“There is enchantment right in front of you, waiting for you to notice.” -Janet Luhrs
The bed was so warm when I crawled into it last night. I turned our “biomats” on while I was cooking dinner in anticipation of a cold night. This was good because I accidentally washed all of my pajama bottoms yesterday, and they were still a little wet when I went to bed. Dressed in only my husband’s “Woman is the Earth” shirt, my “sleep hoodie” and knee-high boot socks, I knew I was going to need the heater to stay warm.
I was asleep in less than ten minutes and only slipped into consciousness once in the night with the thought, “Mmmm…so warm.” When I woke up this morning it was 19 degrees outside, but my bed and I were still toasty. I’d slept nine blissful hours and was raring to go for a new day.
My husband laughed as I started singing while I was getting dressed. “You are so peppy!” he said.
“I know! I slept like a rock. I love our bed!” I slipped on my jeans and realized I didn’t have a clean fleece inside the van either. I guess I got a little ambitious with my laundry last night.
I ran outside and checked my quickest-drying fleece hanging on the clothes line. Yes! It’s dry! I love this fleece!
The local hawk who makes an appearance most mornings was up, too, sitting atop an electric pole. I’ve named him Thomas. “Good morning, Tom!” I yelled as I ran back to the van.
While my husband got dressed, I turned the van on to heat up the air a bit. I cut us some apple and cheese slices and drank some cold water from one of the glass milk jugs I keep our filtered water stored in.
My husband jumped into the front seat with a grin on his face. “That is some refreshing air!” I’ve learned that whenever he uses the word “refreshing,” it means he is having fun. He grabbed couple slices of apple and cheese for his breakfast.
“Let’s go get some coffee,” I said.
“Great idea!” my husband beamed.
As we drove to the gas station where we have learned they have fresh-ground coffee, I thought about how often we have mornings like this now. We may not always be completely comfortable, but we are almost always completely happy. And we definitely feel alive in a way we never did in our perfectly climate-controlled house.
We walked into the gas station and the woman there says, “Good morning, guys. How are you, today?”
“Really good. You?” my husband says. We stop and talk with her for a bit about the weather.
In their shiny-clean bathroom, I check my hair. Meh, good enough. I brush my teeth with the toothbrush and clay toothpaste I always have with me now. I wash my hands with the Kiss My Face soap I carry with me, dry my hands with a paper towel, use the paper towel to open the door to the bathroom. I follow this with the turn-round jump shot I’ve been practicing. The crumpled paper towel arcs through the air and into the trash can that is in between the two sinks.
Swish! Yes! That is eight baskets in a row!
This gas station has a sink by the coffee machines and I wash my reusable ceramic coffee cup in the sink. The piping hot water feels incredible on my hands. When I am finished, my green ceramic cup is sparkly-clean.
My husband smiles at me as he fills up his cup with his favorite coffee, Cowboy Coffee.
Right behind him is a real cowboy with, I kid you not, spurs on his boots. I can’t help but admire his weathered jeans and cowboy hat with two feathers and a leather strap. He even has a big, shiny belt buckle, although I couldn’t quite figure out what was on the belt buckle. The cowboy sighs long and slow as he fills up his coffee. I imagine his thought: A lot of work to be done today.
Our cups filled, we go up to the counter to pay. The woman there looks at our reusable cups and smiles. “Is this all you two have today?”
We smile back. “Yep.”
“Well, it’s on me, then. Have a wonderful day.”
“Thanks!” we say in unison.
Walking out to the van, I say to my husband, “These cups have paid for themselves five times over in free coffee!”
He laughs and says, “I know, right?”
Sitting in the van, we drink our coffee and talk about what we want and need to do today. But as we talk I think about what we’ve done this morning: get up, get dressed, use the bathroom, wash our cups, and have some breakfast and coffee. These are activities we’ve done our whole adult lives, but they are so joy-filled now. When everything was so comfortable, they were boring and tedious.
Our perspective has shifted and with it our happiness has been amplified. The simple necessities have become simple pleasures. A warm bed feels decadent. A dry fleece sparks joy. Warm water from a tap is luxurious and so washing a cup feels like a treat instead of a chore. And free fresh-ground coffee from the nice lady at the gas station starts our morning off with the generosity of another.
I tried to find this kind of happiness and contentment in a therapist’s office, in a bottle of Wellbutrin, in meditation, in setting and achieving goals, in focus, in music, in exercise, in hard work, and in giving to charity.
Who knew it was waiting for me in this simple cargo van life? This is more than just the happiness that comes from a drastic reduction of pain and relief from illness. This is the lesson all those wise and kind teachers-of-peace throughout history have tried to pass along through the ages. This is joy amplified by simplicity in life.
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” –Lao Tzu
“How many undervalue the power of simplicity! But it is the real key to the heart.” –William Wordsworth
Sara and her husband are living full-time on the road in their converted cargo van. Sara’s mold avoidance book: Camp Like a Girl can be found here and her book Migraine: Finding My Own Way Out can be found here.