So, I’m taking a memoir writing class. I polished up my previous blog entry “Buckets of Sh*t” and presented it to the class. Here is what it looks like after I added and subtracted with the help of the class. They said to get rid of most of the boyfriend stuff, which is funny, since originally it was mostly about the boyfriend stuff!
I once lived in a small cabin in the bottom of an avalanche chute. It had a wood stove, a spring fed stream nearby where I gathered water, and an outhouse. Well, it wasn’t a full fledged outhouse, with a big deep hole; this outhouse was technically within the city limits, so it was more of a lean-to with buckets. Two of these were full to the top when I moved in, sealed with lids. 10 gallons of festering ooze. The previous tenant, who eventually became my sweetheart/man of my dreams/ex-boyfriend; promised that he’d come back and remove the buckets. This did not happen. I called the sewer department and explained my predicament. The sewer guy was sympathetic. Perhaps he’d heard the story before? Future boyfriend impresses woman with 10 gallons of pestilence? I carried the buckets, down the long, stumbly, slippery trail, placed them carefully in my car, and drove down the steep curvy road. A car full of explosives couldn’t be more nervous-making. I met the sewer guy, and we opened a giant access hatch (this was very cool, no odor, distant splashy sounds). We opened the buckets, which had been sealed for months. Abominable. Wretchworthy. The sewer guy was overwhelmed. There were f-bombs. I said “don’t you do this all the time?” He indicated, in colorful language, that normal sewage is benign, delightful in comparison. This was sticky. It was scary. He roared off in his big truck, leaving me with two nasty empty buckets.
Eventually I moved to another cabin. This place had an outhouse. A proper, old school outhouse, with a deep deep hole. It was a fading Cadillac of outhouses, a three-holer; two of normal size and a tiny one, custom made for a previous tenant’s Barbie doll. Someone had kindly left behind a piece of foam insulation cut into the shape of a toilet seat; a winter morning luxury. The view from this throne was sweet, looking down over the cabin and stream, trees and dripping moss. A northern goshawk had a feeding post right above. Marbled murrelet feathers drifted all around; one threatened species feeding on another. The trek to the necessary required a scramble up “the cliff”’. Once there had been stairs, and a functional floor, but now just rotting planks. I tiptoed on the better boards and never had a mishap. I was the outhouse ninja.
A few years later I found yet another lovely cabin in the woods. I called it the dollhouse and planted flowers all around. It was luxurious, with electricity, running water, a propane heater, and a composting toilet; which was indoors, with a floor. The problem was, you can’t really empty that tank all the way, or the composting stops. It’s like sourdough, you need starter. So, the guy before me had to leave his leavings behind (do you sense a theme here?). This wouldn’t have been so bad, except for the flying insects. The sleeping loft had a ceiling about two feet above my head. There were insects from the other guy’s droppings on that ceiling for weeks. The compost was off kilter. I bought a dust buster and had a nightly ritual of vacuuming overhead.
To you, from the outside looking in, some of this probably seems terrible. But there was beauty in all of it, or at the worst the opportunity to laugh really hard. How many people have lived in an avalanche chute? Well, maybe that wasn’t the best plan, but I survived, and it was beautiful. My outhouse on the cliff was a peaceful, connective place. As my surroundings have become civilized, I’ve become dissatisfied. Now I have indoor plumbing, but want more. I want tile. I want marble. I whine when the hot water runs out. Sitting in the outhouse was a satisfaction. I was present in the moment, present in the cycles of life and death, listening to the rain, and trying not to fall through the floor or freeze my ass off.