While I fiercely miss the daily companionship of Mrs. tVM, I have found peace in my two nights on the hill since we became ‘homeless’ on Friday. Mrs. tVM will reside with our daughter and her family across the St. Croix River in Minnesota. I have chosen to live with Clarence on the hill in our hobbit house about 200 yards across a field from the site of our final home, now under construction.

The decision to build a house on the hill in the woods, sell the house in River Falls, move our belongings into storage, etc. has created stress. Mrs. tVM is very patient and deals with it far better than I. Why is it that we are more apt to raise our voice to a person we love than to a dog? We named Clarence after Clarence Oddbody, Harry Bailey’s guardian angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We named Clarence well. He is an angel – rambunctious at times – but manages to teach me patience while I teach him to sit. My job is far easier than his; he is a better learner and a better teacher than I am.

The sale of our former home closes on Tuesday, and that will relieve some pressure. With the help of three good men from the Kinnic Falls rehab facility who we hired to help us move, we moved all of our belongings into storage for what we hope is no longer than three months. The simple – that’s an understatement – task of moving eliminated a huge burden.

By 4 pm on Friday, after saying goodbye to Mrs. tVM, Clarence and I made our way to the hill. Our first action was a half-mile walk. Gazing into the warm blue sky and counting fluttering leaves as we walked by the forest line, I felt more at ease than I have in many weeks, maybe months. The best was yet to come. With no light and noise pollution, the night is dark and still. I slept like a proverbial rock. I woke up one time around 1:30 am and gazed out the window. An army of fireflies danced above the tall weeds in the adjacent field. I haven’t enjoyed that sight for decades! I felt safe and secure with my guardian angel Clarence sleeping soundly in the stuffed chair next to the inflated mattress, and an army of angels floating back and forth as heavenly sentinels in the surrounding field. I recalled the 46th Psalm…

Be Still and Know that I AM God

I rise before the sun and manage a cold shower outside. My solar 5-gallon camping shower bag does not retain its heat. After I dress, Clarence and I are ready for a short half-mile walk at sunrise. It is impossible not to pray at sunrise, something I learned from my early mornings in the Sonoran Desert through 11 years.

I will keep you updated from the hill. Keep the faith, learn patience and remember Robert Frost’s calling…


“The woods are lovely
Dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

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  1. Oh my, you have grabbed the stress lever and cranked it over. Have you read Tracy Kidder’s “House”? I’m sure it would resonate for you. Kidder is a favorite author and picking up on the Haiti comments his “Mountains Beyond Mountains” is another good read. My niece is on a Peace Corp mission in the mountains of the Dominican Republic, living in s small cottage with no window screens.
    Good luck with your adventure. Oh, and try evening showers 😉

  2. Gene
    Nice to hear of your new adventure and Lidia and I hope that you and Clarence get along well for the next three months. We will be following your progress. Say hello to Marie for us and we will keep our fingers crossed that the planned three months turns into – well no more than three months! – Joel

  3. Gene, I’m so excited for your new adventure. After all, the journey is the reward! Cold showers shouldn’t be a problem for you, my friend… doesn’t it remind you of Haiti?!

    1. As we weathered a severe thunderstorm last night, I thought of what it might have been like for Justin, Toota and all our Haitian friends as they huddled beneath corrugated metal roofs waiting for hurricanes to pass. It puts things in perspective.