase or cup is broken, instead of throwing it out or attempting to perfectly fix it without a crack showing, one would embellish the crack by mending it with gold. This draws attention to the brokenness of the piece, while also beautifying it in a way that wouldn't exist without hardship. We're no potters. And we are definitely no camper-repairers. But we sure know how to buy paint. So, with another trip to Home Depot (and our truck battery not dying while doing so), we bought a sample size of blue eggshell, and set to work covering each scratch. After all, we didn't want to forget all the scrapes, we wanted to incorporate them. We wouldn't be here without them.
Today, we went over each new scrape since July, giving it due temporary glory with a slap of blue paint. At the rate we are going, by the time we are through, the whole damn camper will be blue. But at least we are marking these impermanent markers appropriately, with care, and with a tremendous amount of gratitude.
And now, we wait until next Wednesday, when we hook up the camper again and drag it across the country, through to California, and up to Alaska. With any luck, in those hurried times when something inevitably breaks, that speckled painted blue constellation on our ceiling will remind us that this is just something we will paint about-- and hopefully laugh about-- later.