Cats Exploring

Cats ExploreI woke at 5 a.m. to a cat scratching at a closed door, and decided I’d better get up for cat duty, so Margy could get some sleep. I was glad they were finally exploring the house.  It was so upsetting yesterday to see how traumatic the move was for Billie and Sassy.  We had started them off by sequestering them in the basement bathroom where their litter boxes will remain.  Sassy went into the cabinet and hid there, and Billie huddled behind the toilet.  Margy and I took turns being with them and letting them be alone.

After an hour or so, we opened the door so they could come out at will.  Sassy relaxed soon enough and started exploring the house, but kept hissing at Billie.  Billie stayed behind the toilet for hours, until I finally took her by the scruff of her neck like a kitten and carried her upstairs, and helped her to hide under the covers of the bed.  At least that would be warm and familiar to her–she loves curling up under the covers–and it seemed to work.  She stayed there for several hours, and when I got under the covers, she cuddled with me for a long while and then finally jumped out. So exploring the house is a good thing. And hey, 5 a.m. is only an hour before I usually get up.  But I decided to forego my sunrise walk today and follow them around to make sure they didn’t get into too much mischief.

Cats Explore

Billie loves high places.

But they hate those pesky doors that they can’t open. At our old house, the closet doors slid open and the bottom of the door wasn’t attached, so they had complete access to the closets. They also knew how to open cupboard doors. Here, the closets pull out and fold–that is frustrating to kitties.

Cats Explore

Sassy:  I know if I keep scratching I can open up this door!

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We’re Here!

Boxes in the kitchen

Yesterday, the movers came and lifted our boxes and furniture into trucks and over to our new house.  I directed traffic at the new house.  Margy and I slept here last night, exhausted and aching in every muscle, but happy to be really living here.  I woke early in the morning with moonlight shining through the windows.  Then I took a walk at sunrise, starting by circling the perimeter of our land from north to east to south to west–and–I heard a cardinal singing!  This bird reassures me that all will be well, and offers such beauty and joy.  I am so glad to know that the cardinals will be our neighbors here.  On that happy note, I walked through the neighborhood over to the Evergreen Cemetery trails.

After breakfast, I started unpacking boxes in the kitchen, and immediately began doing more downsizing. As I put things away into fewer drawers and cupboards than we had before, it became much clearer that some things just aren’t necessary.  We didn’t have time to actually sort through most things before the move.  And we didn’t actually move all of our possessions.  There is still the whole basement, and outbuildings.  But we have a few weeks before we have to vacate the other house, so we are doing it in two stages–and that’s a good thing.  There is no way everything would fit here, and we hadn’t finished sorting in the basement.  As it is, our basement here has a lot of boxes in it already.  I think it will be easier to sort back at our old house, now that we are in this space.

The evening before the move, we sent our cats to stay with our favorite cat-sitters.  The cats have never been away from home before, but we figured it would be less traumatic to be off site while everything was being carted away. They arrived at our new home this afternoon, and are sequestered in the downstairs bathroom, with their litter boxes.  They are feeling rather scared and cranky.

Meanwhile, back at our other house, after $1000 of radon remediation work, the radon was tested between Wednesday and Friday, and came back WORSE than before.  That certainly didn’t make any sense, and our realtor has been in touch with the company who did the work, and they are returning to the house on Monday to see what is going on. This has us rather scared and cranky because radon levels are a deal breaker for our buyers, and we don’t want to have to start over in the process of selling our house. Plus radon will likely be an issue no matter who we sell to. If anyone knows any magic or practical tips for dealing with radon, let us know. Until all of that is settled, we feel very vulnerable.

It helps when I remember that our move isn’t merely a move from one house to another–it is part of our search for greener housing, and that change is more difficult than we might expect.  Our whole social system is currently set up to exploit the earth.  Margy and I have been really lucky to be able to undertake this search, and yet it still depends on our being able to sell our old house at a decent price, so we can afford solar panels for our new house.  But, I remember that we are among hundreds (thousands?) of people who are trying through our personal actions to live in greater harmony with the earth.  Each step is a part of the great shift in the human relationship with with our mother earth.  Beings of the earth, help us on this journey!

Boxes

IMG_0774Our house is filling up with boxes and more boxes, as another helper (Thank you!) came today, and we packed and packed.  Then, she left a lovely dinner that I could heat up in the oven. Yum!

Tomorrow, there are a few more helpers coming over to do more packing. Love all these recycled boxes from the people who moved before we did–who are also among the helpers. (Thank you!)  One step after the other, and then resting in between.

Dinner!

Dinner!

 

IMG_0770

Ready for tomorrow.

Paint

Painted shelves

Photo and Paint by Margy Dowzer–her caption: “paint drying, painter tired”

Margy took this photo–can you see her in the window?  She painted the inside of the shelves.  Even with zero VOC paint, I have trouble with the fumes, but she does a little better, so she’s been tackling the insides of closets and cupboards as we try to finish getting the house ready for our move in one week. The day after this photo, she was utterly exhausted and had to crash for the day.  But we each are doing what we can to move this process forward.  I love our partnership!

Helpers!

Our moving date is Feb 26.  Yesterday we began packing in earnest.  I rarely take the Monday holidays off work, but I was able to this time. Surveying the situation felt overwhelming, until two wonderful helpers came over and started putting books and record albums into boxes.Empty bookcase

Their energy gave us energy, and between the four of us, we packed over 35 boxes!  Today I am back to ministry work, but next week I will be taking unused vacation days from February 23rd to March 2nd in order to do the final packing push.  Other folks have offered to help us during the three day packing spree before the movers arrive.

This help is such a marvelous thing!  There are so many moments when we feel overwhelmed by the weight of all we have to box up and carry to a new home.  We did a fair amount of sorting and recycling and giving away, but at a certain point–and I think we have reached it–we just have to put things in boxes and not worry about the de-cluttering project until we arrive at our new place. We will have a few weeks overlap, so we can leave some things here that we want to go through more carefully, or give away.

Painted closetMeanwhile, at the new place, Margy has been painting the closets and cupboards, so that they’ll be ready for us to fill with our clothes and dishes. (She took this picture after her work on one closet.)

AND we still have more radon mitigation work to do in our old basement.  The tests came back too high, so we renegotiated with the buyers, and we are paying an air quality company to come this week to expand the current radon mitigation system.

Our realtor also made an important discovery. Our boiler has a barometric damper, and he noticed it was in the wide open position, even when the boiler wasn’t running. This means it would have been constantly drawing air from the basement up into the chimney, creating negative pressure that could literally be sucking radon into the space.  He also noticed that the weights were positioned incorrectly for the type of damper, so we shifted the weights, and adjusted them so that it closes when the furnace is off and opens a small amount when it is on. At some point, we may have someone come out to calibrate it more exactly, but for now, we hope this will help with radon mitigation. We have heard that the buyers are planning to replace the heating system, so it doesn’t make sense to put a lot into it now. It is a bit of a catch-22.  If we can’t get the radon levels down to acceptable numbers, the sale of the house won’t go through.  So, fingers crossed.

A colleague who has moved a lot suggested I might think of moving as a spiritual practice. There are so many ways that this makes sense.  There is so much outside of our control.  And yet there is so much work that we have to do to make it happen.  This balancing act between vulnerability and effort is such a metaphor for all of what is important in life.

I come back to Gratitude for the helpers who enter our lives, and enable us to keep on this journey.  Some of the helpers are those we enlist professionally for a fee.  But most are kindhearted souls who we are privileged to know, who make such a difference.

Paper

Innu Ally Work filesIn my sorting and packing and decluttering quest, I was all set to start tossing old file folders from the basement into the recycling bin, but it is proving harder than I first expected. I haven’t looked at these papers for at least ten years (since we moved into this house). Because of my allergies, I would have to wear a mask and gloves to go through them.  So the simplest thing would be to just toss them out.  But when I start to take a peak, they are like windows into the history of my life as an activist.  Here is a whole file cabinet about ally work that I was involved in, related to the struggles of the Innu of Nitassinan in Quebec, most of it from when I lived in Boston.

Boston Political workThen there is the box I haven’t opened in over 16 years, with this evocative label: “Boston/and Peace Camp Time: Political Groups /Resources/Issues/Conferences.” I am guessing I threw stuff in there as I was packing to leave Boston, but I don’t even know what it might include.

I also have a box from over 30 years ago, simply labeled “Politics, Etc.” from the time I lived in Grand Rapids and Chicago in 1980 to 1984.  I’ve moved it so many times.  My intention to simplify is crashing into my interest in the older stories of my life.  When I look at these artifacts, I remember activities and connections and struggles that I had almost forgotten.Grand Rapids Political work

I think about moderately famous authors and activists whose collections of papers end up in libraries and archives.  But I am not famous, and who knows whether any of this would have any value for anyone besides me.  Do I really want to carry around boxes and boxes of old paper? I want to live in a small house, and keep doing activist work in the present rather than to document the activist movements of the past.  But I just recently read about how one of my favorite authors, Octavia Butler, saved everything.  Her papers are now available for research use in a library in California, I think.

When we give ourselves to the work of social change, we are “one in the number” (as Ella Baker said) of thousands of ordinary people lending our strength to a new vision.  Are our ordinary activist stories an important part of a history that someone may want to write in a future we cannot yet imagine? Or will that future itself be the only record of our work that is needed?

I do have some boxes of paper that I have already labeled “Archives.”  I would probably sort things differently if I had time to do it today, but when we moved to Maine, I made some filing and sorting choices about what to save and what to toss.  It is just that that sorting never gets finished, and some things came along without that kind of careful attention.  The boxes I always feel absolute clarity about saving are the boxes of my journals and writings and poetry.  During our last move, I even purchased archival quality boxes in which to store my old journals.

When I go deep inside, I know it is okay to let go of some of this paper; but perhaps it is also okay to wait, to bring along some of these old boxes, stash them in another basement or attic, and revisit them in a quieter time.  I don’t know.  What do you think?

We are planning to move in two and a half weeks.

 

Sorting and Packing

Packed in BasementYesterday I began sorting and packing in the basement.  Here is a pile of stuff all packed and ready to go to our new house!  I also made an area for things we didn’t want, and at the end of the day I put several boxes in my car ready to go to Goodwill.  But here is what is left to do:

Still to Go

It was a bit overwhelming to even think about how to get through all this, until I just decided to start in one corner, which happened to be our camping equipment, and do that, and then when that was done, to move on to the next area.  I guess that is a good remedy for many overwhelming things in life–start someplace and take it one step at a time.

Since I had the day off, it was a good chance for Margy and I to confer on various items–we got through Christmas decorations, and baskets, and pots for planting:  What can we get rid of? What do we want to keep?  Then, I would put them in boxes and seal and label and put them in the packed-and-ready corner.

Meanwhile, Margy was sealing cracks in the concrete floor.  When we first bought our house, the basement had tested too high for radon levels.  A mitigation system was installed–you can see part of it in the photo above–the white piping goes down underneath the floor to draw radon from the soil.  The piping goes up through a closet into the attic and out through the top of the roof.  A fan in the pipe in the attic creates a negative pressure to pull the radon gases through the piping, so it doesn’t seep into the basement.  But part of what makes it work is to seal all the cracks in the floor.

We haven’t been much concerned about it for a while.  Since we don’t spend much time in the basement, it has not mattered so much to us.  But our home buyers are having their home inspection done this week, including a radon test.  We are hoping the extra effort to seal the cracks will ensure the mitigation system is doing its job, and the basement levels will pass the test.

Radon is a big issue for housing all across the United States.  Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, but if humans are exposed to too much, it increases our risk of lung cancer.  This can be an issue for very energy efficient houses, because they are more tightly sealed, which makes for less air flow.  Have you had radon levels tested in your home?