In April my cousin aka heart sister aka Fish in the Water came by to visit and meet Baby Pickles. While she was here she stayed in my Wagen aka Trash House aka my kitchen and workspace. Back home again, I asked her if she would write something about what it was like for her to stay in a Bauwagen for a week. Turned out she already had. So without further ado, her thoughts on Bauwagen life.
the real thing
There are some moments you are simply happy to be alive. I find these occur more frequently when you’re living your life outside. My sister lives in a wagenplatz. I won’t go into detail because she explains it herself here. But picture the Boxcar Children and you’re well on your way. When you’re living in a wagen the weather becomes of utmost importance. It was rather cold when I was there, and that mostly means heating with a wood stove. While I did finally learn the secret of lighting the woodstove (thank god for matches, because I’m horrible with lighters), you don’t always feel like lighting it, or you won’t be there for very long, and this leads to heating with candles. It had never really occurred to me that you could heat with candles, but duh, fire.
The first night the wood stove was lit, and I snuggled into bed with a comforter and read by candlelight. It’s actually about the same level of light as a bedside lamp, if you do it proper. And it feels infinitely more cozy. More real, somehow, more true. You have to watch that they don’t burn all the way down, and somehow, that increased level of attentiveness makes you feel all the more alive—that, and the occasional pops from the woodstove, and the rain beating against the roof.
Because of the small space, many things are done outside, or at least in another wagen. It’s a walk to the bathroom, which is the only thing that can sometimes be a pain in the ass when it’s warm inside from the woodstove and you just don’t feel like putting clothes on…
Otherwise you just wait for the weather. For the sun to dry your clothes, a clear day for chopping wood, a warm one for washing dishes. I can’t use my phone here and there’s no clock so I never have any idea what time it is, which can be a blessing and a curse. When time is irrelevant, all you have to go by is the weather. And when it’s raining, you wake when the rain starts making enough noise, and schedule your day around when you can manage to get outside without getting wet.
To go about dishwashing, you start by hauling a tub full of water from the tap. If you’re me you attempt to do this all in one go and get fairly wet. You set the washtub on the porch or somewhere similarly elevated (because wagens have wheels, doors, and thus porches, are 2-3’ off the ground) And then you go about it all in the usual way—wash, rinse, set out to dry. We handwash all our dishes at home, so it’s not a big chore, but it’s different outside, wagen door open, Florence and the Machine blaring. You notice things. Birds watch you work, and there’s a snail in the ivy under the tree. A leaf falls in the washtub. Like reading by candlelight, it somehow feels right, and more real than being indoors with a faucet. You use biodegradable soap, and when you’re done you dump it in the weeds, which are actually nettles and henbit and ivy and other useful plants.
A perfect moment, an immense feeling of satisfaction, having done a job well while standing in the sun. More alive than I’ve felt in ages, I can finally hear my thoughts again, and they are full of quiet and the snail and the song of the kohlmeise who has been watching me all along.
There are going to be some changes when I get home.
This post was originally published here.