From 1968 to 1979 we lived in a single-wall, corrugated steel roof, five-room house. Set back fifty yards from the highway at 2,500 foot elevation on the Big Island of Hawai`i, it was built in 1920 by a man from Hiroshima Ken who made and bagged charcoal for a living. He returned to Japan when WWII started. Hiroshima disappeared. He did, too.
We bathed Japanese style in a furo I built, fire beneath a copper bottom rectangular redwood tub, heated daily with wood I gathered and chopped from the ever-abundant forest. I-Ching hexagram, water over fire. Over 100 inches of annual rains, guttered from roof into two 5,000 gallon redwood tanks, provided all the water needed. The garden produced most of our food. We had no public utilities . . . no electricity, no heating, no phone. Winters were chilly, but not so cold that we needed more than good down quilts. We cooked on a wood burning charcoal stove.
The locals didn’t get it. Why live like parents did before public utilities became the norm? Some said we were crazy.
I built an outhouse near a bamboo grove 200 feet back from the house. A two-seater, its only access was a narrow wooden walkway a foot above deep wet grasses. Stocked with books and an old kerosene lamp, the only time we closed its door was to keep out driving rains. Otherwise, one sat in peaceful quiet with a view of an enormous Hawai`ian rainforest. Some of my best thoughts flowered in that tiny palace, nurtured stories I write.
There was a time when I was sure that enlightenment had befallen me as I sat . . . but perhaps not . . . .
* * *