AKA: Undressing Petunia, Part 4

Right about the time I’m dangling from the rafters of “naked” Petunia (see “Undressing Petunia Part 3, Shelter from the Storm”), I had a profound realization.

Besides, “This totally sucks,” something else important occurred to me:

I’m no island.

If I’m going to get this 1963 Kenskill travel trailer restored properly, securely, and before winter comes, I’m going to need some help.

The Morning After: Petunia’s roof after I fell through it

I take a certain amount of stubborn pride (too stubborn) in “doing it by myself.”

I’ve ruined things that way. (Note roof photo above, for one example.)

Blame it on my upbringing.

I come from hardy stock. Born and bred in Western Montana, I know my way around mountain streams and roadside bars. I can plant a garden, repair a fence, bake a sweet sweet apple pie, gut a fish, drive a stick shift, and sew lingerie.

I know these things because my Gramma taught them to me. Everything good about me that ever was or ever will be, is so because she and my Grampa loved me.


I got a front row seat to all manner of crazy-ass ideas that my Gramma concocted and ushered into reality out of thin air. She marshaled resources that ranged from county fair cast-offs to rummage sales to trash bins. From these, added to some spit, ingenuity, and pure guts, she and Grampa built a cabin.

They built a cabin on land they didn’t own.

“Camp Gramma” became the launch pad for the greatest joys and adventures of our ragtag family for over three decades.

She was one tough broad, Gramma, all four-feet-11-inches of her. “A grand old gal,” as my dad once put it. I loved her with all my heart. She exemplified a concept that became my personal “True North” in life:

“How hard can it be?”

(It is when I add pride and hubris to the mix that things go south.)

So, I charge ahead, fueled on a weird cocktail of optimism, self-education, and caution, just brave enough–and dumb enough–to get into real trouble.

In removing the aluminum skin from Petunia, for example–dismantling of nine panels, six windows, six window “eyebrows,” tons of trim, the entire roof, 700+ hex screws, and gads of “silver goop” slathered onto six roof vents–I’d been up and down an eight-foot ladder about a zillion times. (See “Undressing Petunia, Part 1: The Only Way Out is Through.”)

Each time I’d climb up or down the ladder, or scramble across the roof, I’d remind myself to be super SUPER careful.

If I did fall, at least I was working outside where dozens of people passed by each day. (Nothing like a global pandemic to get people out and about.) Eventually someone would discover my broken body and call 911, so at least I wouldn’t languish forever in pain and defeat in the 90-degree heat…

I have too vivid an imagination. Clearly.

Falling through the roof whist trying to pull a tarp over Petunia’s naked body taught me a few things. (See “Undressing Petunia, Part 3: Shelter from the Storm.”)

It also scared the crap out of me.

It also turned on a few light bulbs in my brain: 1. Count your lucky freakin’ stars. 2. Don’t dwell on the past. 3. Allocate resources wisely (hire some help).

Also, in a life that has had perhaps a bit too much solitude, I was reminded:

No man is an island entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as any manor of thy friend’s,
Or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Dunne (1572-1631)

Comfort in my world very much comes in the form of great people, like minds, big hearts and good times. People are messy, though. Myself, as messy as the rest.

Even though I know I need them in my life, here’s what I dislike most about people:

Asking them for help.

I admit it. I’m secretly jealous of the women bloggers, vloggers and the RV television stars, all of whom blithely vision, plan, sew and decorate vintage RVs while their “hubs,” partners, hired help and he-men do all the heavy lifting, all the mechanics, all the sawing, all the nailing and all the drilling.

(Because “packing the bearings,” for example, is second nature to men.)

When I bought Petunia, I sincerely thought I’d be doing “light duty” and fun things: replacing the floor tiles, painting the cabinets, and sewing curtains and cushion-covers. And maybe smudging out a few water stains.

What a laugh. I’m taking her down to the bones.

So, where’s my he-man? That’s what I want to know.

Seems he’s been relegated to the wings of life, where pride and hubris have sent all good help and deeply intimate connections.

So, screw it, right? I can DO THIS MYSELF. Famous last words.

Here’s a better word: Sonder.

Sonder (ˈsɔn.dər): The realization that everybody around you, even strangers, are living a life just as complex as yours.

Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

So, were all in this together. No man is an island. We all need help, love, comfort and shelter from the storm.

It’s startlingly easy–for me anyway–to consistently reach the conclusion that I can “do this by myself,” because I have to do it by myself. Why? Because life is harder for me than for everyone else. Which is total crap.

Every day for the past month, I’ve been outside, on the street in front of my house, undressing Petunia, panel by panel, screw by screw, window by vent by trim piece.

Some interested passersby, who are witnessing Petunia’s transformation day-by-day, stop to chat or offer words of encouragement.

Yeah, I’m something of a rock star in my neighborhood.

(I jest.)

Most people couldn’t care less. I get it. I don’t care about their lives, either. Unless they poach my parking space at the grocery store, or knock on my front door. Then they have my undivided attention. But I digress.

Sometimes I get to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations as they stroll by, caught up in their own lives, just as I am caught up in my own, and you are in yours.

So, who are we to each other in the grand scheme of things? I see concentric circles of personal connections—from “extremely deep and meaningful” to “I don’t give a crap about you.” Most of my connections are somewhere in between.

At the very deepest core of these circles, we encounter ourselves. Beyond that, deeper still, past reckoning, we find…God? Such questions I leave for mystics, ministers and musers much wiser than me.

The only answer I have to life is this:

For pity’s sake, ask for help!