There are many long, rambling, half-finished posts in my queue, stuffed to the gills with reasons why our tiny house is not finished. They’re not bad reasons; but the truth is simply that all those little responsibilities here and there which have added up to weeks and months of lost time are much the same as everyone else’s, and all we can do now is press forward. (After all, it is immeasurably good fortune that we have the strength to get out of bed every morning and commit to participating joyfully in our busy lives!)
We’ve accomplished a lot, despite our tendency to focus on all the things we’re not getting done. When we were unable to find a source of reclaimed wood siding, we decided to use corrugated tin from the roof of a barn we took down in New York over Halloween weekend. It works, and it gives our house a delightfully shabby chic sort of attitude. John was anxious that it would look too ramshackle; but to his surprise, I’m extremely fond of it.
It’s thrifty, it’s rustic, and it gets the job done. And, you know, it was free.
What’s better than that?
John did all of the electrical work with some helpful advice from his brother, Mike, and from Terry, the auto mechanic (and former electrician, apparently) who works next-door to the shop. He’s also run all of the PEX pipes we’ll need for the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and shower. We built the loft above the bathroom, which John tested for structural stability in the best way he could:
We’ve framed the windows on the outside, though unfortunately, it began to rain before I had a chance to coat them with Penofin, the penetrating oil finish we use at the shop for outdoor and patio furniture. They’ve been damp and impossible to seal ever since. Other little improvements include the hand forged brackets John made to support the cantilevered end of our kitchen, reclaimed douglas fir flooring in the loft, and some much-needed finishing elements on the roof. I’m hoping for one last sunny day before this wetness turns into the dead of winter, so that I can wander around with my camera and capture some of those little details.
Today, with the shop’s Christmas rush behind us, we resolved to work only on the tiny house. Since the weather has made it nearly impossible to do much more work outside, John and I decided that it would be best to set up our tiny woodburning stove to heat the inside and make it more comfortable for the immense task of finishing the interior. We took a trip to Lowe’s and immediately balked at the $350 price tag on a standard through-the-wall stovepipe kit. Luckily, it turns out that the do-it-yourself folks can put together the same mechanism with $150 worth of individual parts, then paint them all that lovely matte black with a $3 can of high-heat enamel. I probably don’t need to elaborate on which option we chose.
Our little woodstove, which we bought for a hundred bucks on Craigslist, has a great, gusty draft; but we noticed that it didn’t retain heat well, so John broke an extra fire brick into small pieces to line the bottom, which has done wonders for its efficiency. Within minutes of finishing the pipe construction, we had filled it to capacity with two small chunks of two-by-four, and that tiny house was cooking.
People, we don’t even have a front door yet. Our doorway is covered with nothing but a tarp, and the inside of the house was still hotter than two cats fighting in a wool sock. It was incredible. We peeked outside to see the loveliest sight:
The scene inside was even more lovely, in spite of the unfinished walls and bulging foam insulation, as a little fire popped and leapt in the stove. Our first fire, in our first house, on the first Christmas Eve of our marriage.
I cannot leave you with anything more profound, on this most blessed of nights, than the famous letter written by Fra Giovanni Giocondo to a beloved friend on Christmas Eve, 1513. It so perfectly encompasses all the joy and trial of this adventure!
I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look!
Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.
Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.
And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
And in all things, take peace!