Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Living Off the Grid – Well….Sort of

It’s been “one of those days” for several months now.  I think the universe is trying to tell me something, and I finally got the message loud and clear.  This morning, I checked my horoscope on French Yahoo, and it said,

« …vous avez parfois l'impression d'être dans un jeu vidéo, manipulé par un adolescent qui n'aurait aucun scrupule à vous faire dévorer par un monstre..... » 

Bingo!  Translation:  “I sometimes feel as if I’m in a video game being manipulated by a malicious adolescent, who would have no qualms about letting the monster devour me.”  They suggested that I change the game, avoid stress and find a little R & R in a neutral space.  But where is that?
No matter where you go or what you do, the monster known as Technology is always lying in wait to devour you – if not around the next corner, then around the one after that.   Actually, it’s not you that it’s after; it’s your time that it really wants to devour.  Of course, Technology is wonderful, except when it’s not; and when it’s not, it costs you 100 times as much time as it saves you when it works.  Is it worth it?  I wonder….  Do I have a choice?  No….  Could I see myself living “off the grid?”  HA!  HA!  HA!  Next question………
Still, I do occasionally fantasize about simplifying my life by minimizing my lifestyle.  About 10 years ago, I went through everything I owned, down to pins and toothpicks, sold our two-story colonial house and bought a four-story townhouse.  I thought I was downsizing, but quickly realized that all I had done was swap horizontal space for vertical space, and……you guessed it………in no time at all, it was full of stuff again. 
Maybe that's why I enjoy watching the FYI Channel's new series "Tiny House Nation."
I find it utterly fascinating to watch people transition from living in the average American home of 2,600 square feet to a tiny house that averages 400 square feet.  How do they do it?    
While the motivation to pare down to the essentials and leave the rest behind varies, I’ll tell you what they NEVER seem to leave behind -- their TVs, computers and I-Phones.  No matter how tiny the space and how far off the grid they go, they always find room for the technological goodies that keep them tethered to civilization.   I’m not sure that just having a composting toilet really qualifies as living “off the grid.”   

The truth is that I have always loved small, cozy spaces, which may seem a bit odd for a card-carrying claustrophobe.  The national obsession with the cavernous Great Room that appeals to most American homebuyers holds no appeal for me.  I never feel comfortable in them, no matter how they are furnished.  Nope, give me a Victorian house with lots of little, doily-covered rooms, and I’m in my element.  Of course, you won’t find any doilies in my house, as my decorating taste tends more towards modern/classic, but I do love the aesthetic of a great “painted lady.”    

Tin Litho Doll House from the 1950s
As a little girl, I had a tin doll house very much like this one.  It had plastic furniture and plastic people, but it seemed very real to me, and I spent hours playing with it.  I loved its tiny, bright-colored rooms and fantasized about living in them. 
Photo Courtesy of Dragonflies Antiques
For over four decades, the artist Heather Wilcoxon has lived in just such a tiny, brightly colored doll house, the Delta Queen, a house boat on the San Francisco Bay in Sausalito.   Ms. Wilcoxon was the child of Hollywood actors. 


Her father, Henry Wilcoxon, played Marc Antony to Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra in Cecil B. DeMille’s lavish 1934 film and he went on to a long and successful career.  But for Ms. Wilcoxon, who grew up in the glamorous world of movie stars, the artistic pull of the canvas was far stronger than that of the silver screen.   


Red Sea, Mixed medium on canvas, 54x56 2015, Heather Wilcoxon
Happily, her artistic gifts were not limited to the canvas; her home is a reflection of the unique aesthetic of this 60s Flower Child. 
Here’s a tour of her floating doll house with Heather Wilcoxon as our tour guide.   

I don’t know about you, but I would love to spend some time on the Delta Queen in the company of this fascinating, eccentric woman.  I have a feeling I'd come away refreshed and ready to pare down to life's essentials. 

For more information about Heather Wilcoxon and her artwork, click HERE to visit her website. 


  1. This falls into the category of small world. My sister in law lives in the house boat across the dock from this gal! Spooky stuff.

    1. This definitely falls into the small world category. Definitely spooky. Queue the "Twilight Zone" theme song. Does your sister-in-law know her? How about some photos of your sister-in-law's house boat?? You know how I love small spaces.

      Cheers, my Friend,

  2. What a great post. I'm with you in loving small spaces - small well-appointed ones that is. I would love to downsize to a pretty cottage with big trees in the garden. I always wonder how people manage in those really tiny house trailers or house boats, but like you I'm fascinated by them.

    1. I think I know you well enough to say that your pretty, little cottage would be just perfect. Every square inch of it would have your special touch.

      Lovely to hear from you, Gracie,

      Cheers, M-T

  3. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Funny, in the first part of your post, your European background comes shining through quite strongly about not wanting such a typical Great Room. Neither do I and yes, it would often be great IF we could downsize and simplify...
    But I think it is also the winter blues; I look so much forward to the sunshine so life can be spend outdoors. Even moving to the balcony and/or gazebo for a tea, just for an hour a day makes things so different.
    The woman on the boat lives a happy life I guess, she's adapted to it and never would fit back into a big house.
    Sending you hugs and wishing you: Pour demain une joyeux anniversaire!
    We used to celebrate together with President Reagan...

    1. Bon anniversaire à toi aussi, ma chère amie. We are both in very good company. I loved President Reagan and still think of him with great fondness every year on our mutual birthdays. I hope Pieter has planned something special for your big day.

      Big Birthday Bisous,

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