Setting up.

Sitting in the filtered afternoon sun with Juno planning some adjustments, modifications and additions to the motorhome.

Random Ideas jotted in my notebook:

Measurements and sketches for cutting down sun reflectors to place in the side widows and sunroof.
A drawing of one of those cool little rope hammock things for storing fruit in.
A clip on herb pot for the kitchenette. A magnetic notice board. Hooks for hats.

That sort of stuff.

And a wish-list of more practical items:

  • Tire pressure generator.
  • Toolkit. Three question marks next to this one.
  • Leveling ramps.
  • External BBQ.
  • More comfortable outside chairs.
  • Filter for the fresh water hose.

Then:

I guess she is going to need a name. Because thats what you do when you have a relationship with something big like this.

Author John Steinbeck made his famous wanderlust adventure across 10,000 miles of America in a GMC pickup with custom slide on camper-shell.
He named it Rocinante after Don Quitote’s horse.

Then the Blues Brothers had the Bluesmobile, and even Beyonce has a Jaguar named Honeybee.

I recently watched a video that included a camper van named Ripley.
And, being a fan of the first Alien movie, I sort of liked that.
I think I’ll steal it.

Onwards…

It was one of those moments when you just feel that your life is pivoting on a blade edge. The slightest movement or choice or decision and it will tip off one side or the other. And then away it will run.

My partner Kelly and I have been looking for a camper van for a while now. Several years in actuality.
Every time we found a van with all the things we were looking for it was outside our price range or it was located just far enough away as to make checking it out logistically impossible before it was sold.

In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble. –Linji Yixuan

Then one evening, totally unexpectedly, Kelly found an ad for a motorhome that was exactly what we were looking for!
And it was literally a 20 min drive away.

Standing in the Kitchen looking forward.

We drove over and took a look. Now this vehicle was more than a camper van. This was a motorhome.
At 7.3 metres long it included toilet, shower, kitchenette and oodles of storage.
It was an Auto Trail FB.  An opportunity to travel completely off-grid and in comfort.
And,  it was in pristine condition with only 6,000 km on the dial.

The only problem was that it was sitting tantalisingly over on the far side of the outer margins of what we could afford.
We talked it over. We weighed the pros and cons. We consumed large quantities of alcohol to lubricate our decision making processes.

We spun through online forums searching for other owners of similar motorhomes.
We contemplated the brevity and vicissitudes of our rounded lives. We noted how the universe had seemed to slide all these Swiss cheese holes of serendipity into alignment in an attempt to nudge us onwards.
Eat this sandwich, it seemed to urge. I made it myself!

We wrestled with our heads and our hearts for several days fully expecting it to get sold in the meantime.

The view aft.

Eventually we came to a decision. We would not buy it.
That was totally the sensible thing to do.

We decided to go out and celebrate with a coffee.
Only the thing is…. on the way to the cafe we almost drove right past  another Auto Trail FB parked in the driveway of a residence just up the street. What were the chances!?!

Bam. We looked at each other. There we were on the knife-edge. And we both knew it.
We could keep driving. Or we could pull in. There would be consequences.
As we pulled up behind the Auto Trail the owner popped out from behind a wall. Turns out he had just returned from a trip and was cleaning out a clutter of sand and empty wine bottles. He had an easy gleam in his eye.

An hour later, after an enthusiastic and inspiring conversation with this guy we knew everything was about to change….

Dogs on beds. 

“Do not let your dog sleep on the bed.”

Advice well known to all dog owners.
Supposedly it is all about leadership power within the pack. Letting your dog sleep at the same level as you is said to be signaling an equal position in the pack hierarchy.

And for a short time I enjoyed ranking as alpha male status in the bedroom domain.
That was, until one cold, sleeting winter night when Kelly was away and Smudge was still a pup. He was supposed to sleep down in the laundry. He had his own basket with his favorite blanket. A cozy canine nest.
Only it was winter. And he looked up at me with the empty lugubrious eyes of an infarcting spirit. I felt sorry for the little guy.
I lifted him up onto the bed.

He embraced his new-found promotion by ecstatically stretching out on his back, splaying his legs (to occupy maximum bed real-estate), and releasing a long luxuriating yawn.
All scrunched up over to one side of the bed I had first inkling of my error.

Several hours later, the snoring and farting (his, not mine ), and getting pushed to the very outer lip of the mattress put the matter beyond question.

15,000 years ago, somewhere in central Asia, man began interacting very closely with Smudges distant fore-bearers, the Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus).
The long process of this domestication remains controversial but these first ancestors of today’s estimated 400 million dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) were probably used as combination hunting and herding aids, companions, warning alarms, sled pullers and even food sources.
The nature of 15,000 years of close interaction has produced a special close relationship between man and dog that probably does not exist between any other two species.

But as this close bond developed between the species, is there any evidence that we have actually slept with our dogs?

Emily Toffe wrote in an article for Slate magazine:

“There is historical evidence that sleeping with pets is not necessarily aberrant behavior. According to The International Encyclopedia of Dogs, the xoloitzquintli, or Mexican hairless, was used in pre-Aztec Mexico as both pet and bed warmer (and dinner—let’s not talk about that here). An account from a 19th-century explorer in Australia, as quoted in The Domestic Dog, describes how Aborigines were so devoted to their dingoes that the dogs were treated as members of the family and allowed to sleep in the hut. (The rock group Three Dog Night takes its name from the supposed Aboriginal practice of judging the coldness of an evening by the number of dogs required to keep warm.)”

Ever since that first invitation to join us, Smudge has spent almost every night on our bed. Except for those mid summer heatwaves when he seeks the coolness of the bathroom tiles.

Each evening he follows his now well worn routine.
Just after 7PM, he gets up form the couch, goes over to his bowl and scoffs down the remainder of his biscuits (which he routinely sets aside for just this supper snack).
Next, he noisily drinks his fill from the water bowl, and spends a few minutes in a snorting contemplation deciding which of his soft toys he will choose to bed.

And off he trots. Without so much as a “goodnight guys”.
Later, we will find him asleep, just like a human, under the covers with his little head on one of our pillows and his paw across his green caterpillar or his fuzzy bear.
Simply way too cute to assert my evolutionary alpha-superiority over.

For Smudge, there is absolutely no issue with the academics of nocturnal altitude and hierarchy. He will lose no sleep contemplating the finer points of family dominance.

For him, it is just another Two Human Night.

Autumn tea.

Listening to the tunk, tunk, tunk of a large crow hopping on the roof tiles.
Down to the drainpipe, where it pauses to scrape its beak, before tunking back up to the ridge-cap.


Flip back the covers and down to the kettle.

Not wanting to turn on any lights, I pause before the single deep step in the hallway, to feel forward with my toes for its widow-maker edge.

It is still dark outside, false dawn curled back by a powdering of autumn prophecy.

Through the kitchen window I can just make out the green greyscale shapes of the nearest wattle tree, its branches waterlogged and low from the overnight rain. Beneath the tree lies the bucket shadow of an overturned flowerpot, dragged from its usual place to the center of the lawn by my crazy dog.

Beyond this, the world seems wrapped in a cool, flannelette inertia, and in sympathy I choose tea rather than coffee, flipping the bag from the box into the cup with a propeller flourish that I could not possibly execute were I not half asleep.


Autumn is my favourite time, as it slows to the pace of chocolate browns and mustard yellows, and wet leaf mulch and silver slug trails, and sweet woodsmoke song.

Short, crisp, sun soaked days that demand to be enjoyed before they dim down into the long freezing bland of winter.

I stand before the full length window and sip hot tea. Holding the cup just below my lips, the rising steam warms my face.

For a long while I just stand there on the chilly tiles looking out at a pale autumn ghost ageing, unassured, standing in underpants, out amongst the garden dawns.

Interpretation.

 

Lake Wanaka, in the Southern Lakes Region of New Zealand, is one of my favourite places on the planet. 
In this short film snowboarder Will Jackways, shares his simple philosophy of life.

Im not a philosopher of life, I’m not going to sit here and preach what is right and what is wrong….this is just my interpretation of how I see it and how to live.

Will has wrapped himself with a simple life amongst the spectacular mountains, surrounded with things that are important to him. He is also one of those people lucky enough to truly love his work and his life.
Will has found it and he is stoked. 

Stoked is what keeps us happy basically…everyone in this world should wake up stoked.

And there you have it.