Thursday 29 December 2022

2022: My year of living quietly

Here we are at the Sunday afternoon end of the year, at the tail end of this secret week between rushing and resolutions, between the year that's all but over and the one not yet begun. I like it. I like not knowing what day it is and feeling as if anything goes. No questions asked. There's time to read and nap and have regular swims to cool off (or is that just me?) and do nothing at all. And maybe cast a lazy backward glance at the year that's about to expire.

I know it's usual at times like this to say that the year has just flown by, but 2022 felt like a long year to me. Not in a dragging, lockdown kind of way, but in a one-day-at-a-time way. 

The world opened up, friends started travelling again. And I stayed put, mainly to work on a book about the tiny house build, which is still a work in progress (who knew writing about building a tiny house would take SO much longer than actually building one?). I don't think I went much beyond a three-hour radius of my little town all year (by car). 

It was my year of living quietly. 


Of course 2022 started with the noisy drumming of flooding rains up here in northern NSW (and is ending the same way in parts of South Australia as I write this). My town wasn't directly affected, and my little house weathered the storms and downpours beautifully, but everyone around here felt it in some way, all summer and into autumn. When the sun eventually came out - and stayed out - it seemed like a miracle. Then the government changed (hallelujah) and good things started to seem possible again.

Still, after the flooding, after hearing so many stories of heartache and homelessness, after seeing the sea turn brown and stay that way for months from all the river runoff and all the debris washed up on the beaches, including massive trees with barnacles on their trunks - it felt natural to stay close to home. I felt a new urgency to live simply, for my own wellbeing as much as for the sake of planet. 


So I made a conscious choice: to live frugally. This was always what tiny house living was about for me. Now I was finally going to live it. 

I decided to earn less so that I'd have more time and more headspace to write and think. I wanted to be un-busy and feel grateful for all I have here that enables me to live simply, including an un-greedy friend/landlord who charges me minimal rent to park my tiny on his land, a community garden down the road where I can grow some food, and natural places nearby where I can exercise and socialise, and find solace, for free. 

And in living this way, time slowed down. As one of my favourite poets, John Roedel, said recently, "Gratitude has a way of pouring maple syrup on all of the clocks."

Making & mending

Tiny houses are natural life-simplifiers. Being small, they force you to clean up after yourself regularly and keep things ship-shape. Undone chores are right in front of your nose. And with less paid work, I had more incentive - and more time - to make things. 

When I wasn't writing (or reading) and in the spirit of frugality (what a funny word) I spent time making and mending and doing basic home maintenance. Things I made: a camphor bowl, a laptop case, a chopping board, banana bread, pumpkin soup, spinach pie and a deliciously healthy chocolate cake. Things I mended: jeans and shirts and hot water bottle covers. I re-oiled my cedar siding, and the decks. 

Simple travels

When my passport expired at the beginning of the year, I instinctively ordered a new one. I still haven't used it. In fact, this month marks an unfamiliar milestone: it's three years since I've been on a plane. Of course, Covid gave me two flight-free years, and I will probably fly somewhere in 2023, but I do feel rather virtuous all the same (I'm half-kidding: it feels good to not fly when I feel so alarmed by the state of the planet, but I can't get too superior about it with all the flying I've done as a travel writer over the years.) 

To make ends meet this year, I did write about sustainable travel (in between book chapters) - without going anywhere. I learned a lot, about regenerative travel and tourism pledges and cultural appropriation, even quiet travel

I also took a casual job at Happy Flame, a local business that makes beautiful beeswax candles; it was my first casual job since I started my writing career 25 years ago, but it was a really enjoyable part of my quiet-year regime: simple work, a regular income, time to think.

Animal magic

When I did go away, it was invariably to go camping somewhere relatively nearby, like Bald Rock National Park, where I saw my first spotted quoll! 

Another first happened closer to home: I was surfing, in winter, when I slid off my longboard to swim around underwater in the lull between waves and heard... squeaks and clicks and moans. Whales! They weren't close enough to see, but within minutes I'd told other surfers nearby and they started sliding off their boards and coming up smiling too. Joy doubled in the sharing of it. 

Tiny life 2.0

When people ask me now, "How's your tiny house?" I have to think for a moment. After living in my tiny for almost two years, my little house is home. I guess that's a sign that it's comfortable and it suits me. Living tiny just seems normal to me. 

I know it's not for everyone, but it's good to remember that for most of human history, most people lived simply, in small dwellings and rarely ventured far from home.

So I'm here. Day by day, moment to moment, doing my best to make the most of everything I have, all the advantages I've been given. And I don't have any big plans to change that anytime soon. I'm starting to miss travel, or bits of it - walking amid big mountains, meeting new people, being away from everything and everyone I know - but for now I'm happy to be embarking on this next 365-day trip around the sun starting in a few days' time. Ready? I hope it's a good one for us all...