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Jay recently spent a week with us, a hard-working week where we assembled 1400 feet of water pipe, built an earthen platform for water tanks, and chainsawed a few trees hanging over the road.
Jay is one of our teachers. He lives within the smallest footprint of anyone we know. He also has years of experience living lightly — spending much of the last 30 years on the road — traveling by bicycle. He knows where to camp for the night (under the bridges, or where the grasses are high enough to hide the tent) and where and how to bury things for safekeeping from digging critters (including humans) for later retrieval.
As a stranger in town, he also knows how to look unsuspicious and normal. He wears the silk shirt, non-functioning but good-looking wristwatch, the jaunty cap, the tweed jacket (thrift store, of course).
He knows which low-cost, lightweight yet nutritious foods he can carry, how many miles he can ride in a day, how to protect himself in rain. Rice, soy powder, TVP are staples. We got him turned onto the healthy and portable fats in coconut oil. He added our acorn meal for extra go-power in his morning oatmeal.
He’s resourceful. When we needed a way to tie up a handle on the utility trailer, he whipped out a length of surgical tubing and tied it onto the frame. Worked perfectly for the job (and gave us ideas for how else it could be used). Jay grabbed some down logs for us to lever the big watertank onto our utility trailer, and tied on another wood chunk as a stop so it wouldn’t roll off (in the picture we’re figuring out how to maneuver the tank OFF the trailer).
Nowadays Jay lives in a small cabin on his sister’s property. In exchange he works as a handyman, gardener and arborist (by the way, watching Jay in a tree with chainsaw is a poetic ballet of the highest order. He tells us about talking with the tree, ensuring permission to cut, and where. Their communion is visibly evident in the ensuing dance. Now THAT is connection to nature!)
His discussion topics are all over the map — from the biggest cosmic picture to the tiniest molecules, his plans for building recumbent bicycles, the art of Russian mystic and Himalayan traveler Nicholas Roerich, to addiction and recovery, to favorite articles in Resurgence, Ode and Yes! magazines.
Small footprint but a mind and spirit unbound. He teaches us about being in the present, working with what’s here, listening to the body, and living on what you can carry. It’s Jay who said just before he headed out, “Enough is as good as a feast.” Now, that’s an attitude to carry us all through the long descent and into sustainability.