Welcome to My Full-Time RV Living LifeStyle Blog!

I suppose I should mention that this is an RV blog. The picture of me standing beside a motorhome in the banner probably tipped you off to that fact already, but you know how it is with blogs, any body can put anything in the header.

Anyways, I was born, raised, and live in Maine, I have 12 cats, and some people would call me homeless. Nope, I have a home, I just don't have what people call a standard house. My house has wheels and her name is Rosebud. My backyard stretches on for thousands and thousands of miles all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Once upon a time I had a "regular home" but a flood came and took it away. Me and my cats spent the next 3 years living under a 8x6 tarp and survived through 3 blizzards and Maine's coldest winter on record when the temps hit -48F. After that me and the cats moved in a Volvo. As hard as it is to live in a tent with 12 cats, it's even harder to live in a Volvo with 12 cats, and a motorhome named No Hurry was the answer. No Hurry: my home, my office, my RV.

I plan to use this blog to share my thoughts, ideas, adventures, and advice on being self-employed, living and working a full-time RV LifeStyle with an army of cats, while boondocking in the wonderful (and sometimes sub-zero) state of Maine.

I hope to write a post a day featuring random thoughts as they pop into my head, and hopefully 2 or 3 posts per week will focus on something helpful to those seeking to live in an RV full time. If you've any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions on what sort of posts you'd like to see me write, please comment and let me know.

I hope you all have as much fun reading this blog as I know I'll have writing it.


Monday, July 2, 2012

EelKat's Thoughts on The Essential Writings of John Muir

As with last semester, at the end of the Summer Semester 2012 @ SMCC, I am now putting my college essays online. This is one of several book/article reviews written for the Lit&Environment class:

Wendy C Allen
LITR 245 Literature & Environment
Prof. Robert Verttese
July 2, 2012

The Essential Writings of John Muir

Did you like the writing style?

Yes, for the most part, I like what I have read so far and I think I like Muir better then Thoreau. Muir is easier to read then Thoreau was. Going from one to the next, one can get a feel of the differences in “voice” between the two. Thoreau seems much more formal, while Muir seems more laid back. Some of his style is very easy to read, other parts are a bit choppy and fragmented. I think, the parts which are harder to read, are parts which he did not intend to be read or published, because it seems that he edited his thoughts before publishing them. It appears that the better written parts were written after the fact, when he had more time to think about which words to choose, these parts being based on things he jotted down while traveling, while the more fragmented parts, appear to be things he jotted down while on the road, just exactly as he jotted them down, without any editing being done to them at all. It appears that this collections of writings, gathers together both his published pieces (which a better written, thus easier to read) as well as unpublished thoughts he jotted down in his journals. This is both good and bad. It’s somewhat jarring for the reader, to go from a smooth flow on one page, to a choppy pace on the next. However, from a writer’s perspective this is a good learning tool because you can see the difference between his “first drafts” and his later revisions edited for publication.

That aside, I like his use of descriptions. Like when he says:  “...pines six feet in diameter bending like grasses before a mountain gale...” or “...avalanches mow down thousands at a swoop...” or “...rugged buttresses of the icy peaks...” or “...leguminous vines and juicy grasses of the great moraines...” or ...roaring like the ocean...”, you can actually see the trees bend and hear the wind howl, tingle as the limbs snap and come crashing down, or see the tall peaks, and shiver as you feel the cold wind driven snow, shudder as you hear the deafening sound of snow tumbling down the mountain, or know that the vines he mentions are either vetch or sweetpea, hear the ocean thundering against the rocks, and feel the luscious green  grass between your toes. He doesn’t say these things. He says so little, but what he does say, evokes so much. Muir’s writing may be less formal, but his ability to wield adjectives and adverbs perfectly is amazing.

I like his use of very short 2 or 3 word sentences. Not many writers do this, so it stands out when you see a writer who does. Like when he says: “Happy birds!” It’s simple and to the point. There’s no messing about or beating around the bush. It’s just direct and tells it like it is. It is only two small words and yet, it fills the brain with so much: birds, fluttering around, flying over head, hopping along the ground, pecking at food, happy, peaceful, not a care in the world. I think that is part of why his words are so powerfully vivid for me: the fact that he uses so few words, my mind is forced to take what he does say, and run with it, and my mind being the hyper overactive thing that it is, it just grabs his few simple words and wilds wild with them, manically adding all sorts of details. Weird. I love it!

Did the ideas appeal to you?

Yes, very much so. I like his attitude. You can tell this guy is very much in love with nature. He’s just driven with a burning passion to be out there with the trees. I like that in a person. I’m the type of person that is out there climbing trees, wading in brooks, and running in the ocean at the changing of the tides - best form of full body exercise you can get, trying to jog, knee deep in ocean water just as low tide shifts to high tide - try it, it’s amazing! I realy, realy, realy love the ocean. I probably love the ocean more than anybody else. I'm not one of those love to see the ocean, love to look at the ocean, love to live near the ocean people, no, I'm one of those, jump in fully clothed and experience the vitality and energy of the ocean's every living breathing fiber type of people. But yeah, I like that he’s the type of guy who’s out there in nature doing all those same strange crazy sorts of things that I do myself. I mean, wow, the guy lived on a Glacier for a bit, I can just see myself doing that, that would be so invigorating! And Muir's phraseology, just says he is so in love with nature, I mean, who else (other than myself) says things like: "...the most beautiful and exhilarating storm I ever enjoyed..." I love this guy! I love storms. We had a lightening storm just yesterday, and where was I? Why outside in the rain enjoying the light show of course! Muir must have done the same thing, otherwise, why say he enjoyed a storm?

I like how he refers to animals and plants as people. Several times he uses the term “...people by...” and then the next word will be a bird or a plant. He calls birds “feathered people” for example and says that the banks of the stream are “...peopled with rare and lovely flowers.” I like that he is looking at these things as “people”. It seems as though he might have believed, that all things have souls, and life. Some of the way he talks, almost reminds me of Bob Ross (the TV painter). Ross lived in Alaska with his pet squirrel and bluejay, and used such phraseology as “cheerful streams” and “happy clouds”. I used to like watching that show because, his personality was so bubbly and happy, that you couldn’t help but be happy right alongside him. I think that Muir might have had a similar personality.

I started reading this book, and I wasn’t far into it, before I went, “Wow this guy is great!” and Googled him to find out more about him. I read all the stuff it says on Wikipedia, which is a lot, he’s got a huge Wiki page! This guy was pretty amazing. He seems from his writings to be a simple, calm, mild mannered person, someone I would imagine as being a bit on the shy and timid side, and yet, when he set his mind to something he just dug in and refused to let go. Fascinating life. I think, he’ll probably come out as the author I like the best of all in this class.

I do see a big difference between Muir and Thoreau. When reading Walden, there were times when I found myself skipping around while reading, sometimes he’d get confusing and I’d have to stop and think, “Wait a minute, what?”  and then go look it up and think, “Oh, well why didn’t he just say that?” and I basically only read the assignment reading and not too much of the rest of it, and left it with the thought: “I will go back and read the whole thing, someday when I’ve got the time.” I liked it, but I didn’t love it, and I would not rank Walden among my favorite things to read, though I would rank it among my favorite things to quote from.

This book by Muir however, got me hooked, and I must confess, I have not yet read all of the assigned readings, because, once I started reading this, I got lost in the reading and forgot to keep track of what pages to stop on. He just drew me right in, like I was reading a fiction novel or something. Unlike Walden, there was no, stopping, skipping ahead, or needing to go ask Google what it was he had just said.

You know how when reading a novel you get drawn in and feel like you are right there living the action with the characters, and before you know it 5 or 6 hours go by and suddenly you realize there’s stuff you had to do 2 hours ago, but you lost track of time because you were hooked on the story? Well, that’s what happened with me in reading Muir, and so, I’ve been reading EVERYTHING in the book, instead of just the assigned reading. This is a book that’ll easily rank as one of my favorite best books ever written, and will see itself shelved alongside my copies of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Phantom of the Opera, The Retief series, and The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. I own 7,000 comic books and 10,000 books, all in storage, as they did not fit in the house, which is why they survived the flood. Of my massive book collection, only the ones I read, and read read, over and over again, get taken with me in the motorhome and they would be the books listed above. There are not many books which I get totally lost in, drawn into such that I lose complete track of time. Those books have done that, and that’s why I keep them with me to reread them. It’s like traveling to favorite places and visiting with old friends. Very few books have that effect on me. Most books, I read them once, then they are cataloged and shelved. This book, has done that, however, a rare thing for a book to do, and as you can see from the list, it is the first non-fiction book to have that effect on me. This is an absolutely wonderful book and I am very glad to have found it.

A quote or two you liked and why you liked them:

Thoreau was easy to quote, too easy, and hard to decide on just a few quotes. It was almost as though Thoreau was saying, Here’s a great thing to say, quote me! Muir is harder to quote. His writing is more poetic and less theological. I suppose you can quote anything you like, but I just think of quotes as being one line that is really deep and makes you stop and think. Muir doesn’t really do that. With Muir you need to quote entire paragraphs, not short lines. He’s not trying to make a point or a statement the way Thoreau was, he’s just telling you what he sees and how it makes him feel. I’m trying to find a way to quote him, without using entire paragraphs, but nothing is jumping out at me, so I will just go with my gut and tell what paragraphs I liked and why.

My favorite part was on page 29, the paragraph that begins with: “Today I reached the sea...” all the way down to: “...gazing out on the burnished, treeless plain!” That’s a whole two paragraphs, long paragraphs, nearly the entire page, which I suppose is a bit more then a quote, but whatever, that’s the series of lines I like the best. I think this whole section, (Cedar Keys pps. 29-32) is Muir writing at his best. While reading this part, I could very vividly and clearly see the shore, the trees, the ship, the house, the mill, the pile of sawdust by the porch... his use of descriptive details is wonderful here. Maybe it’s just that I love the ocean, but I really liked this part. “I caught the scent of the salt sea breeze...” His use of words is so simple, so perfect, it evokes the scent of the salty air in my mind. “...the scent of the Nile...” brings to my mind memories of sandalwood and seaweed. “...the palms and magnolias and the thousand flowers that enclose me...” fills my mind with glorious shades of pink and orange blossoms, edges with green leaves and smelling of mangos and grass. “...bounded by forests...” sends images of tall blue-green pines, the crunch of orange needles beneath my feet, the smell of pitch. Then as soon as he says the word “sawmill” suddenly I could smell freshly chopped pine and maple, an utterly wonderfully, glorious amazing smell I remember from my childhood. Perhaps the images and smells in my mind are more Maine then Florida, but still, his use of words was such that it did bring up those images and smells as though I was right there with him in the same place he was, at the same time. And I think that is why I like this section so well, because for me it flooded my senses with many old and happy memories.

If I was to narrow it down to just one line that I really liked, it would have to be: “...but when I heard the storm begin, I lost no time in pushing out into the woods to enjoy it...” Why? Because that is so me. Standing out in the rain, being whipped around by the wind, lightening flashing overheard, soaked through like a drowned rat. Yep. I love a good storm, and for the same reasons as Muir states when he says, “...on such occasions, nature has always something rare to show us...” Yes, it does, and every one who stays indoors during a storm misses all the color, sights, sounds, rainbows, and glory that are revealed only through the unbridled awesome power of a good storm. This guy, climbed a freaking tree in a lightening storm, and called it his most enjoyable storm ever, for crying out loud! “Never before did I enjoy so noble an exhilaration of motion.” When it comes to storms, Muir and I are kindred spirits.

How does this reading connect to another idea, reading, film, etc. and explain the connection.

Well, I already mentioned how he reminded me of Bob Ross. Ross had a pet squirrel and a pet bluejay and they were often on the show, scampering and fluttering around, sitting on the easel, etc. Ross used to call it them “being helpful”. Most folks would have gotten angry and said the animals were making a mess of things. I think had Muir been a painter, he would have been the same way, I could just see him with squirrels hanging off his easel as he tried to paint. :)

Funny, I don’t know why, but this reading, yet again, reminds me of the TV series “Little House on the Prairie”, same as Thoreau's writing did. Maybe it’s because they are both the same time period and that’s the one TV show that really embraces the 1840s-1870s in any sort of accurate way (though it was far from actually being accurate, it was closer to accurate than any other show else ever set in that time period). I keep thinking back to the episode where Pa and that guy with the red beard who played “Father Murphy” in another TV series, I forget his name and the name of the character he played, but they worked in the sawmill together and had to make these trips hauling lumber from Walnut Grove to SleepyEye, and it was a pretty dangerous thing, because a lot of men got killed (from wagons flipping over and rolling on top of the driver) while hauling the lumber over the mountains. When Muir was talking about the sawmill, I just kept seeing that scene from the show, where they were trying to ease the wagon down the other side of the mountain, but the horses broke away from the hitch and the wagon just went rolling on it’s own down the other side. Pa and the red bearded guy, made it down of course, but the two guys on the runaway wagon got killed in the crash. Not sure why I thought of that. Funny I keep being reminded of that show, because it’s been maybe 10 or 15 years since I last saw it.

Pps. 25-34 What places, plants, or animals does Muir find fascinating? Summarize Muir’s experience with one.

I think this guy found everything fascinating. Everything he saw, his reaction is always to the tune of: “Ohmigod! I love it!” then rush over to get a closer look, including to wade out into the water for a swim when he saw water nearby. I wonder how long it took him to travel? I got the impression that he felt compelled to stop and study everything he saw. A day’s travel must have taken him a whole week.

He mentioned magnolias many times, the area he was in, must have been full of them, for he mentions them on almost every page. I think trees had a powerful impact on him, because he talks about every tree as he passes them, I’d almost expect him to jump off the path, and run up to a tree to shake hands with it. This guy really loves trees. He mentions several plants by Latin name, laurels, azaleas, asters, ferns, mosses, lichen, oaks, hemlocks, pine, palms, juniper, yucca, grass, and mangrove. He notices a few birds too, but plants seem to be his passion.

He was fascinated by the sea, and reaching the sea is where we see him suddenly turn very talkative about one thing: the sea bringing back floods of old memories, or rather the smell of the sea bringing back old memories, for he was still a mile from the sea when he could first smell it. I noted he uses the European improper slang term “sea” when he really means ocean. He seems to not know the difference between a sea and an ocean, nor is he aware of the fact that there are no sea in the Americas at all. This confused me, because for a second I thought I missed something and thought he was in Asia (where there are seas - small bodies of salt water, not quite as big as oceans, and not nearly as salty as the oceans, being mixed with fresh water as well) and I had to go back here to see where it was he was at. Once I realized he was useing “sea” as a slang reference for ocean, I was all set and kept reading. This did puzzle me though, as he seems well versed on all things nature, so why was he using the correct terminology for the Atlantic Ocean? Anyways, I liked this section best of all, because I too am deeply affected by the smell of salt air. I know the feeling of being flooded with old memories every time I am near the ocean. Living right on the ocean my whole life, I have also noticed that different parts of the ocean, different regions, smell different. For example the salt air here at Casco Bay is very different from the salt air in Kennebunk, both being very different from the salt air of Old Orchard. I can always tell in an instance which beach I am at, by the differences in the way the salt air smells. Casco Bay has a crude oil scent mixed in with it, while Kennebunk has a very "green" plant foliage smell to it, and Old Orchard has salt air tinted with clams, cotton candy, vinegar fries, motor oil, and pizza

He spent some time in a “...grand rock dwelling full of mosses, birds, and flowers.Most heavenly place I ever entered” I wonder here, what that means. At first it seems he’s talking of an abandoned stone house, but, he uses such flowery phrases elsewhere when describing things, such as to indicate, that perhaps it was not a house at all but rather a cave, or a rock formation caused by a landslide. The first time I read it, I saw in my mind an abandoned house made of stone and fallen in, but then after reading  more of his stuff, and then going back to reread this part again, the second time I read it, my mind (now being used to his not calling things what they are) saw it as the mouth of a cave. I like this place. I like how he talks about the stream (river?) running past it (which farther made me think it was a cave not a literal house). I like the line where he says: “Every tree, every flower, every ripple, and eddy of this lovely stream...” It’s almost like poetry. And again, he doesn’t describe the colors or shapes, or anything, but in my mind I can see the bright blue sky shining down over the clear brown bottomed stream, with the graceful ferns and laurels with their roots clinging to the mosses and bending in the breeze dipping their branches into the water, with Muir sitting on a stone just outside the mouth of a cave watching it all. Very peaceful and serene image. It seems such a great place to meditate, and I think Muir thought the same, for he says: “Lingered in this sanctuary a long time, thanking the Lord with all my heart for his goodness in allowing me to enter and enjoy it.”

Pps. 55-63 “We all travel the Milky Way together ...” What does he mean? What senses does he appeal?

We all travel where we are planted, and where we are planted is not very big. We look at the tree and see it not moving, and yet at the top it swings and sways nearly its full height. The tree is firmly planted in one spot from which it can not escape. It has a whole planet it could explore if only it could get up and walk. Because it can not leave where it is, it explores what little it can each time the wind blows. Us humans, are rooted like the tree, rooted on the Earth. We have the entire galaxy, nay, the entire universe, and yet, here we are stuck on this tiny little planet unable to uproot ourselves and explore the farthest reaches of the galaxy. We are trapped, like the tree, in one little spot, and so we make due, by exploring every inch of our tiny world, every chance we can.

I think I already covered talking about the senses appealed, when I mentioned this part earlier in this paper. Though I can add, that in reading this, I feel lightheaded and dizzy, as though I was myself at the top of the tree, rocking and swaying in the wind. I learned in Psychology class that when reading books or watching movies or playing video games, our brains can not tell if we are actually doing it, or just seeing it done, so our brain tells our bodies to respond to what we read/see as though it is really happening, thus why the heart rate quickens when watching a high speed chase in a movie, because our brain thinks we are the one being chased, even though we are not actually being chased. Often when I read books, I feel nothing. I think I’ve read so many books, that I have trained my brain to know it’s not real, and thus not respond. That is why there are a few books, I really like more then others: they make me feel the sensation of actually being there. I got that feeling in Muir’s writings. I am not up at the top of a tree in a storm, yet I am lightheaded and dizzy, after reading this, as though I had just climbed out of that tree. I love that about this book.


Good morning Starshine! Liked this post? Looking to connect with me online? I love social networks and am on most of them. You can find me on: BloggerEtsyFaceBookGoogle+KeenMySpaceNaNoWriMoProBoardsScript FrenzySpoonflowerSquidooTwitterULC Ministers NetworkWordpress, and Zazzle Feel free to give me a shout any  time. Many blessings to you, may all your silver clouds be lined with rhinestones and sparkle of golden sunshine. Have yourself a great and wonderful glorious day!

~Rev. Wendy C. Allen aka Empress EelKat of Laughing Gnome Hollow


This post was written by Wendy C Allen aka EelKat, is copyrighted by The Twighlight Manor Press and was posted on Houseless Living @ http://houselessliving.blogspot.com and reposted at EK's Star Log @ http://eelkat.wordpress.com and parts of it may also be seen on http://www.squidoo.com/EelKat and http://laughinggnomehollow.proboards.com  If you are reading this from a different location than those listed above, please contact me Wendy C. Allen aka EelKat @ http://laughinggnomehollow.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=viewprofile and let me know where it is you found this post. Plagiarism is illegal and I DO actively pursue offenders. Unless copying a Blog Meme, you do not have permission to copy anything appearing on this blog, including words, art, or photos. This will be your only warning. Thank you and have a glorious day! ~ EelKat


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