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  • Mike Erkkinen

The Emotional Effect of Living Small


I live a somewhat unsettled life at present, rarely sleeping in the same bed more than 2 nights in a row. I might start out at ”home base” which is in my partner’s 6000 square foot house (typically with just two of us separated by 2 floors). This is in a city/suburb in central ct. and the attractive aspects are: 1- my partner is usually there and I really like her, 2- I am set up pretty well there for doing various types of work, 3- It’s a very pleasant spot with a trout stream running through the back yard. The down sides are: 1- as soon as you leave the driveway it’s one endless traffic jam to go anywhere. 2- it’s a completely anonymous place for me - in almost 4 years, I have not met a single friend - which is unusual for me, but burbs seem to be designed for isolation. 3- There are no natural attractions for an outdoor oriented person.

I am often in the Berkshires of western MA, staying with friends or my son, and working on various local projects. I lived there for almost 30 years, so can always find things to do locally. It’s a nice area, but not a perfect fit for me. It has OK rock climbing, OK skiing in a year with lots of snow, OK trout fishing, a little bit bit of whitewater paddling, OK restaurants and venues - basically an “OK” place. The main challenge I have with the area is that it seems to be mostly populated by “spectators” as opposed to doers. People come here to watch others do things: Tanglewood, Jacobs Pillow, Norman Rockwell Museum, etc. I seem to be more attracted to people who do things, than the people who watch others. This might seem trivial, but it has helped me to understand what geographical areas I am likely to find community that I resonate with.


For my third "home," I spend quite a bit of time aboard my small fishing schooner, which as I write this, is moored in Narraganset Bay in RI. It is dancing around at present to a NW wind which is gusting to 35 knots. What is most interesting to me at present about living on my tiny ship, is the ”tiny-ness” of it, and what that is like.


When out in the cockpit or on deck, she seems roomy, as the whole world provides the walls, but down below she is compact and cute. As I sit here in the salon, I can stretch a bit and touch every wall, every bulkhead, every ceiling beam with little effort. This can be really awkward for guests, but my body has become used to the ducking and twisting necessary to navigate this womb-like maritime kingdom. The sun gives us electricity, a tiny bit of diesel fuel provides all of the auxiliary power ever needed, the wind and currents move us from place to place, and a tiny woodstove provides heat when needed. I get back and forth to shore in an elegant little wooden tender, of course powered by oars.

As soon as I get aboard, I start to change from the inside out. I get calmer and more focused, and the myriad of complex concerns that I brought with me seems to melt. I believe some of this is due to being in a natural setting, but have come to believe that much of it is about “tiny-ness” and its partner, “simplicity.” This transition happens just by being aboard Ellen C Wells, without raising sails or leaving the mooring. It is probably helped along by a nice lively sail, especially with a good friend or two. I have occasionally had guests aboard who have brought their big world agendas with them, endless texts and phone calls, preoccupation with land schedules, etc and the energy of that seems grossly out of place and disruptive. My best time at sea is when I just let myself be taken care of by the environment and not let other agendas compete with wind and tide.



As I have mentioned, the tiny-ness and simplicity of the environment is a big factor in the peaceful countenance that I usually achieve with a little time aboard. Not only are all of the life supporting elements present and easily accessible, but I believe the size itself is a big player. I can't prove this scientifically, but my hypothesis is that when we are in a small but comfortable, cozy space, our own energetic vibrations, our essential electrical pulses, are reflected back toward us in sort of an auric bath of healing sub-atomic particle and wave interplay. I believe these nourishing waves and vibrations get swallowed up by a bigger and busier environment and are less useful to us there.

Add plenty of fresh air and sunlight, the gentle rocking of the sea, and the electrical conduction of the vessel living in a saline bath, and you have set the stage for healing and rejuvenation on all levels. I haven't yet lived full time in a very small space, but I spend about 1/3 of my time in one and believe it makes all of the complexity, and the diversified and multitasking focus of a modern life tolerable on many levels.


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