I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Living lightly on the planet

Planting the garden in early June
I am a pretty lucky person, living in the Pacific Northwest and having enough health and wherewithal to pretty much do what I want during these very full years of my life. Yesterday I was able to drive in my ten-year-old car down to Snohomish and spend the day with friends, playing in the sunshine as I made four separate skydives with my friends. Then I came home to spend some time with Smart Guy and discuss our upcoming plans.

When we packed up to move here from Boulder, lightening our possessions and putting everything we wanted to keep into a U-Haul, we got rid of at least half of what we had accumulated during the fifteen years we had been together. We are both minimalists, and it's one thing I appreciate so much about him; he's not one to want lots of "stuff" around him. We got rid of much of our furniture and have perched lightly here in Bellingham, preparing for a day like today.

Our rented apartment has been mostly very satisfactory, an upstairs corner unit, one of 26, with an enormous tree outside our front porch that shades us from the sun. Of course, here in this part of the country close to the Canadian border and the Pacific Ocean, we don't actually have a lot of sun most of the year. Right now, however, it's been sunny and warm, with lots of sunshine and the tree has been doing its thing. I will miss it.

In the time we've been here, we have had several tenants around us come and go. When we first moved in, we had a divorced man right next door who occasionally had his three kids, ten-year-old twin boys and their younger sister. They could be pretty rambunctious, but they were amenable to bribery. I told them I would reward them handsomely come Christmas if they would keep the noise level down, and when they did, for three holiday seasons they received gift certificates from me. They were at the time the only kids around. They grew up and spent their time glued to their electronics after a while and the problem was solved permanently. When they moved last year, they all thanked me for being such a good neighbor, and I too felt grateful to have known them.

Then a three-year-old moved in last fall, right downstairs and one apartment over. He is a normal little guy, liking to play in the yard with his tractors and trailers. He's also a good kid but very vocal and loves to scream. This has only impacted me in the summertime when we all have our doors and windows open, and I've grown accustomed to his play and find it rather comforting; he's a happy child and always notices me and talks to me when he sees me.

The apartment directly below us has had two sets of tenants since we moved in. They have never been a problem. And then... a month ago new tenants moved in, a mother with her two kids, six- and nine-year-old boys. They are not small children; I was amazed when I saw them the first time and wondered how it would be with them below us. It's been an education. The noise is not the problem, but the vibration: when they roughhouse, which seems to be most of the time, the dishes in the cupboards shake. It's impossible to deal with, since we have no idea when the next crash is coming, and it has put me on edge all the time.

When I went downstairs one afternoon last week to ask the kids to take their roughhousing outside, I found it was the mother and her sister dancing an Irish jig in the living room, it wasn't the kids at all. We had a conversation that wasn't exactly friendly, with the two of them saying they had every right to dance in their own living room in the middle of the day, and me saying that I couldn't concentrate, read a book, or block out the feeling that I am living inside a base drum.

So we are moving. This morning we will look at two possible apartments in a different part of town, and we are also considering moving within this same complex, to the upper corner unit on the other end. This section has us completely surrounded with young kids, whereas the other section has no kids around that apartment at all. Of course, there is no guarantees in life, but I'm hoping that it will be better than this situation.

All this has happened right at the time that I've planted my first vegetables ever in the community garden behind the apartment complex. I've already harvested some kale, green beens, zucchini, and am looking forward to having collards, cabbage and delicata squash, if we stay here anyway. The collards will be ready to eat any time now. Because of the garden, I'm hoping we will stay here, but I'm also looking forward to seeing what the rest of our adopted town has to offer. I've learned over the years to let go of expectations.

It makes me very glad that we are living lightly, not having accumulated much in the way of heavy furniture and keeping our possessions to a minimum. It will make the move easier, and I'm thinking I'll hire some young men with strong backs to do the heavy lifting, saving us from more than the usual thrash of packing everything in boxes. But it's an upheaval, and my dreams have been filled with difficult predicaments, reflecting my current dilemma.

This morning, however, as I write this post, I realize I am filled with optimism about the future and wondering what will come next. It took a few days of agonizing over what to do about the situation, but now that I have a plan of action, the future will unfold and take us to the next adventure. To me, a move is a disruption, but it also gives me the opportunity to remind myself that nothing is permanent, and living lightly on this planet is the very best choice I can make for myself.
My garden in August


Teresa Evangeline said...

Moving can be a real challenge, but also an adventure. I look forward to seeing how this all unfolds and the new experiences that await. The perfect place is waiting for you.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, what a lovely phrase that is--"living lightly on our planet." It speaks volumes about your and your husband and the choices you have made.

Your posting reminded me of that Chinese saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. And you've taken that sometimes fraught-filled first step by deciding to move. That decision--to do something about a situation that simply is no longer working--seems to me to be all-essential. From there we can move forward.

I wish you well in this new journey. And may Oneness open for you the way to the right home. Peace.

Linda Myers said...

I envy you, living lightly. We have lived in our house for 17 years. I am way way more of a minimalist than my husband, who will be devastated if we ever move and he has to downsize.

Your garden looks like mine. Isn't it amazing those plants know exactly what to do?

Anonymous said...

I am glad you are putting a positive spin on your situation. Good luck with the move, wherever you go. It's awful to have such rude, inconsiderate neighbors. As you know, we have had to call the police 3 times over the years to get our neighbors to behave. And it has worked 100% of the time.

Sandi said...

Your positive attitude is a pleasure to read about, DJan! Sometimes circumstances are such that we are the ones who need to move, if we value peaceful living.

We've watched our neighborhood go from single family houses with many kids (ours included) to mostly rentals (just us and one other) to finally, mostly homeowners, but much different households, lots of singles and varied family units, with very few kids.

It's been interesting to watch, as we stay put, anything but minimalistic! The thought of sorting, getting rid of, packing, and moving is so horrific, we stay as that is the preferable option!

I keep thinking that one of these days I'll get rid of excess baggage, but it hasn't happend yet. Sadly, the entire family is a bunch of pack-rats, so we're doomed.

Good for you to keep it simple and embrace change!

Sandi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bragger said...

It's so frustrating when neighbors don't show the common courtesy of not making others' lives miserable. I always want to tell people like that, "Your rights end where those of someone else begin."

Moving could be the start of another adventure, though. I like your take on things.

Sally Wessely said...

I admire you attitude about the idea of moving on. I especially admire how you are both minimalists. You are complete opposites of the two of us. We have a house too big for us that is filled to the brim on three levels. We obviously let go of nothing. As we think of moving, it overwhelms both of us.

I hope you keep all of your options open and find the exact right spot for you next place. I know the garden figures in largely, but it will soon be winter. I have also planted things this year, but if we move, they just will have to stay. Think of the joy you have gotten out of the days as you dug in the dirt. That is a great harvest right there.

Gigi said...

That's the trouble with neighbors - you just never know what you are going to get. Good luck on the move.

#1Nana said...

I hope you find exactly the right new apartment. Since I've retired I've cleaned out a lot of the cupboards and storage areas, but we still have a lot of stuff. The spouse is the worse with an entire shop building filled with his tools and toys. Your garden looks great...mine is a jungle. The squash and watermelon have spread out over everything.

Red said...

I envy your living lightly but have the greatest of sympathy in your upcoming move. I lived in apartments when I was young things can really be a pain. At one time I was that nuisance. I admit I was asked to be quiet.

Rita said...

When I used to move every 1-3 years and got rid of things every time I moved I had no problem with keeping down accumulation. I have actually been relishing being able to accumulate since I have only moved once in the last 13 years (and I did purge in that move, too). Even so, I feel this need to purge every 3-4 years out of habit--LOL!

If you don't want to listen to loud music and screaming kids you really should look at an adults only building, if they have them there. I always hate the actual moving, but once I am there I love the settling in and that feeling of a new start in a new place. Even so--I sincerely hope the next time I move will be to downsize into assisted living many years from now. I've had more than my share of moves (lost count after 30). ;)

Oh, and if you move away from the garden, I'm sure your new gardening friends could take over or maybe you could even come back for the rest of the season. Regardless, your peace and having harmony in your life is more important. :)

Trish said...

A move is a major transition and will probably be filled with synchronicities. Please keep us posted. I'm sure you and smart guy will end up in exactly the right place, at the right time.

Grandmother Mary said...

I like your optimism and your taking care of yourself. Good for you! Makes me glad for our fabulous neighbors, since I, too, live in an apartment.

Friko said...

Living lightly is the best way to live. Unfortunately, when you have plenty of space and acquisitive natures, that living becomes heavy indeed. Sooner or later this house will be too big for us and we'll have to downsize; it will be heart-breaking to get rid of all our (useless) possessions.

Good luck with your move, I envy you your unencumbered life. Living in close proximity to noisy children is difficult; even if we oldies should learn to tolerate them, but we do like our peace and quiet, don't we? Loud music is my main bugbear. Can't stand it.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Your garden looks wonderful, and I suspect you could still come back to harvest what you've sown. I've been busy getting rid of stuff, but sometimes I just can't decide--keep, toss/recycle, or give away. It would be easier to have never accumulated so many things in the first place, but that was then and this is now. Wishing you an easy and pleasant move!

Whitney Lee said...

I'm sorry you're having to deal with noisy neighbors and moving. I'm guessing all this is part and parcel of apartment living. Many people just aren't considerate.
I just read (re-read) a book about getting rid of clutter, and it listed the four main types of clutter collections/collectors. I was not excited to realize that I fit all four descriptions!
I'm sure that wherever you decide to go will be a great new adventure. I liked the suggestion someone made about continuing to visit the garden until the season is over.

karen said...

I love your thinking on this DJan. Always positive. Moving is an adventure...a chance to meet new people, new challenges. Living lightly is key..something I am working toward. I call it deleting.
I hope it goes smoothly whichever place you choose...and that you'll still be close enough to pick veggies from your garden. Good luck on your adventure.

Glenda said...

DJan, good luck in your move. Although moving is high on the stress list, you seem to be taking it well.
We had renters across the street from our home who had three noisy boys. They had little motorcycles and went round and round for hours every afternoon. It drove my husband nuts since he liked to sit on our deck with a glass of wine in the late afternoon.
We prayed that they would leave and the new renters would be a retired couple. But we got even better. The house was sold to a couple of middle aged women who have been wonderful neighbors, especially since my husband died. I think there is a good reason God gives children to young people. My mature nerves can't take the noise for long periods.

CiCi said...

Apartment living comes with uncertainty, particularly regarding nice neighbors. Even living in a condo I bought one time did not guarantee quiet neighbors. Yikes. I am in the end unit in a senior apartment complex. None of my family is around but my neighbors have grandkids around occasionally. Little people have so much energy! I hope you find a great apartment with similar people nearby.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I hope you find a quiet calm apartment. I would sure ask the next apartment complex if they had a noise policy in effect that would protect you from rude people dancing and kids fighting:(

Anne said...

I came here looking for new blogs -- saw your comment on Friko's, and am delighted to learn that you are right across the water in Bellingham. We are on Lummi and have a condo in B'ham where we can sometimes be found. I am a lot older than you, but would love to meet you sometime. Lunch?

Stella Jones said...

Hmmm why is it always the nice ones who have to make room for the 'noisy' ones? That's what I ask myself. I have had plenty of experience with neighbours over the years and I sympathise with you. That is the worst thing about apartments - you are so close to your neighbours. I had the same problem last year when I was in America with L. The young couple upstairs were both on night shift. By that I mean they were up all night doing who knows what! It was so noisy we had to write them a letter. I was all for knocking on the door and saying 'what the f..k are you doing all night? Can't we get any sleep?' but L decided to write a polite letter and pin it to their front door (where everyone else could read it, I might add! It worked. I think they changed bedrooms. I still wonder what they were doing in the night though. It sounded like they were having fun!! but if so, he must have been an athlete owing to the speed he was going at it. L thought he was using an exercise machine, which would make more sense I suppose! the mind boggles.
I hope you find somewhere nice D-Jan but I'm sorry you've had to make that decision.

Deb Shucka said...

For as long as I've been reading your blog, it took Sandi to point me in the direction of this one. I'm so thrilled to find your stories! Moving can be really freeing - a new adventure and a new lens to view life through. I admire your minimalist way of life - ours is still pretty full of stuff. Stuff I love, but full nonetheless. I look forward to reading about this transition.

CrazyCris said...


Moves are sooo exhausting! Just the thought of another one is enough to keep me put! I'm sure it's the reason I stayed in Belgium as long as I did! :p

On the other hand this will give you a chance to discover another part of town, meet new people and yes, have some peace and quiet! Pity about the garden though...

Good luck with it all! :o)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

After coming to this blog I see how it connects to the other one .Later on today I shall catch up. My mistake has been to not be actively following and sort of wollowing in som esort of self pity! more on that some other time.

Hilary said...

Now I understand why you're moving. I'm glad it's within the same complex.. that should make things easier.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

But for one who has been on the move a lot I think you just accept it as inevitable. Here's hoping that your partner will be on the lookout to ensure all will be okay with both of you.
Let's hope that no new tenant surprises arise.