I still write longhand morning pages and I still make lists of the things I am grateful for almost every day. There are so many ways to do it — last year I wrote a numbered list of gratitude at the end of my pages; this year I write sentences about gratitude at the beginning of my pages.
This is a sampling from the early fall of this year, as made with wonderful Wordle.
For a while I was paying attention to things I was bothered over but that I could still be grateful for, which is why the word “stupid” features so prominently.
Here’s the same batch of gratitude, mapped without common words removed. Wordle has a lot of cool options.
I hope that everyone had a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday, and that in the rest of this festive season you’re able to connect with things that have meaning for you!
Designed like the Cricket but HALF THE SIZE!
Sized like a teardrop AND you can stand inside.
With two big doors, it opens to a comfy indoor/outdoor lounge space.
You Tube suggested this video to Chris the other night, and it looks pretty cool! Check out the Tiger Moth:
We got married!
To celebrate, here’s a post about oh-so-sexy trailer hitches…! And a shout-out to our favorite wedding photographer, the amazing Cassandra Summer, who captured us beautifully and made the process so much fun.
4 Rounds of the trailer-hitch-install-and-repair process:
Round 1: UHaul install on the Subaru in Connecticut before heading to North Carolina to pick up the Cricket (March 2015);
Round 2: UHaul repair electrical on Subaru in Idaho, after we realized that the lights weren’t working at night (late July 2015)
Round 3: When we switched vehicles, Chris’ dad got a hitch installed on the truck for us. UHaul again (September 2015).
Round 4: Everything worked fine until February 2017, when Chris left work one evening to find the truck covered with foamy stuff and a note on the windshield. Apparently, the electrical connection had caught fire, and the fire department put it out. It seemed pretty random and there were no other problems except that we had to add
“get the hitch fixed”
to our spring pre-Cricket adventure task list. I took the truck in for the repair to a place in Springfield, they did an okay job except for not mounting the electrical plug like I’d asked (like Chris had asked) far back enough under the bumper so that it wouldn’t get hit if we backed into anything. The likeliest reason for the fire was that several weeks prior I’d backed into a mailbox post. It was just a tap, it seemed nothing was damaged but maybe something came loose and mis-connected over time.
Cricket travels definitely had something to do with the decision to get married after ten years sharing life together and it deserves a mention here. We made it through camper mishaps, compromises, doing nearly everything together, and learning how to be partners in deeper ways. A fifteen-month road trip is a great way to grow a relationship.
Yay for love!
If you have trailer hitch questions, message us!
Last night, one of us needed cheering up so we were watching movie trailers online and we stumbled on the very excellent video below.
There are so many things to be grateful for about living regular life, but when we get tired and frustrated we crave the adventure and freedom of life on the road. (The grass is always greener, or the waves bluer, it seems.) It’s almost always the coast that we fantasize about, the romanticism of waking up oceanside to another sunny day.
“The Dock” (and the following video, the making of) helped get us both excited about adventure and creativity. No explanation needed: just watch. I hope it brings you some happiness, too.
I was recently choosing an image for another blog and I wanted to use a topo map of the US like this one —
— but on my search I found a neat blog, Big Thinks, that compiles interesting data maps under the tag Strange Maps. My search led in a few directions from there.
I’m fascinated by this NYT map showing our country physically divided in two – Clinton’s America on the left as an archipelago, and Trump’s eroded land mass with lakes, on the right. This is according to 2016 election results.
I’m including some data from the article, and head over to the NYT if you want to see the beautiful full color illustrated versions of the maps.
I was recently singing and playing “This Land is Your Land” for a friend’s kid, and it got me thinking about our Cricket travels. So many of the verses speak to the beauty of places we’ve adventured in, and they make my heart melt with happiness.
I also like the folky depression-era populism of Woody Guthrie’s message, and the spirit embodied by subsequent adopters of the song like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen; especially the sometimes-left-out verse that begins, in one variation: “There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.” (Hey Trump – it’s not gonna work.)
The melody of the song is lighthearted, and singing it with children is a bit of fun nonsense, not unlike singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
But whose land is this?
Chris wrote an excellent post last fall about our country’s lack of remorse for taking this land (our land?) by slaughter and misrepresentation. He wrote that our relationship with Native Americans is “an unhealed wound, ignored in the hopes that it will go away.”
In the version of “This Land is Your Land” that I’m playing, there’s one last sour chord, not found in the rest of the song, notable for its dissonance, and held for a long 5 beats. That cord speaks (for me) to this unhealed wound, to the fact that we’re celebrating enjoyment of something stolen (some would say won?).
Today while paying a bill “the old fashioned way” I remembered that I underestimated the number of checks I would write on our travels.
Bring more checks than you think you will need!
In “regular life” writing a check is pretty rare. I use checks for a few personal transactions and I do everything else with some form of online banking, or cash. As do you, right?
With camping, free is best, of course. The BLM is great for this! So are New York State Parks. But sometimes you have to pay.
A Forest Service campsite might cost $6 or $10 or $15 a night. There’s a small wood or metal box that you stuff your payment into, in a small envelope with tiny boxes to fill out in pen. There’s no credit card option. Cash works too, but with no “cashier” there’s no mechanism for providing change. And nowhere to get money in the woods!
Some places are more modernized. Private facilities take credit cards, for sure, unless they’re small town operations. I also reserved a lot of California State Park campsites using their online system and a credit card – but it only works on registrations a couple of days out. When you’re traveling day by day and you pull into a California campsite without pre-registration, you’ll end up wanting a check. The camper host will have a packet of envelopes. It’ll become a familiar process.
And if you’re lucky enough to be living like this long term — You’ll write a lot of checks.
We’ll be unwrapping the Cricket soon!
We’re not so idealized here at Curious Crickets and still we’re really excited to be getting the Cricket out of winter storage. Because waking up in fields and forests. Is. Awesome.
Maybe you’ve been wanting to get out for a week.
Are you curious about The Cricket?
Contact us if you’re interested in short or long term rental.
I’m taking off the tarp next weekend!
We’ll be using the camper on occasional weekends, maybe at MassMoCA, hopefully in the wild as well. We’re lending the Cricket to a friend in September for a residency in Maine. A few things planned.
There’s room on the calendar…
The Wall Street Journal recently published an essay called In Praise of a Nomadic Life, by Andrew Blackman. It’s a story about a particular couple, a 40-ish man and woman who decided to live on the road, mostly in Europe so far, driving around in an old Toyota, staying in hotels, and living on about $100 a day. They both write freelance to cover their costs (Andrew wrote the piece that I read); she also teaches photography. They’ve been at it for a couple of years.
The essay is published in the WSJ category “wealth management” and when I noticed this, it got me thinking about how people plan for their lives, and for wellness. It’s not really a wealth management article. In terms of a managing money, Andrew writes: “Our plan is to earn more and start saving.” For now they live comfortably, spending a little more per month than they did when living in London, and covering costs as they go (an example follows with the image).
Financial planning is really not this couple’s thing. I mean, they seem to be doing fine, feeling safe and secure, and having fun, but they’re not thinking about the future. The whole point of their travel adventure is to not have to think about the future. He writes about how he used to pin his happiness on future events, and how life as a nomad has allowed him to live in the present and enjoy what he has. “At the risk of sounding like a slogan posted on Facebook, I would say that for the first time in my life, I am living in the present rather than dreaming about the future.”
I’m curious about how and why this approach works for them because it doesn’t usually work for me. Sometimes I use cash-in-my-pocket budgeting as a mental exercise that can lead to thrifty decision making. It can be useful. It’s attached in my mind to romantic ideas about simple living. But honestly? It gets tiring. There’s decision fatigue in general, and the ways that poverty taxes the brain specifically. I’m so grateful that the exercise is optional, that I’m not stuck counting dollars all the time.
I think the trade-off approach works best with a long-term planning perspective. Rather than spending money and then belt-tightening to offset the things you got or did, it works in the reverse: choose something you want in the future, and make adjustments now that will help you get there. I find that having a goal in mind makes present-moment compromises feel much better. This is how we saved for the Cricket adventure. Here’s another example —
Chris and I didn’t get tickets this year in Burning Man’s main sale. At first I was really disappointed and I focused on other ways that we could get in, like working for a camp. But we’ve been talking about building a home, and as soon as I made a mental connection between using the resources we would have spent on Burning Man towards the house, I could let go of my perceived need to go to Burning Man. I’d rather use the money towards (some of) a hydronic radiant floor heating system, and I’d rather spend the time tromping around potential lots.
This idea about perceived value isn’t all about money, either. On our Cricket travels, I sometimes felt worn down by making all sorts of choices in each new place: where to buy groceries, where to get wi-fi, where to get good beer, where to sleep, where to make friends. While a general expertise may be cultivated (such as, in the art of finding campsites) the individual decisions didn’t seem to ever add up to anything lasting. The next day, you start over again. I almost always wanted to stay longer in places so that I could build on what I’d done the day before. I like it when parts of my life run on routine; this frees up some decision-making energy for other, more interesting, present-moment activities. I feel unenlightened writing this, but I’m happiest when my “now” is connected to a future that I’m excited about creating.
p.s. If you’re curious, there are people writing about how to blend financial savvy with forms of happiness that aren’t reliant on stuff. Mr. Money Mustache is the best, in my opinion.
Play is awesome. A Google search will give you a plethora of information about play’s useful properties, both for children and adults. I believe in this research but I’m also a big proponent of play simply for the sake it. That’s why kids do it, right? Kids aren’t thinking, “this activity will help boost my creativity and bring me closer to the state of flow as described by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, thus making me more productive at work.” Kids do what feels good.
Recently, Chris and I were waiting to enter TEKNOPOLIS, an exhibit of interactive art and technology at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Most of the patrons were moms and dads with children under 8 (the exhibit was listed as for ages 6 to adult). The line was a bouncing, waving, whining stream of child energy.
Along with the “everyone-would-categorize-them-as-such kids,” there were a mother and her teenaged son in front of us; he looked to be about 14 or 15 years old. He wasn’t quite full grown. He had long hair and was dressed casually. He looked around and expressed dismay at the preponderance of children. “I didn’t think there would be so many kids,” he said. His tone suggested that the kids made the event seem less cool, and that he didn’t identify as a kid. Like maybe he wasn’t in the right place.
This attitude isn’t surprising. I remember how it felt to be a teenager. I’d also heard similar concerns from Chris — to whom I simply kept insisting, “it’s all good; we’re giant-sized kids; this will be fun.” I told the teenaged-kid essentially the same thing. Turned out, I was right!
TEKNOPOLIS was FUN.
A post shared by Chris Nelson (@chrisnelsonartist) on
Somehow, Chris and I ended up working our way through the exhibits on roughly the same path as the teenaged-kid and his mother, and that was fun too. When they opened the gate, we beelined for the virtual reality room upstairs and stood together waiting to use Google Tilt Brush — a 3-D virtual reality drawing program. The teenaged-kid went first. He was prepared (and, we learned, had been pestering mom for a home system) and he made a drawing that was recognizably derived from life. It was fun to watch.
I said to Chris, “I need a plan!” It was intimidating knowing that a line of people would be watching me. First though, I wanted to experiment with all of the brushes and to orient myself in space. The few minutes I had with the system went by quickly. I want to play more with this very cool tool!
Later, we went downstairs to the XYZT room. Borrowing from math for its name – x (horizontal), y (vertical), z (depth), and t (time) – the room was full of sensory, immersive, playful, and interactive technological innovations in black and white. The video below is from “Anamorphosis in Time” which transformed live video of exhibit-goers into wavy and time-distorted alter-versions.
A post shared by Chris Nelson (@chrisnelsonartist) on
Another of my favorite pieces was the “Kinetic Sand,” a light-table-slash-horizontal-responsive-video-screen. It showed digital “grains of sand” that could be manipulated in patters by touching the table. We met up again with the teenaged-kid at this table. He watched us us play for a few moments and then started asking questions… “how does it work? … ” is it responding to your hand like there’s a gravitational pull?”
“Try it,” we suggested. We all played for a little while and then, as the group around the table enlarged, Chris and I wandered off. When we returned, the teenaged-kid was still there. He had played through each of the five or so cycles of pattern and physics that the table offered, and he explained to us how it worked. One pulled particles towards the hand, another pushed them away, and so on. We all played together a while longer. “What happens if …?”
Others joined, and the games continued.
That kind of engagement is why giant-sized kids are so cool. Chris and I had a blast running and jumping around the exhibits for our allotted two-and-a-half hours. We problem-solved our way through the interactive parts but it wasn’t a serious science project kind of vibe. It was play, curiosity, complete engagement in the moment. We were absorbed. We were inventive. We connected.
My complete attention to the moment reminds me of how I felt in the South Dakota Wind Cave. It also reminds me of long-ago adventures; early in our relationship, Chris and I visited Ireland together and spend days crawling around the Burren, amused by little more than limestone rock, tide pools, the smashing of waves, and each other.
Homo Ludens, a classic work on play by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga, describes play as “a free activity standing quite consciously outside ordinary life as being ‘not serious’ but at the same absorbing the player intensely and utterly.”
That quote describes travel-adventuring at its best.
I am so grateful that we can still find the time and places act like giant-sized kids, even now that we’re living like grownups back home.
This is life. I am lucky.