Paper

Innu Ally Work filesIn my sorting and packing and decluttering quest, I was all set to start tossing old file folders from the basement into the recycling bin, but it is proving harder than I first expected. I haven’t looked at these papers for at least ten years (since we moved into this house). Because of my allergies, I would have to wear a mask and gloves to go through them.  So the simplest thing would be to just toss them out.  But when I start to take a peak, they are like windows into the history of my life as an activist.  Here is a whole file cabinet about ally work that I was involved in, related to the struggles of the Innu of Nitassinan in Quebec, most of it from when I lived in Boston.

Boston Political workThen there is the box I haven’t opened in over 16 years, with this evocative label: “Boston/and Peace Camp Time: Political Groups /Resources/Issues/Conferences.” I am guessing I threw stuff in there as I was packing to leave Boston, but I don’t even know what it might include.

I also have a box from over 30 years ago, simply labeled “Politics, Etc.” from the time I lived in Grand Rapids and Chicago in 1980 to 1984.  I’ve moved it so many times.  My intention to simplify is crashing into my interest in the older stories of my life.  When I look at these artifacts, I remember activities and connections and struggles that I had almost forgotten.Grand Rapids Political work

I think about moderately famous authors and activists whose collections of papers end up in libraries and archives.  But I am not famous, and who knows whether any of this would have any value for anyone besides me.  Do I really want to carry around boxes and boxes of old paper? I want to live in a small house, and keep doing activist work in the present rather than to document the activist movements of the past.  But I just recently read about how one of my favorite authors, Octavia Butler, saved everything.  Her papers are now available for research use in a library in California, I think.

When we give ourselves to the work of social change, we are “one in the number” (as Ella Baker said) of thousands of ordinary people lending our strength to a new vision.  Are our ordinary activist stories an important part of a history that someone may want to write in a future we cannot yet imagine? Or will that future itself be the only record of our work that is needed?

I do have some boxes of paper that I have already labeled “Archives.”  I would probably sort things differently if I had time to do it today, but when we moved to Maine, I made some filing and sorting choices about what to save and what to toss.  It is just that that sorting never gets finished, and some things came along without that kind of careful attention.  The boxes I always feel absolute clarity about saving are the boxes of my journals and writings and poetry.  During our last move, I even purchased archival quality boxes in which to store my old journals.

When I go deep inside, I know it is okay to let go of some of this paper; but perhaps it is also okay to wait, to bring along some of these old boxes, stash them in another basement or attic, and revisit them in a quieter time.  I don’t know.  What do you think?

We are planning to move in two and a half weeks.

 

Sorting and Packing

Packed in BasementYesterday I began sorting and packing in the basement.  Here is a pile of stuff all packed and ready to go to our new house!  I also made an area for things we didn’t want, and at the end of the day I put several boxes in my car ready to go to Goodwill.  But here is what is left to do:

Still to Go

It was a bit overwhelming to even think about how to get through all this, until I just decided to start in one corner, which happened to be our camping equipment, and do that, and then when that was done, to move on to the next area.  I guess that is a good remedy for many overwhelming things in life–start someplace and take it one step at a time.

Since I had the day off, it was a good chance for Margy and I to confer on various items–we got through Christmas decorations, and baskets, and pots for planting:  What can we get rid of? What do we want to keep?  Then, I would put them in boxes and seal and label and put them in the packed-and-ready corner.

Meanwhile, Margy was sealing cracks in the concrete floor.  When we first bought our house, the basement had tested too high for radon levels.  A mitigation system was installed–you can see part of it in the photo above–the white piping goes down underneath the floor to draw radon from the soil.  The piping goes up through a closet into the attic and out through the top of the roof.  A fan in the pipe in the attic creates a negative pressure to pull the radon gases through the piping, so it doesn’t seep into the basement.  But part of what makes it work is to seal all the cracks in the floor.

We haven’t been much concerned about it for a while.  Since we don’t spend much time in the basement, it has not mattered so much to us.  But our home buyers are having their home inspection done this week, including a radon test.  We are hoping the extra effort to seal the cracks will ensure the mitigation system is doing its job, and the basement levels will pass the test.

Radon is a big issue for housing all across the United States.  Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, but if humans are exposed to too much, it increases our risk of lung cancer.  This can be an issue for very energy efficient houses, because they are more tightly sealed, which makes for less air flow.  Have you had radon levels tested in your home?

Heat Pumps are In

Heat Pump Final TouchesYesterday, the final connections were made, and the heat pumps were up and running.  The outdoor unit sits 30 inches above the ground, so when it snows, it is up above the snow line.  But if snow blows into the unit, it is smart enough to know when to start defrosting itself. In fact, these machines are smart in many ways.  Our installer oriented us to all of their many features.  You can program them to sense a human being in the room, and either blow conditioned air toward them or around them.  Not that we need that feature.  But maybe on a hot day, when they are cooling the air?

You can also set them to efficiency mode, and they’ll figure out how to keep the air at a comfortable set temperature all on their own.  A wonderful feature of heat pumps is that they do both heating and cooling.  One of the symptoms that Margy faces from her chronic illness is a severe incapacity to tolerate heat. So it is a wonderful relief that our home will be safe and comfortable for her in all weather.  Heat pumps are efficient except when the outside temperature goes to 5 below zero.  For those very few ultra cold days, we have back up heat from the very efficient Buderus boiler that was already in the house.

We were chatting with the installer about the irony that, right now, with oil prices being so low, it may actually be less expensive to heat with the oil furnace than with the heat pumps which use electricity.  But once we have installed solar panels, we hope most of our electricity will come from the sun.  That is what will make these heat pumps an important contribution to our search for greener housing. For us, it isn’t just the price, but the desire to move away from fossil fuels that put too much carbon in the atmosphere.  For now, we set the thermostat to about 50 degrees, until we finally get to move in.

Heat pump in living room

Celebration!

CelebrationWe have a contract to sell our old house!  We got an offer yesterday evening, and today we talked about it and made a counter offer and then they countered with a price we could feel good about, and now we are signing the paperwork. We read somewhere that the planet Mercury went direct on January 25 after being retrograde for a few weeks… according to astrologers now is the time to sign contracts and go forward with plans. I don’t know if that helped, or if it was the grace of the spirits who are guiding us through this search for greener housing.  But I do know that I want to say thanks to everyone who was praying for our house sale to go well!  We still have to go through inspections, and such, and the closing of the deal is tentatively scheduled for March.  But tonight we feel such relief and joy.  Now we can turn our attention to packing and getting ready to move.

Patience and Grace

This week is I have been trying and failing at patience.  The carpenter and the heat pump installers are …almost… done.  Everything was theoretically going to be done by today, and now we are looking at Friday instead.  But, here are some of the beautiful results.

French Doors to PatioThis is not the best photo ever, but our French doors from the kitchen to the deck are installed–we just need still to get the keyed entry put in, since this will be our regular entry door.  It was a cloudy day today when I took the picture, but this is a south facing window, and brings a lot of light into the house, and links us to the back yard.

The door on the right is the one that opens, pivoting from the center–in our research we learned that it is more energy efficient to have just one side moveable, and we can swing it totally around to rest on the other side, with a sliding screen for those days we want a breeze.  It will also give us a 32″ wide pathway directly into the kitchen, for wheelchair access, when we install a ramp up to the deck.  In permaculture design they call it “stacking functions,” when one item fulfills multiple functions–so this one has entry and exit, beauty, access, energy efficiency, light, ventilation, and the cats will likely be sitting there looking out at the back yard, too.

French Doors to Office

We also installed French doors from the hallway to the office–once again, for access and for light.  The opening they create will provide a better turning radius for a wheelchair to get into the bathroom across the hall, and if either of us do ever need to use a wheelchair ourselves, the office can be converted to an accessible bedroom. Saturday, when we met with the carpenter, the bottom of the doors were not aligned when closed–but he fixed them so they align perfectly now.

 

 

Finally, here is one heat pump, sitting up in the corner of the back bedroom. Two are installed, and a lot of the wiring is finished, but they still have two more units to install inside, plus the outside unit.  You can’t really see it here, but the walls around the window have also been spackled and painted where they were messed up from the window installation.Heat pump in back bedroom

And if you are still reading all the way down, today our realtor did a second showing with a couple that had seen our old house last Friday.  This is the other place where patience is a challenge.  Now that the house is on the market, and we’ve de-cluttered and cleaned, and our realtor hosted an open house, all we can really do is wait.  But it felt very hopeful to hear the level of interest and inspection that they were engaged in.

To be in this process is such a vulnerable transition.  Perhaps anyone who had done a big move knows this feeling. So much is at stake, and this time of year isn’t the best for selling a house, but it is the time of year in which our own journey has unfolded. So all we can do is enter the process as fully as we can, do what we can do, and then wait.  It is very hard to have patience for all of these processes to unfold.  After feeling a lot of anxiety earlier in the day, for some inexplicable reason, I relaxed as we were driving home after visiting the new house.  I entered a space of trust in the unfolding of the universe.  Is that grace?

 

Greener Heating & Cooling

Heat Pump in the boxToday is the day that Horizon Residential Energy Services is beginning to install air-source heat pumps in our new house. For most of my posts, I have not named the people or companies who are helping us in our process of going greener, but we’ve had a great experience with Horizon for our insulation and sealing as well, and I would highly recommend them.

This is what their website has to say about heat pumps:

Long used for cooling in warm climates, heat pumps are now one of the fastest growing technologies for ultra-efficient heating in cold climates. Rather than generate heat from combustion or electric resistance, heat pumps extract heat from outside air or the ground and deliver it indoors as needed. This process is a more cost-effective way to heat than most conventional systems. In the summer, heat pumps can reverse and work as air conditioners, cooling indoors and rejecting heat outside.

We are hoping that we’ll save a lot of energy, (especially when we are able to install solar PVC on the roof sometime in the spring.)  The installation will take a few days, so I will post pictures of the completed set-up when they finish.

In the meantime, we are doing more cleaning and decluttering at our old house to prepare for showings and an open house on Saturday. Back to work!