Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Favorite Thanksgiving! (A VERY Non-traditional Thanksgiving)

My favorite Thanksgiving

We all have favorite memories of the various holidays. Usually they revolve around tradition, or family. Years ago, I stopped trying to do the family thing, or gather at specific holidays. I got to the point that I would rather spend the holiday alone, rather than go through all the stress that the holidays usually mandate as “something that we are supposed to do.”

I have a very wonderful memory of a Thanksgiving that began as one that I would purposely NOT Participate in. As November 2001 approached, there were the usual invites to join assorted family at other family-members’ houses. I made it a rule to almost always politely decline these invitations. No matter how many times I explained why these gatherings were not a good place for me, it did not seem to matter. Every time one of these gatherings was planned, they seemed to think I would want to join-in. As the month went on, I successfully wriggled my way out of having to attend any of these.

Sometimes, the accomplishment of having succeeded in getting away from the pressure of the invite, was quite rewarding. I was quite pleased that only a week before Thanksgiving, I had managed to steer clear of every one of the bombs lobbed at me in disguise of holiday invites.

I was living in Gresham, Oregon. Thanksgiving time, for many years was not something I felt happy about because that was when I had gotten married... And Divorced. This particular Thanksgiving was the one-year anniversary of the end of my marriage. It was exactly one year prior that I had walked away, and gone to live in my van. I chose to live in my van during an ice storm in Oregon, rather than stay in that bad situation. I had applied to a couple of apartments, but at the Holiday season, none of the processes were very fast. After two-weeks living in my van in the ice, and cold, I got this apartment.

Now it was one year later. I had gotten to know many of the tenants who lived in this complex. I was happy to choose this apartment for a couple of reasons. Some of those reasons included location, cost, and ease to get into. I was aware that this was not exactly the best neighborhood, but at the same time it was not the really bad part of town. It was convenient to my work, and by comparison, it was quite nice, compared to some of the other options I had to choose from. When you are homeless, sometimes, any place you can afford is a good option. Many of my neighbors were not there by choice. It turned out that this complex was mostly state-funded housing. Those who were on state-aid, or in state-run programs did not have much choice in where they lived. They were often given two choices, and The choices were: 1- Take it. Or 2- Leave it. Most chose to take what they were given, so they could remain in the system. Needless to say, having a job, and earning an income was something most of the tenants were not doing. Most were put on state-disability, and then told they could not work, or they would lose their benefits. It was a horrible system, and a vicious cycle. The state managed to keep people down by forbidding them to actually attempt to earn an income, to possibly better their lives.

Many of my neighbors were extremely nice, caring, and wonderful people. They were poor, but they did not act like that was what defined them. I was poor, too. I was working long hours just to afford to pay the bills I was left with after my marriage. I was living in a really cheap apartment, because all my income went to the debts I was saddled with in my marriage. Similarly, I was not any different than any of the tenants on the state-run system. I had the privilege of having earned a really decent income previously, so I knew the difference. I was currently living poorer than I ever had in my past. But that did not mean I had to act in a bad way. I still upheld my quality of life. I still always helped those I could help. It did not always take money to help others. As I got to know my neighbors, I found some amazing friends. The lack of money, job, or status, never once created a single divide between those who worked, and those who did not.  The complex had 30-units, and I had gotten know many of my neighbors.

Just like any other home I have ever had, I always had an open-door policy. Everyone knew that if they needed help, needed an ear to bend, needed a safe place to escape to, needed a bite to eat, needed anything at all, they could come to me. I welcomed anyone, and they knew that as long as they were not dishonest, or disrespectful toward me, they were always welcome. If I was home, Anybody could walk-in anytime, no questions asked. When I was home, My door was always unlocked. Everyone knew God was the keeper of my house, and all who entered, also entered His house. It was never expected that they also believe, or even acknowledge God even existed. It was expected that they Knew I trusted God, and that was all that mattered. Not a single person ever did wrong to me or my home. Being able to help others has always been a cornerstone of who I am.

A few months before Thanksgiving a lady moved into the unit upstairs from me. Her name was Lori. From the moment she moved-in, she had desires to make me her boyfriend. I made it clear I was not interested in having a relationship. We became pretty good friends, and she always hoped I would give-in. This was actually kinda funny to watch how much she would work to try and impress me, to win me. I never fell for any of it. But still, she was fun, and friends was as far as I would go with her. In early November, she tried every approach she could think of to get me to join her for a traditional full thanksgiving meal in her apartment. Hers was one I politely declined. She was appalled at the company I chose to allow to enter my home, and made her views known to any who would listen. If she happened to be at my home when another showed-up, she would leave. She at first attempted to get me to have the other leave. It did not take long to teach her where I stood. The idea of helping these people was appalling to her. I often explained that I would be willing to see more of her, if she was willing to not be a heartless bitch. She understood this, but was set in her ways.

By trusting in God, and allowing those who he sent to my home to come freely, no questions asked did indeed have many wonderful rewards. Along with the rewards, there were also many times when I was suddenly in the middle of events, or situations I could have never imagined possible. It was not uncommon to wake up to find a complete stranger asleep in my hammock in the front room. I often would come out of the shower, and find someone standing there who I did not know needing a safe place to be. There were times I would wake to find someone depositing a baby next to me to be kept safe through the night. I had a guy knocking on the door one night, and was kinda bothered that someone would knock and wake me, rather than just walk-in. I opened the door, and was facing someone I did not recognize, and he handed me a gun. Turned out he lived in another complex, but had heard about me, and wanted to turn the gun over to me, so he would not harm somebody. He told me he did not walk-in, because he feared he would do wrong inside my home, and he respected who I was, and what I did too much to enter. I did not ask any questions about the gun, or who he was. I Did ask if he was alright, and if he needed anything. He said he would be alright, now, and asked that I turn the gun in to the police. The police also knew me, and knew what I stood for. I could walk into the police station with the gun, turn it over, and they would not ask further questions. I could call the police for help when someone was battling some drug-side-effect that I did not understand. Everyone knew that if I involved the police, they would not be in any kind of trouble, but would be helped by the police. The police understood my tactics. I worked to keep my neighborhood as safe as possible, and was well-known. I found people would come to me with their drugs, and ask me to flush them. They wanted someone they trusted to take care of it for them. Not all of the apartments had bathtubs. Some only had showers. It was not uncommon to have someone pop-in just to use the bathtub. Often, I would be reading in my hammock, and someone I barely knew would walk in, climb into the hammock next to me, lean against me, and instantly fall asleep. When they would wake later, I had already gotten out of the hammock, covered them in a blanket, and gone to bed. They would realize they were safe, and stay sleeping there until morning.  If people who lived together had a fight, and one left, they usually ended up at my place. When the other person had calmed-down, and was ready to play nice, they would come and find the one who fled safe at my home.
Ummm, Perhaps your todler might not
wish to view this Thanksgiving feast...
One of the most unexpected surprises that happened in that complex was Thanksgiving 2001. As Thanksgiving week arrived, I started realizing that most of the tenants did not celebrate, or even recognize Thanksgiving. They did not think they had much to be thankful for. They could not afford to do a special meal. They did not have any place they were invited to. They did not have invitations that they could choose to decline. To most of them, it was a day that only rubbed their noses in their already bad situations. Some mentioned they could go and get a food-box that was designated especially for this holiday. But they did not like being treated as a publicity-charity-case. Some were offered full turkey-dinners if they would first come and serve at the organization’s function. They felt they were being made fun of, when these wealthy functions used them as servers, just to say “look how good we are for taking these people in”.

I was kinda caught off-guard. I had a choice if I went where others were gathering. They did not. I chose to be alone, they were stuck being alone. This really tore at my heart. I wanted to do something that would show these people what they truly had, but did not understand. I had already planned to have a take-n-bake pizza from Papa Murphy’s for my own Thanksgiving. And I was going to bake my cookies. My cookies are special in their own way. Many of these people had already enjoyed the magic of my cookies. The more I thought about thanksgiving, the more I really wanted to give a Thanksgiving to the entire apartment complex. I knew without a doubt what I wanted, and needed to do. I needed to give them a Thanksgiving… JOn-Style! I would feed them pizza, cookies, pie, coffee, and brownies! I would do this in my own apartment, open-house-style. It would be open from 8 am until 8 pm. Everyone could come when it was comfortable for them. They could bring others with them, too. I needed to have enough pizza for the entire complex! But I knew I could barely afford my own pizza, let alone two, or twenty pizzas! I already had the ingredients for one batch of my cookies, but I would need to make four batches! I could not afford that. I had planned to have one Marie-Calendar’s Razzleberry pie, but I could not afford three or four. I certainly could not afford the soda pop, or coffee to feed close to a hundred people.

Then the idea hit me! I would ask for donations! Not money, but food. Just like any place that feeds people on Thanksgiving. I knew I would be able to do this! I went to the local police department to ask for contacts that could help with this. They were more than happy to help. The police already knew what I stood for, and how I loved to help. I was assigned the community-relations officer as my contact. I would go to the local vendors, and hand them the letter showing his involvement for added credibility. I then went to the apartment manager to get him involved, too! He was already well-liked, and an active part of this complex’s happenings. He also wrote a letter for me to take along. Then I went to Papa Murphy’s Pizza, and met with the manager. She was so impressed with this that she called the owner, and had him come right down to meet with us! They liked the idea so much!  Now it was my turn to be impressed! They not only agreed to donate the pizzas, they also added the soda-pop, and cheese-sticks, too!

I then went to The Fred Meyer store just down the street. Every single one of the tenants shopped at this store. I met with the grocery manager. He then had me meet with the general manager. Freddies agreed to donate the several pies, the coffee, and brownie-mixes. They suggested they would also contribute fruit, cheese, and veggie trays, chips, dips, paper plates, napkins, and cups, too! They asked if there was anything else I needed to pull this off. I was overwhelmed by their generosity, and hesitated to ask, but decided to go for it. I mentioned that I could not afford to get the ingredients to make all my cookies. They gave me a twenty-five dollar gift certificate so I could buy all of that!

I was so excited! I went back to the Police Officer, and told him all the good news. He just smiled, and then said “I know. They called to tell me how excited they were to be able to help their neighbors, and absolutely love your spirit!” He said there would be more surprises to come, but would not elaborate.

I then went to visit the manager. I used his computer to create a flyer to hand out to every tenant. We printed one copy from his printer. He then took them to the property-management company’s office to print up a hundred-copies in assorted colors.
I handed out the copies to every tenant, and also left a second copy for them to give to someone else they knew who could use a blessing. The flyers made it clear that it was totally-free, no-obligation, no-strings-attached. It was a come-as-you-are celebration. All ages were welcome. Even their relatives were welcome. We also made it clear that this was not in any way connected to the owners, or property management of the complex. We made it clear that this was just what I wanted to give them. The flyers also gave special thanks to Papa Murphy’s, and Fred Meyers.  The flyers listed all the food and beverages that would be served. The flyers made it clear that it did not matter if I knew them, or not. Everyone was welcome, and I f I did not already know them, I would soon. It was made clear that all they needed to do was show-up. It was not even mandatory to be sociable.

I took some flyers to Papa Murphy’s, and to Freddies, and made arrangements to pick up all the food Wednesday evening.  Then I dropped some flyers off at the police department. 

When I got home Tuesday evening, I was greeted by Lori, the love-struck-neighbor upstairs. Lori had a copy of my flyer in her hand, and was insisting this would never work. I had already learned to ignore her ideas of what she insisted could not work. Then she shoved another flyer into my hands. This one was advertising her own traditional turkey dinner that she would make available to any and all on Thanksgiving Day. Her flyer stated that “If you do not want to settle for pizza, come upstairs to get a Real Thanksgiving meal.” This gave me quite a laugh. She got upset with me for laughing, but then asked me to explain why I found it funny, and why I disagreed with her. I explained about how I have connected with everyone here, I understand them. I KNOW the traditional Turkey Dinner is a Sore subject for them, just like it is for myself. Pizza is casual. Pizza is celebratory. Pizza crosses every social divide. Pizza is a stand-and-eat food. Pizza is happy. Pizza is finger food. Pizza makes everyone happy.

I encouraged her to go ahead and hand out her own flyers, but to change the wording, so it sounds inviting, and welcoming. And advised her to embrace my offering to the masses, rather than try and make it sound second-rate, or she would quickly have a lot of this complex against her. I explained that she already looked down her nose at most of them, and with that approach, even if they were starving, they likely would not go to her home, just like how they won’t go to the churches, etc.

She understood this. I finally got that point across to her. She came downstairs later with a new flyer, and asked if I would help her hand them out, and introduce her as we went to each door. I was very happy to join her now. We handed out her flyers. Almost everyone greeted me with a hug when they opened their door, said they were happy to finally meet her, but would be having pizza. Many of them asked if she would come and join them for pizza. This surprised her. They politely declined her invite, but then turned and asked her to come and join them for the pizza. By the time we finished the whole complex, she had learned quite a bit about these people, and my approach. A few people said they would have both meals.

Wednesday night, I went and gathered all the pizzas, food, beverages, plates, etc. I had already arranged with the manager to bring an empty fridge over to my apartment that evening, so I could store it all. We put the spare fridge in my bedroom, and loaded it to the gills!

I went to bed early that night, so I could be up early to do all my baking, and get everything set-up.  I got up at 4 in the morning Thanksgiving Day. When I went out to the front room, there were two young ladies asleep on my living room floor. I could not see their faces, so I was not sure who they were, but I was used to this sort of thing happening, so I just left them asleep.
I made coffee, then went to shower. While I was showering, they each came in, used the toilet, and left. They did not say anything, and looked like they had each had a hard night, and were struggling to function. I had seen each of them around the neighborhood previously, but did not know who they were. When I was done with the shower, and came out, they were gone. They had each left a duffel bag in the corner, and there was a note for me. It said “Thank You! We will be back to eat later.” This was something that had become normal in my life, and it made me smile.

I put on some good music, and got started with my baking. (Cookie Dough makes a wonderful breakfast!) I had mentioned in the Flyer that the open house would begin at 8. But everyone always knew my door was always open. People started coming by just after 6. They helped themselves to fruit, veggies, dips, cookies, and coffee.
My Famous Cookies!

My Mom was heading from Portland to Bend to spend the day with her mom (My Grandma). My Mom stopped by in the early morning on her way out of town to get some of my fresh-baked cookies for the road. (She knew they made a wonderful breakfast, too!) She took several in baggies for later enjoyment, and sharing with Grandma.

Just before 8, I put the first pizza in the oven. Lori from upstairs came down to get some items she needed to finish preparing her traditional meal. Right at 8, the first one to walk through the front door was the Community Service Police Officer. He helped himself to coffee, and cookies. Then a couple of minutes later, the two young ladies who had slept here last night came in. When they saw the officer, they each hugged him, then looked at me and smiled. He was grinning. Then he said, “You are wonderful, Jon!” He then introduced the two girls, and told me a little of their story. He had brought them to my place during the night, so they would be safe. They were 17-year old young ladies, homeless, and tended to settle for anything that would take them off the streets for a night. He had a long history with them, and happened to see them climbing into a car of people last night that he knew would lead them to drugs, and they would be harmed before the night was done. He stopped the car, and came up with reasons the two girls could not go with them. The girls were then taken to my place. He told them the rules, and told them if they stayed and did not go wandering during the night, he would help them get off the streets. I offered them food. They were eager to accept. They seemed like they had not had a safe environment for quite some time. Their clothes were not real clean, and looked like they had been worn for many days. Their hair was matted, and messy. I asked them a few questions, to learn how to best help them.

I called the manager, and asked him to come over. The officer already knew him too. When the manager arrived, I introduced the girls, and asked if he could pull some quarters out of the laundry machines. He grinned, understanding where I was headed with this. He left, and went toward the laundry room. The officer looked quizzically at me. I just smiled. I asked the girls if they would object to having a hot shower, and clean clothes. The officer was still looking like he was confused. The girls’ eyes lit up! I pulled some sweats and sweatshirts out of the closet for them to put on.
They emptied out the dirty clothes from their duffel bags, stripped, and put on the sweats I had offered.  The manager returned with a handful of quarters. Then the officer realized what we were up to. One girl headed to the shower, and the other one helped us gather their clothes. I got my laundry basket, and soap. While one went to shower, the other went with me to wash the clothes. The officer stayed with the manager. When we returned, other people had started showing up. I put more pizza in the oven, and everyone was happily talking. The girl disappeared into the bathroom with her friend. While the second one was showering, I transferred their clothes to the dryer.

When I returned from the laundry room, The owner of the Papa Murphy’s had arrived. The Officer, and Manager both already knew him, so they were all chatting. Lori from upstairs had also come down, and joined in all the excitement. When the two girls emerged from the bathroom, they were greeted by many people all talking excitedly at the same time. The girls looked a bit overwhelmed. As all this was happening, many people were coming and going, and my apartment very busy and slightly chaotic. Lori offered to take the girls upstairs where it was a little less crowded, and they could relax without all the commotion. This shocked both the manager, and myself, because we both knew how Lori looked down on people such as these girls. They went upstairs. Among all that was going-on, The Owner of The Papa Murphy’s was handing out coupons to each person for a free pizza. They were truly free, nothing needed to be purchased, just a free pizza. He explained how impressed he was with how much I wanted to give these people the best thanksgiving they had ever had, and wanted to make it even better.

After a while, many had come and gone, and said they would come back throughout the day. The officer was happy to meet every one of them. Not a single one of them flinched when they saw the officer in my apartment, because they knew my relationship with them was a good thing. They also were able to see that they could relax, and even enjoy being around an officer. Many asked his advice “off the record”, and he was very willing to help them.

When the girls’ clothes were done drying I brought them back, folded them into piles for them to sort, and put away as they saw fit. The girls came back down for more pizza, and soda. They beamed with enthusiasm about what was happening. The officer pulled them aside and spoke quietly with them. When the girls disappeared into the back to put their own clothes back on, the Officer, Manager, and Papa Murphy’s owner disappeared upstairs to Lori’s apartment. When the girls came back out, they asked me about Lori. I was not sure what exactly they were asking, so I asked for more clarification. They were excited, but looked a little unsure. Then the Officer came back down and asked to talk to me alone. It turned out that Lori had offered the girls a place to stay in her apartment. He did not know Lori, or her intentions, so wanted my opinion. I was shocked! Had Lori’s hardened shell been cracked? The officer told me how the girls needed a safe place where they would be treated with respect, and not made to feel inadequate. I knew Lori well enough that I knew she could be a loving caring sweet person when she wanted to. I also knew Lori was safe. The Manager, and Papa Murphy’s owner were still upstairs. The officer liked what I said about Lori, then grinned. He had the girls go back upstairs with him.

As the day went on, there was good fun, good cheer, good food, and plenty of things for everyone to find to be thankful for. When everyone finally came back downstairs, the two girls did not. Lori smiled, gave me a hug, and thanked me for opening her eyes. The Officer shook my hand, and thanked me, then left. The Papa Murphy’s owner handed me a stack of the coupons to hand out, and told me to make sure every one of them was given away. He shook my hand, thanked me and left. The Manager ate some more, and said he would be back later. When it was calm, I asked Lori what was up? She just grinned, and said she would let the girls tell me. So I asked where they were. She said “Asleep upstairs.” Then she hugged me again and left.

Lori was spending time with many of the tenants in my apartment, and enjoying their company. She was beaming, and I really wondered what she was up to. The girls came downstairs after their nap, and were hungry again. Lori asked if they would like some turkey, because it was about to come out of the oven. One girl wanted the turkey. The other wanted pizza. Some of the people in my apartment decided to go have turkey. So, Lori took many upstairs to serve her traditional meal.

The girl that stayed downstairs looked like she wanted something to occupy her mind. I showed her the bookshelves. Her eyes lit-up. She found a book and snuggled into the hammock.
After about an hour, all the people that had gone upstairs came waddling back down. Lori was happy, and had learned how to connect with her neighbors. The other girl joined her friend in the hammock, and they shared the book.

Later in the afternoon, The officer returned, and behind him was The Papa Murphy’s Owner, along with the Papa Murphy’s Manager. She had not yet come to join the festivities. She was introduced all around. She helped herself to a slice of pizza. A little while later the General Manager, and Grocery Manager from Freddies showed up. The Officer was beaming as he introduced them all around. I was surprised! I never imagined these folks who donated so generously would come and visit me! Everyone was enjoying this Thanksgiving, and they all wanted to make sure I understood how proud they were of it.

The two girls were introduced, then the Officer asked Lori if they could all meet upstairs. So Lori, the two girls, The Officer, Both Papa Murphy’s people, and both Freddies people went upstairs.

When they came down again, they all stopped in to thank me again, and left. The General Manager of the Freddies gave me another twenty-five dollar gift certificate. He said this was for my own use, and his way to thank me.

The girls came back down later. They ate some more, and looked like completely different people than they did at 4 this morning! They looked safe, comfortable, and alive again. I was dying to know what was going on with all the meetings, but would wait until they decided to tell me. As Evening came, many of the early arrivers came back for more. Some of the people who had been peeking out their windows all day at all the activity finally ventured on over. I baked cookies, pies, brownies and pizzas all day long. This was The Absolute best Thanksgiving!

Finally, as late evening rolled around, I made sure to send large amounts of food home with each person so I would not have tons of leftovers. I always manage to make the kitchen a complete disaster when I am baking. Usually, I clean it all up before the last cookie comes out of the oven. But this day, it was still a disaster, because I had gone non-stop all day. I had been going solid for 16-hours. The two girls offered to clean it all up, and suggested I relax in the hammock for a bit. They were sincere, and looked like they had waited all day to be able to give back after having been given so much today. I usually do not let others clean up for me, but this time I agreed, but made them promise they would tell me what everyone was so excited about involving them. They agreed, but said I needed to rest, and they would tell me later.

Almost as soon as I lay in the hammock, I was out-cold! I did not hear another sound, until my alarm clock went off the next morning. I was disoriented. I was in my hammock, with a blanket over me, but my alarm clock was in my room by my bed. Once I stumbled around and shut it off, I went back to the kitchen to make my coffee. Then I realized what I had missed. As my coffee was brewing, I turned on a light. The house was spotless! The kitchen was cleaned, the trash was taken out, the food was all put away. Everything in the entire house was as if there had not been a huge party here yesterday. I could not believe it! Nobody ever got my place as clean as I would, but it was spotless! I knew there would be one place that had been missed. The toilet. It is one of my pet peeves, and I cannot stand when others make a mess in my bathroom. But for yesterday, I ignored it, and allowed everyone to use it. The last time I saw it, it was a complete disgusting mess. But it was actually clean! The girls even cleaned up the bathroom last night! Now that I was thoroughly shocked at how clean those two girls made everything, I realized they never told me what was going on. They were not here, and the duffel bags were gone.

I was kinda confused, but had to get ready for work. I showered, and cleared my head trying to grasp what happened upstairs, and still in awe of how much the girls cleaned when they insisted I rest.  They even put a blanket on me, and turned out the lights before they left! As the hot water did its thing, I began to reflect on what a wonderful day it had been. I left for work happier than I could recall in many years. All day I wondered about the girls, and what happened. Then I finally remembered that I was told Lori had offered them a place to stay.

When I came home from work, Lori’s lights were on. I went into my home, and showered, figuring I would go upstairs afterwards. Before I got out of the shower, Lori, and the two girls were in my apartment and trying to get me to hurry up so they could tell me everything. Lori would never go where she might see anybody naked, but the girls had already figured me out, and were very comfortable around me.

The girls did not care that I was in the shower, they piled into the bathroom, and were both talking at the same time, and were so excited. They both continued to tell of what happened simultaneously, and kept saying how I changed their lives, and how they would always be sure to tell everyone about how important Thanksgiving is! I was the only one not clued-into what was happening all day yesterday. But, now they were spilling it all out faster than should be possible. I heard it from both of them, both talking really fast, and excited, and at the same time. The echo in the bathroom, and the running water made it even more hilarious. It was kinda fun as I put the pieces together. I finished showering, and went to the bedroom to get some clothes. Lori had been waiting just out of sight of where I was in the shower. When I entered the bedroom, she got all flustered and ran into the front room. The girls laughed, and only then did they connect that they had barged into a naked man’s bathroom while he was showering and not even asked if it was a problem. They stopped talking for half a second, giggled a bit, then waited until I finished putting on some clothes to continue telling all that happened.  

It turned out that Lori had offered them a place to stay. But by the end of yesterday, they would not need her place. They would stay with Lori until Monday. Monday they will enter a teen-housing program where they will be safe, and have access to resources for finishing their education. One of the girls got hired at Papa Murphy’s, and the other one got hired at Fred Meyers. They both hugged me and thanked me. I congratulated them for being in the wrong company the night before. They got the joke. Lori asked what that meant. Lori had not heard all of those details. Lori was quite used to finding strangers inside my home, and never asked how they arrived here.

The girls told the story to Lori. It was fun to listen to them tell all about how my home is perceived by the police department. They explained how they thought the officer was pulling their leg when he explained where he was taking them after he picked them up. When he parked in front of this apartment, they began to believe him. They expressed concerns about being dropped-off in a man’s dark apartment, but The Officer assured them this was not a normal man, and they would be perfectly safe. He showed them the flyer about the Thanksgiving day festivities, and they decided he made a good choice in bringing them here. He even walked them to the door, opened the door and let them in. They explained about how much trust that showed to have my door unlocked while I slept. The Officer told them to go in, lie down and go to sleep. They did exactly that. They said they slept solid until I came out and started the coffee.  They heard the shower start, and both had to pee really bad, so decided from what the officer had said, it was safe to go use the toilet while I was showering.  They also expressed how when I offered to give them clean clothes, do their laundry, and let them shower, they did not hesitate a moment to strip and get out of their filthy clothes. They both laughed as they said they could tell they embarrassed the Officer by doing that, but noticed it did not embarrass me. They also mentioned they noticed I did not even flinch when they walked in while I was showering. (I have written before about my nakedness, and openness, especially when it comes to showering. For some reason if people see me showering it never bothered me, even when I was at my “hiding everything” phase, such as I was during this event.) Lori Blushed at the mere mention of this. She made it a point to Never see a naked human, and just the thought of it embarrassed her.

The girls continued telling everything that had happened in the past day. The details they retained were incredible. While it appeared they were half-dazed and partially checked-out, they were really paying attention to every detail of everything that happened yesterday. Lori was a bit overwhelmed with all the details. I loved it! They would say some tidbit they had noticed about me, and Lori would ask how they learned that, because she had been trying to figure out everything about me for many months. This made me chuckle. Here were two scared, homeless, troubled teens and they happened to grasp more of their surroundings than Lori did. Lori looked at them with a look that said she could learn a thing or two from these ladies.

We gave each other hugs, and I offered them some pizza. This made everyone laugh. Lori actually wanted pizza! We had pizza, cookies, and pie. They went back upstairs for the night.

I could not plan to make a Thanksgiving as wonderful as this one. Everything always happens for a reason, and I just have to remember to trust God, and Let Him work through me.

I Hope Your Thanksgiving was something to be thankful for. How many things have you got to be thankful for? I have more than I could list in a lifetime!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Jon~=:-)
Even though I do not get traditional long holiday weekends, I still managed to find plenty of time this Thanksgiving weekend to get some much needed writing done. The funny part is, This year, I worked Thanksgiving Day, Then had Friday and Saturday off, then again worked on Sunday. Today is Sunday, and the end of the long weekend for most people. I wrote this one on Saturday, but did not get a chance to post it until today. I am really glad I got the chance to post it as a wrap-up to another wonderful Thanksgiving!
I have mentioned before that I write these mostly for my own benefit, but finding out that they help others, too, makes it even more rewarding! That is what I thrive on... Helping others. When I learn that having written about an important event in my life somehow touched even one other person, I know my time spent was more than worth it!
Again, I Thank you for stopping by, reading, and hopefully laughing, too! I Hope your day is blessed, and there is always an open-door when you need a safe place in life. ~=:-)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Joy of Showering Outdoors

Outdoor Showering
Writing yesterday about living in my tent brought back wonderful memories, and events in my life. Outdoor showers are one of those wonderful joys that most people seem to not enjoy… But I absolutely love them!

One of the greatest joys in nature would be the feeling of showering (or bathing) in the open-air. I learned early in life that when one is in a natural setting, naked is mostly acceptable. It seems most outdoor places where people might get dirty, and there is also some sort of facility provided for cleaning-up before leaving, people just do not worry about seeing somebody naked. It seems many places where there is also any kind of water, also provides some system of showering. This does make sense, because it seems that where water is involved, we manage to get ourselves dirtier than when water was not involved. 

No matter how primitive, or elaborate the showering facility was, they always have several similarities. Every one of them is built so they are not fully-enclosed, and have open-air. They always have an outdoor feel, even if they have walls around them. Most do not have more than a simple partition, screen, or small wall to make them seem they are not in the wide-open. Sometimes, they are placed behind a row of bushes, or trees. While most people would not consider just going throughout the day, or activity without the clothes, it is not uncommon to see those same people strip at those showers. Many times, they do so just for a moment so they can wash out their clothes that happened to be filled with silt, sand, and dirt. Then, once they have fully cleaned, they usually put back on the soggy clothes. Most showers at these places also are unisex. They are not designated as either male, or female. They are not inside sex-specific rooms, and nobody makes a big deal out of it. Sometimes you find some that are designated by sex, but they are still fully in the open. Those make me laugh. Why would it matter which nozzle you went to, if you are still showering in a public-view?

People are always funny to watch. Add the act of showering, and they are even funnier! For some reason people act really weird about showering. I have never understood this. Why is showering any different than dressing, changing clothes, or using the toilet? Many of the same people who willingly get dressed, change clothes, or even use the toilet in front of others never seem to feel they need to hide, but when it comes to showering, they freak-out over it. With the exception of locker rooms, I have never felt weird about showering where others see me. (Locker rooms have always creeped me out since I learned what happens in them, and was considered acceptable, and even normal. I was twelve. I have never found a safe men’s locker room in my life!)

Even when I was at my hiding-everything stages, for some reason, I never felt the need to hide, nor ever felt embarrassed when I was showering. I never felt embarrassed, in locker rooms, but I always felt unsafe in any men’s locker room. In any other shower setting, I always felt safe. When another person would enter the bathroom while I was showering, it was never treated like it was weird for the person who felt they needed to enter, or for myself. It never mattered if it was a shower in someone’s home, a shower at the beach, campground, or anyplace else, a shower was always safe, comfortable, and enjoyable. I think much of this comes from my childhood.

As a kid, I often would be naked as much as I could be allowed to do so. I have written much about this wonderful freedom in life. Often others would find ways to be mean to me for being naked, or even when I was changing clothes, so I was always a bit cautious about where and when I would be naked.

But the showering (or bathing), and feeling safe has deeper roots involved. As a tiny tot, those who gave me baths, or showers were always safe, comfortable, and trusted. A bath or shower was always done in a loving, caring way. Often when we were dirty outside, it was not uncommon to be hosed-off before coming inside. So, even if we were wearing clothes, it was a fun excuse to get naked. Even the ones who would never go naked, would willingly do so when it came time for cleaning. Sometimes those who would otherwise never get naked, would purposely get dirty, so they then had a valid excuse to get naked. This was always funny, but that was how they approached it. But rather than someone doing the hosing-off in a harsh way, it was often done as a fun way to get clean. If there were other kids who were also dirty, often we were already naked, and the parent who wished us to be hosed-off would have us hose each other off. This made it fun, and enjoyable, instead of it feeling like some sort of punishment.  It was amazing how much fun getting clean could be! When getting clean, it is expected, and even accepted to be fully naked. Often, it was one of the few times when it was acceptable to acknowledge, notice, discuss, and learn about the differences in each others’ bodies without shame, guilt, or being treated like you did wrong. What a wonderful learning experience! I am not sure why, but nobody was ever mean about the showering, bathing, or hosing-off. Even the meanest people would stop being mean when it involved public bathing, so it helped me to realize that possibly others were ashamed to be seen, and did not dare to bring more attention to themselves. That worked for me! I loved the chance to be naked, and loved the shower, or bath, and it made it all wonderful when I felt safe because of it!

Usually, if you were getting cleaned in an outdoor place, that meant you had been playing, hiking, swimming, or exploring someplace fun! The fun we had always meant we earned that outdoor cleaning. Usually…

…There was only one time I can recall as a kid that I did not enjoy, or have any fun with the outdoor shower. We were at a campground, and we had gotten into some nasty, smelly muck. It was well after dark, and very cold outside. The Only place with running water was the fish-cleaning sink. Mom stripped us and put us in this smelly cast-iron, cold sink. The water was cold, slimy, and smelly. We had to crouch, curl, and get into weird positions just to get the little amount of flowing water on us. Then we had to go to our campsite naked, wet, smelly, and cold. Mom carried all out nasty clothes. My guess was that it was pumped straight from the source where we had gotten into the smelly muck. The next morning, my Dad found a ranger, and asked. Yup! That water was pumped from the same muck… and the drain went right back to the same spot! Its only purpose was for people to clean their fish. Eeeewwww! No wonder I did not enjoy that one!

I know that most people complain about drafty bathrooms, or the cool, if not completely cold when showering in places that are not completely enclosed. The funniest part is that they willingly play and get wet in the same open-air, often in colder water than comes out of the faucet! And when they complain about the cold at places where they have not been in water, my guess is that they have not learned how to properly dress for warmth prior to the showering. These are often the people you see in flimsy clothes, such as most pajamas. Those same people probably do not make their bed toasty-warm, and only barley keep their body-heat up prior to exiting the bed. They do not warm the body, and so they are already cold before going to shower.

I love the feel of showering outdoors! Most of the places I have lived had windows in the shower, so it was always easy to get the fresh, open-air feel. There is nothing better than getting out of a hot shower, and standing in the fresh air to dry off! Whenever I have been someplace without open-air, I try to find a way to get into an open door so I can feel the fresh-air. Often, even places with open windows, I still wish to be fully outside, and in the open air to dry-off. This brings up a point I have never understood: Those same people who would otherwise enter the bathroom, and chat with you while you are in full-view while showering, often act really weird, and find it uncomfortable when they see you outside of the bathroom drying-off in the open doorway. In many places, the only exterior door is the front door. This creates some interesting scenarios. Ironically, some of the best friends I have had were neighbors who I had not previously met until they stumble upon me while I am nekkid after a shower!  
When camping, I absolutely love the showers! I love the feel of getting dirty while camping, but Love to go to bed clean and fresh. I have had the pleasure of camping in every kind of setting you could imagine. I have been to campgrounds that have every possible amenity, and ones that are hardly more than a clearing barely large enough to pitch a tent. I will always find a way to have a shower, or bath before bed, and often again once I have had my morning coffee. I have never seen the need to buy a portable shower. If I cannot find a place to bathe, I will create my own shower.

Creating an outdoor shower when you have no running water is not difficult. Just get a two-gallon jug, and put a small hole in the bottom. Plug the hole with some sort of stopper. In the lid put an assortment of holes. Fill the jug with hot water, screw the lid on, and hang it upside-down above where you wish to shower. The water will not flow out, until you remove the plug in the hole. You can regulate how fast the water flows depending on how big that hole is. I place a rubber-mat on the ground below my feet to keep the dirt from becoming mud, and splattering.

When I lived in my tent in 2009, I often showered in the house, just for the pure simplicity, and convenience. (See previous post titled “Happy Thanksgiving…”) When I showered inside, it was in the evening, usually just before bed. The bathroom was smack in the middle of the house, and in the evening, there was usually activity in the front rooms near the bathroom. Often, there were house guests who may not have been comfortable with my lifestyle, so I always leaned toward the cautious side when I was up at the house. While I never hid my nekkidness, I also did not ever force it on anyone. Shocking unsuspecting people was not something I would willingly choose to do. If they chose to enter the bathroom, or look down the hill to my tent area, that was completely their choice. But to deliberately make yourself be seen is a different situation. I felt it would not be right to either leave the door that faced the main portion of the house wide-open, or to exit the bathroom after showering without anything on. But similarly, the door was never locked, and often other housemates, or those visiting never found it a problem to enter, and use the bathroom when I was showering, or even after when drying off. Often, the door that faced the laundry room, and also had a door to the back yard was left open by those who lived in the house, plus by me, allowing it to feel like it was outside by letting in the fresh air. When I got out of the shower, I would either wear the towel, or just some shorts until I could get outside to dry off in the fresh air.

Because I was living as though I was actually camping, I often did shower down by my tent. In the mornings before work, I often took a quick shower outside. Talk about waking-up refreshed! The morning air was often frosty, and the sun was not yet up when I was getting up for work. I would be outside, and did not even have a fire to warm by. I had hot water, and it felt wonderful, and refreshing! Many times in the late afternoon during the summer, I would happily skip the indoor shower, and enjoy a full shower and shave in the outdoors with a wonderful, warm breeze blowing. On my days off, I Always enjoyed an outdoor shower in the mornings… But I would wait until after I had my coffee, and the sun was shining fully on my shower-spot. There is something just refreshing and wonderful to shower completely free of any walls or barriers. Yes, i was seen often by others, and nobody ever minded, or got weirded-out by this.

When I traveled across the United States in both 2005, and again in 2007, I found some wonderful places to camp! I also found some very unique and wonderful shower-facilities! Most of the places I camped had actual facilities designated for showers. There were a few that did not have any, and I was able to have fun creating my own.  Those that did have facilities were uniquely different from state to state.

In Massachusetts, I camped in an apple orchard that had been converted to a campground. It had a screen-house as a bathroom in the middle of the orchard. Other than a few trees around it, it was fully wide-open, with only screens for walls. There were short partitions on each side of the toilet, but it was open in front and back. There was one interior wall between the sink, and shower. But otherwise, it was completely open. You can read in detail about this place, and how free it was here:

In Iowa, there was a campground along a river where the showers had no roof. The funny thing about having no roof, was there had been a new pedestrian path bridge built to cross the river, and that bridge went directly over the roofless showers. It seemed the bridge was very new, and nobody had gotten around to adding any covering for the showers. But it also did not seem to matter. There was a muddy river flowing just at the bottom of the campground. I say "muddy" because it was literally red. The red clay that washed down this river made it like a mud-bath. That was cool! many people played in the "mud" naked. Yep, kids, adults, dogs... it did not matter. Then after the mud, they would tromp naked and red, covered in mud to the showers. Most only went naked down at the muddy water, and many would cover in a towel to go up to where the showers were, but nobody cared of another saw them naked at all.

In Connecticut, the campground shower had only three walls, and no roof. There was a partition of shrubs separating the men’s from the women’s designated shower rooms. The showers were open-front, and faced out toward the shrubs. Each toilet area was closed-off and mostly private, yet the showers were generally open. And often in a camping environment, it was not uncommon for families to share a shower-area. Since this one was set-up fairly-open, this also was a shared facility, and very comfortably open, and accepting. Occasionally you would see someone attempting to hide, or would shower in a swimsuit, but mostly it was open, and unisex. It was comfortable, and open to the sea-air.

Another campground in Connecticut did not have showers in the campground, but had a row of showers on the hill just above the beach. They had a high-wall on the side facing the street and parking lot, and high walls between each shower-stall. But facing the beach, there was only a short wall. It was on a slight hill, overlooking the beach, so it would be guessed that the designer figured those below on the beach could not see over the wall. But it was in full view of all who went to shower. It seemed to be after the "beach-season" when I was there, so there were not many people along the beach, or at the showers. I enjoyed "showering literally at the beach!" Occasionally, you saw another showering. Some showered naked, some showered in swimsuits. Those walking the beach did not even seem to notice the showers were her.

In Vermont, one campground had pit-toilets, yet had a large unisex shower-building, with not roof. This shower-building  was one large open square concrete room with shower heads all around the walls. There were no partitions, and not even a full set of walls. The entrance was a large, wide opening simply facing the forest, with no partitions to block it. Just one wide-open square gang-shower for all to share at the same time. There were no benches,or even an area that was supposed to remain dry. With no roof, and not even full-walls, I expected cold water. I was surprised to find it had plenty of hot water! It was unusual in how it was built. It was still listed as a campground, yet there was not even a place to pay for a night of camping. The showers were free, too. The camp was very primitive.

At another one in Vermont, even though there were separate Men’s and Women’s restrooms, there was only one shower room. It was a unisex shower room.  When you entered, there was a wall of sinks with full mirrors along the left wall, and a row of six individual shower-stalls along the right wall. Each shower stall was divided from the one next to it by walls, and doors… sort-of. At the front, you enter the individual shower area, through a tavern-style door. These were only half-doors with slats, and only four-feet high. Between the “door” and shower was a dressing/ undressing area. These had five-foot high walls between each. Then the actual shower spaces were separated with six-foot high walls. Keep in mind the wall of mirrors.  

In New York, at an actual Nudist-Camp, They had one indoor unisex bathroom. But the funny part was the showers. On each side of the small bathroom, were two separate showers. Each had full glass sliding doors to close-off the front (the glass was clear, not frosted). The one on the left was marked “Men only”. The one on the right was marked “Women only”. Also funny about this place was that they had four outdoor showers. These showers were randomly throughout the acreage where the campsites were. They were in the wide-open, with no differences, but two were marked “Men only”, and two were marked “Women only”. My guess is that perhaps the state of New York mandates that showers are labeled for each sex. I had visited another nudist camp, but not stayed there before going to this one. I saw the same thing there. There was an outdoor shower facility. This had one wall and a roof. The wall had 6-shower heads along it. Three were marked "Men" and three were marked "Women". As the park guide gave me a tour of the place I laughed about the designations, since there were no walls, or differences at all. She did not understand why I thought this was funny. (I did not stay at that one because the lady just seemed weird to me.)

In Mississippi, I experienced my first “Closet” shower at The Yogi-Bear Campground. The shower building had six individual showers, each located within their own “closet”. Each had its own exterior door, and when you opened it, you saw a space that was exactly 3-feet wide, and 5-feet deep. The shower was 3-feet by 3-feet with a curtain across the front. The other two-feet in front of the shower was supposed to be a dressing area. The roof was barely taller than I was, and the shower-heads were at my chest-height. This is the worst shower design I had ever seen at a campground. I could not imagine anyone thinking such a tiny space was acceptable, let alone imagine shutting yourself into a closet with no windows, no fresh air, and no place to even turn around! I showered in that closet at night, but placed a shoe in front of the door to keep it open. In the morning, I rigged-up my own outdoor shower at my campsite.

In North Carolina, along The Outer Banks, The bathrooms and shower houses were built on tall stilts to be above any high tides, or stormy seas that come across the area. The shower houses had three solid walls, and one screened wall. The screened wall faced out toward the water. The showers were set against the far wall, in individual stalls, but open in the front. Because of the elevated building, and the distance to the showers on the far walls, they were fairly secluded. If people cared to look up from the dirt path along the water, they could see the shower area, but it was not highly visible. I saw some people shower naked, and others would shower in their swimsuits.

In Half-Moon Bay, California, The showers were built as four individual rooms, all in one building. Each one had its own corner, and own entrance. Each was marked unisex. The entrance was an open-framed doorway with no doors. Outside each doorway, there was a partition wall, about ten-feet across, and also as far from the opening. The concrete sidewalks that went around the buildings also went in between the partitions, and the open-doorway, so it was highly visible from any who walked past. Inside the door, was one large square room, … about 8-foot square. The showers had bars like they could have curtains hanging to partition off the shower, but there were no curtains. The interior walls between each of the four rooms only went up six-feet high, so they were open to the other three in the building. Other than the exterior partition wall across the open doorway, the showers were completely open. I had hoped to camp here, but the campground was full. I asked the ranger if I could at least stop for a shower. She said that since the showers were coin-operated, I could enter the park for free, and even showed me on the map where to park, and where the showers were. But when I saw the design, I was not so sure I was at the right building. I went back and asked her, to be sure. She smiled, and said, that was indeed the shower building. Because it was fairly crowded, and not secluded, I was not so sure naked would be accepted. She smiled, and told me "The shower buildings are new. Eventually, there will be doors, curtains, and no sight between each shower. but for now, Yes, they are intended as a real shower, and nobody would object to a naked person. You are welcome to be as comfortable as you desire." Normally, I would not hesitate to be naked, but I am careful about highly-public places. She was correct. I showered naked, and nobody cared, although many walked past. Yes, people looked. People of all ages and both genders came down this path. Sure, there were the usual grins, and even the occasional ones who walked past two or three times. Of course the funniest, and the ones I could appreciate most were the little kids who would go past, then bring their friends back to show them. I remembered how much I appreciated those who allowed me the same freedom and welcomed my own curiosities. None stopped to stare, or even make me uncomfortable, but it was funny to watch as they found such delight in being allowed to see a naked person with shame, or even feeling they were doing something wrong.

In Wyoming, I found a “Hobo-Bath” This was a natural hot springs for soaking. The place where this natural hot water came out of the ground was made into a large soaking pool. It was surrounded all around by tall cement walls, but was open-air, and had no roof. Once inside, you discovered one large, wide-open unisex changing area, which also had a row of showers on the wall all in the same room as the changing area. There were signs all over the facility stating “No Nudity Allowed”. This was funny. The changing/ showering area was not visible from the actual pool area. There was a wall separating them from view. But the entire changing/ showering area was wide open, and unisex. There were designated separate men’s and women’s bathrooms that had a toilet and a sink. It was free to enter, but there was an attendant on duty. It was required to shower before entering the pool, and also after exiting it. But No nudity was allowed in the pool area… only in the wide-open, unisex changing/ showering area. Strange. Most people changed and showered freely, yet in the actual pool, looked uncomfortable if there was another who might look their way, even though they were wearing their swimsuit in the pool.

In Washington State, along The Columbia River is a small campground built on sand dunes. It has one unisex bathroom. It is a very small wooden building. The sink, and mirror are outside, on the wall. In the center of the building, there is one open doorway with no door. Once you enter this doorway, there are two half-doors. The one on the right is the toilet. The one on the left is the shower. The half-doors are merely there to designate separate spaces. They clearly are not intended for any privacy. Between the shower, and toilet is a wall about 6-feet high. There is one single light bulb hung between the two spaces. In the back of the building, there was only a wall about five-feet high. I thought it was strange that a taller wall was separating the shower from the toilet, yet on the back there was a shorter wall. Of course, Washington has laws against public nudity, but since it was a river-beach campground, and was not a highly-populated, or crowded campground, it was not uncommon to see naked people, so the shower, and toilet also were no big deal here.

Outdoor showering is one of the joys I have always treasured. I am sure most people are absolutely mortified when they discover these places. I have seen my share of antics when people attempt to hide while simultaneously showering. It is funny how people behave. Not once, have I ever had anybody react funny when they see me casually showering, and not attempting to hide. Ironically, it is the exact opposite. Many times, this is how I have met some of the most wonderful people! When people see you comfortable in your own skin, they are more open themselves, and often very friendly. There is something magical about being outdoors that takes down so many barriers. When you are outdoors, and showering, almost every barrier is knocked down… when you do not act like you are doing anything weird. Like I mentioned before, for some reason people do not act weird when they see someone else showering. They only act weird when it comes to their own nakedness and showering in view of others.

Every single one of these has stories to go along with them, but they each could fill up their very own post. In this posting, I am trying to just focus on the aspect of outdoor, or outdoor-feel showers. These are just a few, and I have many more to share… eventually.

 I have many more wonderful experiences of outdoor showers to share. Waterfalls create a whole separate category of outdoor-showering experiences.
The following pictures show me nekkid in a waterfall. Scroll down with an open mind, or closed-eyes. (If You do not wanna see me simply naked, enjoying a waterfall, then by all means, just scroll on past it. If you are not sure if this is something you are ok with, then simply look with an open mind...or closed eyes) :)

Mist Falls shower?
Playin nekkid under Mist Falls

No matter what your level of comfort is, I hope you find the Joy of showering outdoors. Whether you do it naked, or in a swimsuit, whether it is visible to others, or secluded. May you find how wonderful nature can be!
I Love this sign! :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!(or Living in a Tent..) HUH!?

It is Thanksgiving weekend…
But I am Thinking About Life in a Tent! :)

This was my home in the summer of 2009.
(before I got the protective tarps hung-up)
To the right is where My Hammock hung :)
I find it hilarious that I am choosing to write about the joys of having lived in a tent, rather than all the other things associated with Thanksgiving . But There really is a connection...

The reason living in a tent is on my mind, is because the temperature has finally gotten cool in Vegas.  I find it interesting that the Vegas temperatures in late November feel like the normal spring and summer temperatures in Oregon. The temps reach down into the forties at night, and in the seventies day time. I love the feeling and memories these winter temperatures are creating, just like when I lived in my tent in Oregon. I like the feel of the crisp, clean, cool air. I Absolutely love the feel of sleeping in the cold air, but completely snuggled-up in my cocoon of blankets. (I have written about My Favorite Blanket Here: )  At the time I wrote that, I was still using my chair outside. Since then, I have had to retreat to the indoors. This is not so much because of the cold, but because of the fall-rains, and wind. I could not keep my chair, pillows, and blankets dry. I would much-rather still be using my chair on the balcony, but a wet, moldy chair is not at all comfortable. I now use my chair indoors, but keep the window open.

I sleep very soundly, and when it is cold all around, it is even better! I love the feel of the cool all around my wonderful cocoon. I live as much of my life as is possible completely naked. You would think that because I get cold easily, that naked would not be an option when the air is cool, and even down-right cold! For some odd reason, it is the exact opposite. I am funny like that.

Most people associate colder weather with needing to bundle-up, and even to sleep in more winter-like costumes. I learned early on in life that when it is cold, you actually can sleep warmer if you sleep naked. It is kinda funny how I learned this, but that is a story for another post.

Of course, I sleep nekkid in any weather, but when it is cold all around you, it is a feeling that cannot be matched in any way of connecting with nature. Even getting out of your warm bed, and into the sudden chill is not at all a problem. By sleeping so comfortably, the body is amply-warm, and when you instantly feel the cold, in helps in greeting the new day. I am still warm, but enjoy the feel of the cool morning air. Sometimes I will wear socks, and a hat. (Everyone knows that covering your head and feet are the best ways to preserve body-heat!) :)

In May of 2009, I chose to go and live in my tent. The reasons, and events which caused me to wish to live in a tent are numerous, and that is a difficult road to re-visit. Eventually, hopefully, I will be able to write about all that without getting too upset.  In short, the main reason I wished to live in a tent was for my sanity. Some of the tangles I had found myself entwined with had turned very bad, and I had to break those ties. The economy had turned, and I found myself working for the lowest wages I had in twenty years. I could not afford to get an apartment, and another roommate situation was not a good idea. Also, due to some of the events, I needed to be alone to sort things out.

 I was in Portland, Oregon at the time.  Portland is not known for having the best weather for living in a tent. I also found out that finding a place where one could legally live in a tent was almost impossible. I searched every possible place one could imagine, and found nothing but roadblocks. The designated camp-grounds were extremely cost-prohibitive. The few I found that were actually affordable had limits of only being allowed to stay for 14-days. Even the national forests, BLM Lands, and other such places, had limits on the few number of days you could stay. The permits needed were extremely expensive. Even the few I found where I could afford, they were extremely unsafe. If I had set-up, and then left to go to work, when I returned, all my stuff would be gone. So those were not an option. I needed to find someplace I could live that was safe, not terribly expensive, and I would not have to move every two weeks. It also needed to be fairly close to The Portland Metro area, so I could still come and go to work daily.

I finally decided to place an ad in Craigslist looking for a place I could safely live on someone’s private property. I made it clear about my values, need for safety, peace, and mutual respect. I got hundreds of replies. They all saw an opportunity for what they perceived as easy extra income. Sadly, almost every one of them was what I would consider an extremely unacceptable living situation.  I even had people trying to get me to pitch my tent in their carport inside trailer-courts. I was about to totally give-up, and go live in another bad roommate situation.

Then I got an email from Kelly. I could tell right away she was seemingly a good-fit to what I needed. We exchanged a few emails. I gave her the links to my online activity, and she gave me hers. We both decided this seemed like a good fit. We set a meeting to see if it was going to work for each of us. She was seeking a roommate, but needed someone safe around her daughter. She had property in the hills southwest of The Portland Area where there was plenty of space for a tent, but not crowded near anything else. I had to pass three tests once I arrived at her house: First was her dogs: Everyone knows animals can tell about a human’s true intentions. The Second was her Daughter: If I was in any way a threat, or made her uncomfortable at all, obviously I would not be a good fit. Third was her father: He lived at the adjoining property, and came to interrogate me. We all agreed it was a good fit.

Kelly tried to talk me into taking the room she had available, but I really wanted to be outside. She was fine with this, and even insisted I could still have access to the house facilities if I chose. I am extremely comfortable with everything nature, so living completely outside would not be a problem for me. She had no problem with me existing solely outdoors, but also insisted I could use the house facilities and it would be no problem. I agreed that the bathroom, laundry, and freezer in the garage would be good.

We walked the property, and decided the spot she had chosen for me to put my tent was ideal. It was about 75-100 yards down the hill from the house. It was in a fairly sheltered section of her property. I could be under the trees, with a place to string my hammock, and heavy brush, trees, and shrubs to the sides. It was an ideal location. I could live a in a camping-type environment, with a few conveniences inside the house. While it was fairly secluded, it was also not hidden. This would allow me to exist, and go about my daily living without feeling like I was intruding on others, nor me feeling like I was in a fish-bowl. We would each exist, aware the other was there, but not so close that we were lacking our own privacy. I also made sure she was aware of my purple toenails, completely shaved body, and naked (when appropriate) lifestyle. Since I would be using a shared bathroom, and my tent-area would be visible from the house (If anyone chose to look down there) I did not want there to be any shocks, surprises, or things she was not aware of that could possibly make her wish she had not allowed me to live here. She was fine with all of these, even saying: “What each person does is their business, as long as they do not affect the others around them.”
The corner of the property where I would set-up my camp :)

I moved, and set-up camp the following weekend.  The trees and bushes provided shelter from the rain, and wind. I also set-up a tarp-system and drainage trenches that could withstand the storms Oregon can deliver… especially living on the edge of the coast-range mountains. I know how to keep dry when living outdoors. I set up so the sunrise would shine in through the tent doors, but the rain could not reach the tent. I could sleep where I could easily see the stars from my bed, yet the rain could not come inside. My tent was large enough to make a kitchen inside, along with sleeping space, and all my clothes to be organized. Outside, I set-up a cook station, because I won’t cook with flame inside a tent. I also hung my hammock between a couple of trees, where I could enjoy the morning sun, but have the afternoon shade. The only thing that was not ideal was I could not have a camp-fire here. It was technically in the city limits of the small-town of Laurelwood, so fires were not allowed.

While I had full access to the house, I was camping (sort-of), so I would do as much like camping as was practical. One of my greatest joys, is being as connected with nature as is practical, and possible. To me, connecting with nature would include being naked as much as possible.  Camping in complete wilderness, it is not at all unusual to be completely naked for days at a time. Camping within view of houses, there are a few limits to how much you can be naked. But if done without attempting to attract attention, it is wonderful how much you can do naked without causing alarm by those around you.

Other than the very first day, when we agreed to the living arrangement, we never discussed the complexities usually found in a shared-living environment. This was one of the most comfortable, accepting homes I had ever shared. We each came and went as we needed. We each used the house-facilities, without concern or worry about what the others were or were not doing. We all went about our daily lives without concern. When one of us did happen to see another in what would be an uncomfortable situation in most homes, it was treated as though it were no big deal here.  Nobody ever cared what anyone else was or was not wearing. Nakedness, privacy, respect, seeing others, sharing house facilities, etc were treated as if we had known each other all our lives, and it was not an abnormality. We all had a mutual understanding of how to exist in the same space, but not feel the need to be in each others’ lives. We respected the others, and were comfortable, safe, and relaxed.

 When I am camping, I wake-up just as the sun would come over the horizon. I Love lying in the cocoon of the warm blankets, feeling the cold air outside, as you let the sun shine into the tent, and warm your face. Then I would brave the cold air, put on a hat, socks, and boots, and go to hurry and build a fire. If you have never greeted the brisk morning air while naked, then built a fire, it is something  so magnificent, you will cherish it forever! Sure, you shiver a bit, but that is what makes the fire so much better! As soon as you get your fire started, you place your shivering body in the path of the warm smoke. Then you slowly feel the warmth of the growing fire. After getting your body sufficiently toasty, then you can make your hot water for your coffee. After you have had some coffee, then you would brave a shower in the cold-brisk morning air…often done as close as possible to the warmth of the flame.

It was May when I moved into my tent. It was not uncommon to still find frost on the ground in the mornings. The day-time temperatures were just beginning to warm up as summer approached. I loved this! I would wake-up just as the sun would come over the horizon. I could not build a morning fire here, so I would have to put on some clothes until I had made the coffee. I would heat the water the night before, and store it in thermoses and hotpots. The water stayed scalding-hot over night without a problem. While my coffee was brewing, I would go and set-up the blankets in my hammock. By now, I was sufficiently warm, and would strip down again. Then I would grab my book, and cup of hot coffee, and go relax in my cocoon, swinging in the hammock, watching the day come alive around me.
The View across from my tent...
or "My Living Room" :)

I have a different favorite blanket I use to make my cocoon than I featured in the above mentioned “Favorite Blanket Blog”. The one I use for cocoons when it is cold outside, and I need to keep the cold air completely out is a down-comforter with micro-fiber shell. It does more than just keep me warm. It always has a little bit of her love wrapped around me, too.  This one was given to me by a special young lady for Christmas many years ago. Aly felt it was so important, that she even battled black-Friday madness to be sure and get it for me. At one time, Aly was one of the most important people in my life. (She still is, but circumstances have made it so she must go other directions.) From the moment I returned to Oregon in 2007, she made sure to grab every opportunity to be included in my life. She did not care one iota that I was always naked. She just wanted to spend quality time with me. She had lost me once before, and wanted to get as much time again before life took us separate ways again. She told me as long as I had this blanket, I would be warmed… both in physical warmth, and in the warming of my heart. She included her love, and care in this blanket.   

As the summer came, and the temperatures got warmer, there were so many wonderful experiences living out there with my tent as my home. The deer, birds, and assorted critters acted like I was not at all intruding in their world.  As the summer temperatures came, I seldom wore any clothes down there, and only occasionally needed the warmth of the blanket in the early morning hours. Sometimes, I would wear clothes, sometimes I would be naked. Eventually the bordering neighbors got to know me, and we would chat across the fences. (The fences were wire-grid, farm-style fences, not wooden, or solid.) So My tent, and my activities were never hidden. When they would wander out to the fence, to chat, they never once questioned my nakedness. They were friendly neighbors, and happy to chat. It always amazes me how open, welcoming, and friendly people can be. It is times like these, I am always reminded of how nice people can be, and I try to treat people the same way. It baffles me when I meet people that are mean because I do not do things the same as they do. I have seen both sides, and always look for those who like to be nice.
This was not far from where my tent was...
This is the what the hills all around looked like,
and I could see these views from my hammock. :)

As The end of August came, the temperatures were once again frosty at night, and I needed to cocoon myself again in the early morning hours. Kinda funny, because it is the same right now in Vegas. The crisp cool air is invigorating in both morning, and evening. I cocoon myself in my comfy chair, just like I did in my hammock.
I lived in my tent the entire summer of that year. It was mostly perfect for what I needed. I stayed there from May 15th, until the end of August. (The reasons I finally left the tent are numerous, but not a single one is because I did not feel welcome, or that it was in any way a bad place to live.) There were so many wonderful things that came about that summer because I chose to live in my tent. As the thoughts come to  mind, and I have time, I likely will write more about that summer of 2009. Hiking in The Red Clover fields, Swimming at Gales Creek, exploring Bald Peak, Meeting many wonderful people, Lee Falls, The Tualatin River Headwaters, The Wildlife, Bee Hives, Fresh-picked Fruit, and so much more, are all things I eventually hope to write about. 

In many ways, writing about living in my tent is very appropriate for a Thanksgiving weekend writing.  Thanksgiving is all about what we are thankful for. The cold weather that comes to Vegas much later in the year than in Oregon, just happened to create the feeling that was so prevalent in both the beginning and the ending of that summer. It happens to be those feelings are happening while it is around Thanksgiving. This writing about my choosing to live in a tent, also brings up many of the things I am Very Thankful for.

I am extremely Thankful for all the wonderful people who manage to enter my life at the times when I seem to most need them. I often do not seek people when I am most needing them, but they somehow happen to be there, and do not even realize what an important role they play. I am blessed to have had the pleasure of meeting Kelly, and all her family. I am happy to still have her and her daughter still in my life through Facebook. They accepted me, welcomed me, and made a lasting impact on my life, and in my heart. That summer in my tent was one of the most wonderful, and most-blessed summers. If Kelly and her family had not reached out to welcome me in, I would have gone a completely different path.

Happy Thanksgiving! Jon~=:-)