Or, On Accepting the Very Real Possibility that I Am, Indeed, “Here Because I’m Not All There.”
Written By Ashley
I’ve been trying to write a pros and cons style piece about my indoor/outdoor living situation. Despite having lots to say about it, I can’t seem to organize my thoughts into anything that resembles logic.
Which, I’ve come to understand is exactly the problem: There is none.
The longer I am alive, the more apparent it becomes that my process for making weighty, life-altering decisions is based largely on intuition and a seemingly insatiable appetite for romance and novelty. Not the rose petal and champagne variety of romance, but rather the fanciful, idealistic, adventure-seeking kind that more logical persons might consider unrealistic, if not downright silly.
Certainly, this is how I came to live on a Caribbean island. And this is also how I came to live in a charming little indoor/outdoor cottage on a solar nature preserve just about as far from our tiny town of Cruz Bay as is possible on St. John.
Or, as I’m told my father recently put it to my mother over the phone after his cruise-ship-day-excursion to my home:
“Our daughter lives in the fucking jungle. The jungle, Pam. She’s living in the middle of a goddamn jungle and her car is about to fall apart any day now.”
Admittedly, ten years ago, we all thought my expensive liberal arts degree (for which I’ll continue to pay until 2020) would afford me a grander living space by the time I turned 31. But, as it turns out, I have found the romantic, exotic, and passionate life more alluring than the upwardly-mobile stable path that makes far more sense.
My living situation certainly makes for a romantically exotic experience. And true to my form, that’s how I fell in love with the place and decided to move in. It was only after I made the commitment that I started to wonder about my sanity. I still wonder about my sanity.
I’m really not joking. I especially wonder about the state of my mind when describing my home to people who haven’t chosen to live on an island. It becomes even clearer that romance, novelty, and natural beauty are far more important for me to experience in my daily life than anything resembling a modern Western life of comfort and convenience
Because honestly, living outside is hard. But I would never trade it for a climate-controlled townhouse in the suburbs. Which, considering all of the pain in the ass things about indoor/outdoor living that five years ago I would have told you were impossible for me to endure, really indicates that my current version of normal life has changed dramatically.
The best I can do organizing my thoughts into something like a pros and cons list is as follows:
What I Cherish Most About Indoor/Outdoor Living:
Spending most of my time in nature is profoundly satisfying. Living in fresh air, right next to plants and animals feels authentic and healthy in a way that is hard to accurately describe.
For eff’s sake, my menstrual cycle has synced to the lunar cycle with an impressive degree of consistency. (A Google search tells me this is actually a thing women strive for, but it happened to me with no effort.) If this ain’t the result of living in tune with nature, I don’t know what is.
Things I Cherish About My Particular Indoor/Outdoor Living Environment:
(Or, If Not For These Things, I Might Not Adore my Abode So Damn Much)
It was built, and is owned and maintained by an environmentally-zealous architect, which means that it:
- was built and is maintained in the most sustainable way possible
- is 100% solar
- is home to organic gardens fed by our household compost
- was built with rich, sumptuous sustainably-farmed hardwood personally sourced from Guatemala
The landlord’s lovely wife has added beauty and enchantment by:
- choosing gorgeous, high-end fixtures, tiles, and decorations
- planting upwards of 100 orchids on the property. (At one point last winter, I counted 20+ orchids blooming within the 70 paces between my car and my toilet.)
- creating a rooftop fairy garden
- My dog can run around freely. (Even though he chooses not to.)
- Clothes are only necessary when the landlords come out on the weekend.
A Few Other Advantages to Having No Walls
(This is where the pros start to seem a little paltry, compared to the cons.)
Even though there is more of a need to sweep, there is less of a need for a dustpan. I can simply sweep the never-ending supply of filth right off my floor and onto the ground. No need to piss around with the last little line of dirt that renders itself impossible to collect in the dustpan. (Woohoo!)
Dry crumbs and the like can be dumped over the side of the house. No need to bother with the garbage can for bits of clean organic trash. (Jackpot!)
Scrubbing outdoor surface areas made of stone tile (kitchen counter, shower) seems so futile that it’s worth giving up completely. I keep my cutting boards clean and wear shower shoes, and don’t worry about the rest. (Hot Damn!)
For the long-haired shedders out there, imagine the ability to collect your loose hair while showering and simply toss it into the wild. No need to save it on the wall for later, or collect it from the hair catcher. (Life is Good!)
The fragrance of night-blooming flowers is freely available to while conducting my evening activities. (Life is Beautiful!)
An open air bathroom makes for natural ventilation. Plus, there’s nothing like ducking hummingbirds and enjoying new orchid blooms while doing one’s business.
Things I Consider Minor Irritations That Used to Bother Me / Would Really Bother Most People / Really Makes Me Wonder if I’m Progressing or Regressing:
A constant supply of gecko poop.
Moths that dive bomb my food while I’m cooking it.
Moths that dive bomb my face while I’m trying to sleep.
The occasional scorpion run in.
Nightly presence of all manner of moths, roaches, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and more.
When dropping the razor or the soap in the shower means it actually falls on the ground, several feet below your floor.
Papers are more apt to blow off tables. Or to get wet if it rains hard enough.
Any creepy crawly critter thing that regularly gets into people’s houses in the islands has an exponentially easier time getting into mine.
The bugs, leaves, and dirt that collect in my sink unless I cover my kitchen counter at night (a sensible domestic task that is neglected more than completed).
Sometimes it rains too hard to cook.
Showering outside— even in the tropics—is sometimes really cold.
Everything gets even dirtier faster.
What Genuinely Sucks About Living Outside
The occasional infestation (mosquitoes, mice) that does seriously deplete my quality of life.
And Some Optimistic Reframes I Entertain for Fun and Self-Development
Pretending the cobwebs collecting on my rich, luxurious hardwood rafters are Spanish moss.
Pretending that dealing with all these bugs in my life—something previously paralyzing— somehow holistically makes me better at other skills it behooves me to develop, like negotiation, sales, and punctuality.
Some Things I’m Living Without At Home That Most Peers Would Deem Basic
microwave, full-size fridge, oven, stove
hair dryer, flat iron, nail polish
cable, cell phone service
hot water in the kitchen
linen closet…or any closet
While my current living arrangement is unquestionably temporary, I’m in no hurry to change it. I rather enjoy living like Sleeping Beauty with all of my forest critter friends. (Although it would be really nice of them to actually help me clean instead of adding just to the mess.)
As far as I can tell, I’ve either a) evolved into someone comfortable living completely outside the realm of logic and convention, b) lost my relationship with the popular notion of reality and I’m just starting to realize it, or c) I’m a witch.
Either way, I’m still a cluckin’ and a truckin’. Pretty happily, even. Which, I guess means that I’m comfortable with all of the above.