If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
In the two years that Chris and I have been together, our craziest idea to date has been to live in a yurt fifty miles up a dirt road, entirely off the grid. Now we’re on to Crazy Adventure Part 2: Building a cabin that looks homesteader old but has all the amenities of a twenty-first-century home—like running water and a proper oven. Be still my beating heart!
But all that is a long way off. The first step is excavating an acre-sized pond that will sit between the cabin and the craggy range beyond. We’ll mound that topsoil five feet to free the cabin from the floody meadow and to capture the spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains. Next, the excavators will use what they call the silts, fines, and gravels to create a much-needed road to the building site.
It’s a pretty slick idea, using what we have as much as possible to avoid a convoy of dump trucks fishtailing up and down the dusty North Fork Road to deliver gravel. Even though it took a team of people to figure this all out, it still seems like any lone homesteader looking down on us would approve. We’re using what we have. Then again, a true sodbuster wouldn’t have had any other choice.
With so many people working together to make our home happen, we thought we’d be much further along by now. Weather, not surprisingly, has been a factor. Rain throughout June turned the soil into sponge cake. Snowmelt brought the already high water table even higher. And the prospect of introducing dinosaur-sized machines into the mix made our excavator cringe. “All we’ll do is make a mess and get our machinery stuck,” he warned. “We want to do this right, so we just have to wait.”
There are many things that Chris is good at, but waiting is not one of them. Once he’s made a decision, he wants to see action—anything—right away. But the rain continued to fall, the groundwater continued to rise, and the project continued to stall. “There ought to be something they can be working on right now,” Chris would say each morning as he peered through the yurt windows toward the building site. “Stake out the house, or the road, or anything.”
Sure enough, early one morning the surveyors, a grandfather-grandson team, appeared with their tripods, wooden stakes, and neon pink flag tape. They were driving an old Ford pickup with a magnetic sign on the driver’s door that listed in bold, black type not their business information but God’s Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, at that moment our driveway was as maddening to cross as the Red Sea. The night before yet another gully washer and high winds had snapped three tall, healthy aspen. So for the next hour the two men and young boy cut up the beastly trunks and pulled them out of the way.
“It seems like there’s always an obstacle to making any progress on this cabin,” Chris complained. I agreed and wondered if the delays were signs somehow—signals from the Universe that the timing was off. It seems to me that when things are meant to be, they happen with ease. There’s a certain cosmic rhythm that you slip into and things just fall into place. We, however, were not grooving. Our project was sputtering in fits and starts, just like Chris’s chainsaw earlier that day.
Then we received the worst news yet.
Our builder/designer—a handsome, charismatic man from the American West who not only understands our unique approach to cabin-building but also believes in it—was critically injured in a home explosion in Williston, N.D. Burns cover 80 percent of his body, and 50 percent of those are third degree. How he’s alive is a mystery. What his life will look like now is anyone’s guess. But his next four months, at least, will be spent in the Minneapolis Burn Center. Luckily for him, his wife of one year is just the sort of woman who would never cringe in the face of such a tragedy. “Let’s work and fight hard and get the flip out of here,” she said to him as she rubbed his feet, the only part of his body not wrapped in white muslin. Reading the updates on Facebook, it’s sobering to imagine how your entire life can change in a moment, and how we take so many small yet meaningful things for granted, such as holding your loved one’s hand.
It seems like all of us fall out of sync with the Universe at some time or another, in large ways and small. But with grace there’s an opportunity to right ourselves. Like June bugs stuck on their backsides, sometimes we can flip over—and who really can explain just exactly how or why. I believe being present to each moment and truly paying attention is one way. Giving ourselves 100 percent to the here and now can put life’s shortfalls in perspective and allow us to suck in all that’s right with the world while we can. Because, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”