Breaking away to follow your dream is dangerous and slippery. And it takes a lot of hard, strenuous work to do it successfully. Mentally speaking, it is sweaty, grubby work. But if you don’t follow your dream you’ll suffer the long, slow and poisonous death of being crushed by the expectations and quotas of someone else’s dream.
When the weather turned cold late in October of ‘94, we moved into the studio apartment. The shack had a small wood stove that we hauled up and put into the studio. It was our only source of heat and wasn’t adequate for the building; the next summer we put a large stove in that Ben’s brother, Jerry, built, but our interior walls were the 2”x6” studs, so the heat moved into the apartment easily. Even with the tiny wood stove, we felt like we were living in a tiny piece of paradise.
Just before Christmas the power company brought in the power line, but it was a full year later when we got a well with a gift from my parents of a thousand dollars. We didn’t have any more money, so when the well driller reached the thousand dollar mark at sixty feet deep and twelve gallons per minute we stopped him. We ran a line up to the studio utility sink. We couldn’t afford to put in plumbing until 2001, but the single line inside the studio was wonderful after a year of hauling drinking water from town and wash water up from the Muddy Creek a bucketful at a time. During the winter we had to keep a hole chipped in the ice to dip water.
Our lifestyle those first two years was rustic, but we were young and happily living toward our dream. Our water heater was a noisy, forty-cup cafeteria coffee pot. Our stove was a propane camper unit. We closed in the bathroom with old sheets, set up a shower with a livestock feed tub, a hula hoop, an actual shower curtain, and a camping shower bag. During the summers of ‘94 and ‘95 we put a black plastic trash can beside the creek to warm water for bathing and washing clothes with the feed tub and an antique hand plunger washing stick (which was much easier than the old wash board we started out with.
We both laugh and chatter out our memories when we think back on those early years. We have to dig documents and photographs out of dusty files to verify what we remember and remind ourselves of what we’ve forgotten in the haze of time. The years since we’ve been here have passed so quickly that we find ourselves amazed at how many years have vanished since certain events have transpired.
We often goad each other with wishes that we had done some things different, but when we search through those cherished bits of paper with facts and photos we know we wouldn’t really change much, other than our future outlook. Perspectives change as we advance through life. There were times when we felt we were expending a lot of time, energy and hard labor just to live in poverty. What we don’t have today is the luxury of affluence or a future of indolence; what we do have is a lifestyle of greater freedom than most people ever experience. We’re very good at what we do, very happy with how we do it, and live creative, healthy lives. Nothing here is perfect. But if we were on the outside looking in at someone else living what we have now, our lives would be tortured with envy.
Washing the laundry beside the creek.
Ben in the first version of our makeshift kitchen. Notice the electric lights not yet in use, but the lanterns are lit.
In the studio.
Ben freeze-drying the laundry.
Our first new year, which we celebrated with the neighbors.
In our upgraded makeshift kitchen, I’m ironing a piece of canvas (with a cast-iron skillet) to use for rolling out clay on the slab roller.
Our first dining area.