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Cabin

Front view of my cabin

Perhaps the question I received most in the weeks leading up to my departure from Santa Barbara, CA to Paradise, CA was “So, is it really Paradise there?”  Despite the jest behind the question, answering it lends a simple starting point for my first transmission from this place.

I created a Picasa Web Album to share photos of my first two weeks in Paradise.

Paradise is paradise in regards to the my new living quarters.  I now live in a small studio sized “cabin” nestled among pine trees, olive trees, blackberry bushes, and a myriad of other flora that I cannot name.  In particular there is one tree that releases its seeds in fluffs of white cotton-looking material that slowly float to earth all over the property. For the last two weeks the air has been filled with this “summer snow,” creating an especially beautiful sight when the breeze kicks up.  It is particularly neat to watch first thing in the morning when it meanders through the morning sun’s rays as which are already being filtered through the mighty pine trees that adorn the property.

This is my cabin from the back

This is my cabin from the back

The property is very overgrown with plants – that is, compared to what a well groomed property would be expected to look like.  This lends itself to a sense of mystery and beauty to the place.  One can imagine if the cabin went uninhabited for more years, nature would slowly but surely reclaim the lot almost entirely.  In exchange for a generously cheap rent, it is my duty – and pleasure – to tame these overgrowths and bring back to the property a balance between the wild nature of the flora and the beauty of a tamed property.  My first adventures in this work have been to clear back the aggressive blackberry bushes that creep up on the property from three sides – primarily in the front yard.  My clearing of these bushes in the front has revealed a wonderful tiny creek that runs through the property.  Now clear of blackberry bushes after many hours of work, I can enjoy the beauty of the creek. I will spend hours of yard work in the upcoming weeks cutting back bushes that are overgrown, taking out olive tree saplings all over the property, cutting low hanging tree limbs, picking up debris and garbage that has been left here over the years, and generally restoring the cabin.

The creek in my front yard.  The area to the right was covered in blackberry bushes previously.  I cleared those out and now have a beautiful creek in my front yard.

The creek in my front yard. The area to the right was covered in blackberry bushes previously. I cleared those out and now have a beautiful creek in my front yard.

Paradise is also paradise in respect to the fauna.  I am simply thrilled at how many insects, birds, bugs, and animals I have already seen just on the property.  I know that they are a small number compared to what lies an hour and a half drive north to Lassen Volcanic National Forest (which I will explore when someone visits me with a car!), but it is surprising how much more life there is here than in any larger city I’ve ever lived in.  I see countless dragonflies buzzing around and mating and dozens of different insects which jump all over me when I am in the yard doing work.  I learn to not mind them – they are harmless.  The ant colonies abound! Tiny little house ants to ants that are a half inch long.  I have disturbed many colonies in turning over rocks and logs, but I am fascinated by how quickly they gather their larvae and relocate.  Crickets, centipedes, worms, ladybugs.  There is a pair of quail that play in the leaves around here.  A group of three deer come right down into my backyard – about 30 feet from my back door to eat.  Squirrels play in the trees and woodpeckers drill holes.  And of course the spiders!  They love to come inside.  I largely just ignore them now when I see them inside.

This is Pearson.  He along with two other deer frequent my backyard.  They are adorable to watch.  But they do have an annoying side - they ate some of my garden.  In response I bought a natural deer repellent made of eggs, garlic, and sulfur.  Yum!

This is Pearson. He along with two other deer frequent my backyard. They are adorable to watch. But they do have an annoying side - they ate some of my garden. In response I bought a natural deer repellent made of eggs, garlic, and sulfur. Yum!

The weather so far has been perfect. It was hottest when I arrived here peaking one day at 95 degrees. However, since then it has remained very mild. I generally keep the doors and windows open all day long. The house stays cool underneath the trees during the heat. I know I have yet to experience the true heat of summer here, but I am prepared for it and welcome it. Last week was largely overcast and actually brought some rain. In fact I experienced my first major summer thunder and lightning storm here. My power went out, it was pouring, and there was literally constant lightning non stop for 20 minutes. The storm was right over me. If you’ve never heard lightning strike right near by, it is a horrifying experience. It sounds much louder and strong than lightning that echoes from far away. You can hear it literally cracking through the air. Lightning storms are very scary if you’re by yourself in a tiny cabin without power!

My Kitchen!

My Kitchen!

Paradise is paradise in the isolation and solitude that it has warranted me.  I came here not with the notion that I would begin some sort of lifelong journey of solitude – that’s not for me, I love my friends and family too much. I love being in the presence of others and forming relationships.  Rather, I came here with the intention to explore solitude and isolation for a time to see what it would breed within me.  It is very clear that this I will be very isolated. The cabin is situated quite centrally in Paradise.  Within biking 10 minutes I can be at a hardware store, grocery stores, a library, an ice cream store, a bar, restaurants, a laundromat – general entities of a city.  I have, however, spent comparatively little time in the city because I haven’t much desire to be in it. I am finding myself to be very comfortable spending entire days just at the cabin relaxing.

Bathroom

Bathroom

To get to the cabin from town I have to travel down three increasingly tiny single lane roads.  By the time I reach my driveway, it is gravel.  The driveway itself is about 100 feet long.  By the time I walk to the house, I feel quite isolated.  There are trees all around and it feels like I am in the middle of the woods.  I can see some neighbors’ houses through the trees, but that doesn’t take away from the feeling of isolation.  There are dogs that bark at each other from adjacent properties all the time and just beyond the trees of the backyard there is a school of some sort. So during the days the air is filled with sounds of dogs barking, schoolchildren playing, and an occasional loud truck or siren in the distance.  People keep very much to themselves in the neighborhood where I am situated.  I have introduced myself to my most immediate neighbor, but have not seen any other neighbors except sometimes in their cars and they give subtle head nods of acknowledgment at times.  The lots here are big and most of the houses are very tucked away, allowing people to very much keep isolated. Once I get outside of my neighborhood into the town, people also seem generally inclined to keep to themselves.

My room

My room

There seems to lack a demographic of people my age here.   I still haven’t figured out if I stick out like a sore thumb or if people don’t even give me a second thought.  Perhaps its somewhere in between where I look out of place, but people understand that I – like them – came here just to keep to myself.  I haven’t made friends with anybody here and have conversed with only a handful of people – the bike store owners, the adventure store worker, the music store worker, the natural food store worker, the fellow who gave Ildiko and I a lift to Chico Sunday morning – but all has been small talk.  Nothing has led to any substantive conversation that would lead further to some sort of community that I could find here.  So, while I am keeping my eye out for signs of some sort of community here that I could join with, I am reveling in the isolation that the woods and the people harbor.

My room from a different angle

My room from a different angle

Paradise is paradise in the sense that I’m not working much right now.  I am putting in about 10 hours a week for the California Student Sustainability Coalition, but beyond that I am not working.  I am dedicating my time to gardening, working on my own music, One Night Music, yard work, reading, relaxing, sitting and thinking, and running errands that take a bit more effort and time than previously (such as doing laundry without a washer and dryer).

Paradise is what I will make it.  So far it’s been wonderful. I am extremely happy and at peace exploring what this new life has to offer. Life is still and quiet. The transition has not been accompanied by any sort of shock that I expected (and feared) I would feel.  The shock of living by myself for the first time, or moving to a place where I don’t know anyone, or moving to a town that is vastly different from Santa Barbara, or a number of other stark changes.  But that has not been the case – to my delight!  Psychologically, the transition has been seamless.  Perhaps it’s because I prepared for it in my head for quite some time, or perhaps it’s because this is really exactly what I needed right now – just a chance to stop everything and take a breath and just relax in Paradise.

My computer in my room

My computer in my room

I have visited Chico now a couple times.  There is a bus that runs from Paradise straight into Chico that takes only 20 minutes.  Chico has quite a good farmer’s market on Saturdays that I have been to twice and it has a vibrant liberal community that manifests itself in some very quaint coffee shops downtown.   I look forward to playing some open mics in Chico and further exploring the town.  Paradise does have some neat things to offer too.  It has a tiny Farmer’s Market that just started last Tuesday.   I haven’t been to it yet, but I will go this week.  It has some beautiful road biking and I have found three convenient natural food stores which have been unexpected finds.  However, the further you get away from a big city, the much more expensive the products get.

I don’t leave the house without a stick in hand because there a very mean dog that chases me at the end of my driveway.

I look forward to keeping my friends and family up to date with my adventures here in Paradise through my blog.  I will also use this as a platform to share general ideas that I like to write about regarding life.

Thanks for reading!