Sarana Park

Sarana Park is a private 23 acre redwood forest refuge in a mountain range that borders California's magnificent Central Coast. "Sarana" is a word from Pali, an ancient Buddhist language - it means "safe place," or "refuge."

Our intention is to offer supportive space for reflection, restoration, and solitutde for our friends (and friends of friends). We think of it as a "re-boot camp" - a place where our guests can take some time to recharge, rest, and experience nature.

Sarana House is a tiny house on a trailer that Juko built (with the guidance of a very skilled carpenter) in Los Angeles, California. It was moved to Sarana Park in the Fall of 2011, and is currently used as our kitchen/living/guest space. Another tiny house serves as our sleeping & bathroom space. Together, the two of us are living in just over 270 square feet.

Our journey to this mountain refuge from Los Angeles was prompted by our desire to respond the Great Recession with grace, bring our lives into greater alignment with our beliefs and values about the greed that caused it, and to explore ways we might use our resources to be of service to others.

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You can contact us by clicking on the Facebook or email link at the bottom of this column under "contact."

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My father at Hospice of Dayton, being honored for his service as a veteran.


My father at Hospice of Dayton, being honored for his service as a veteran.

Leaving The Forest for Another Home

It has been a long time.

For most of the last two years, I have been immersed in the rhythm of the forest and the routine of living a tiny, simple life - despite some challenges, my beloved and I were settled in to a life we both embraced and loved.

But now, another call has come and I have left the forest to head back to a world with flush toilets and showers that are not outside in greenhouses. The call that came was from my original home, in Ohio.

My father is terminally ill and made the decision to go to hospice care. 10 weeks ago, I thought I was going home to be with him for his final days, but he had other plans - he rebounded, and is doing so well that he will soon move from inpatient hospice to hospice care at home.

It became clear that he needed 24/7 care. After a visit here, my husband agreed that we would move back to the Midwest. Within a short period of time, I found myself pulling together a resume, looking for work, and making plans to leave our forest home for the foreseeable future. The job search went well, in that I found a job quickly in this economy - but in Indianapolis, 2 hours from Dayton, Ohio. I start work in January, and the three of us are moving there shortly. It was a hard adjustment at first - we’re Buckeyes, not Hoosiers, after all - but when I drop the idea of a place and surrender to what is (as opposed to how I want things to be), I find gratitude for a good job and the opportunity to be of service to my father.

A few weeks ago, we packed up our cars, our pets, and our tiny life to head back to civilization. We survived the drive from California, our first snow storm in decades, and slipping and falling on the ice. Our dogs were perplexed by the snow at first, but have adjusted more quickly than we have.

Sarana Park is still very much alive - we are moving forward with the building permit process and have not at all given up on building our green, dream homestead & making the tiny houses available to our guests.

To care for my father at this point in his life is such an honor, and it is only possible because we are not tied to a huge mortgage and a lifestyle that would not have allowed us to pick up and leave so quickly. He is in great spirits & seems to be as up to the challenge of taking on a new city as we are.

Caring for my father is going to be a challenge, but it is really an extension of the vision I have held in my heart for what Sarana Park will be - a place of refuge, safety, caring, and understanding. Because he is not well enough to move to California, we are bringing the spirit of Sarana Park to him. That refuge exists in our hearts, in our hands, and in our service to others - it is not tied to a particular place.

Soon, it will be in Indiana, with the support of a wonderful hospice team there.

http://www.thetinylife.com/tiny-house-infographic/

Via darlingamericancurl - The Tiny House Infographic!

“65% of Tiny House People have zero credit card debt…”

At a certain point in my own tiny house story, I came to see a 30 year mortgage as a form of indentured servitude. I recall signing the documents for our traditional house, and purposefully not wanting to acknowledge what the house was really going to cost us once the interest was taken into account.

Now, without needing to come up with this large sum of money each month (money that was mostly enriching the bank), I have the space and time to create the kind of life I could only dream of before. Actually, the kind of life I was hoping I would have once I retired.

Only I am 43, not 63.

It’s a freedom that is hard to put into words, a pace and a life that is so different from what I was trained to want for myself. It is a different version of the “American Dream,” one I hope more and more people consider choosing for themselves.

When I was living in a 2,500 square foot house in Los Angeles, I had no idea what radical gratitude was. When I lost that house and decided to build a tiny house & move to a piece of land instead of getting back on the mortgage train, I got in touch with what it meant to be grateful for simple pleasures. Like the wildflowers blooming all around our greenhouse shower…
Gratitude is a powerful, powerful practice - and it was the grateful prayer I held in my heart while we were going through foreclosure that made all the difference.
So, I finally finished my Ph.D in psychology & defended my dissertation last week! I am celebrating by having this retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains & creating the space to help others shift their relationship to difficulty. The circle will be small - about 15 people. If anyone wants to attend, but can’t afford the price - let me know, we can work it out. In a world full of messages that what we have and who we are is “not enough,” we need to connect to authenticity & simplicity as much as we can.
Please share with anyone who may be interested - Quaker Center is down the mountain from our tiny houses, and if anyone wants a tour, I would be more than happy to oblige!
Link to retreat information:
http://www.sacrednarratives.com/
Warmly, Juko

When I was living in a 2,500 square foot house in Los Angeles, I had no idea what radical gratitude was. When I lost that house and decided to build a tiny house & move to a piece of land instead of getting back on the mortgage train, I got in touch with what it meant to be grateful for simple pleasures. Like the wildflowers blooming all around our greenhouse shower…

Gratitude is a powerful, powerful practice - and it was the grateful prayer I held in my heart while we were going through foreclosure that made all the difference.

So, I finally finished my Ph.D in psychology & defended my dissertation last week! I am celebrating by having this retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains & creating the space to help others shift their relationship to difficulty. The circle will be small - about 15 people. If anyone wants to attend, but can’t afford the price - let me know, we can work it out. In a world full of messages that what we have and who we are is “not enough,” we need to connect to authenticity & simplicity as much as we can.

Please share with anyone who may be interested - Quaker Center is down the mountain from our tiny houses, and if anyone wants a tour, I would be more than happy to oblige!

Link to retreat information:

http://www.sacrednarratives.com/

Warmly, Juko

It has been well over a year that we have been living the tiny life. I knew that leaving a city I knew (and once loved) would be hard, not to mention all the challenges that come with starting over. Add to it the magnitude of the original plan - to buy a piece of land, build a conventional house, and open our space to friends (and friends of friends) in need of respite - and you have a recipe for a lot to go wrong. Well, a lot has. It has been overwhelming at times, and I have spent a lot of time looking up at the trees around me, listening for any advice they might whisper.

What has been wonderful in the most surprising way  is that moving into our tiny house camp has not been the sacrifice or challenge I thought it would be. To be candid, we thought the “conventional” house would be completed by now, and that our tiny house experiment would be over. That was naive, but what was not naive was listening to the call I had to simplify, to bring my actual lived experience in line with my values. What I have found is that while I am determined to build the “real” house to serve as a space for friends who visit, I don’t feel any rush at all to complete it. I realized that once the conventional house is done, my husband is going to have a hard time getting me to move into it.

If I had one tip for anyone designing or planning a tiny house, it would be to leave enough room to dance and spin around a bit, as this has proven to be essential to maintaining our sense of humor and joy.

Tiny House Drama: The County Planning Department

Tiny House at Night

There are many times I look at my husband and say “I love living in this tiny house with you,” and I really, really mean it.

He took this photo of me from his perch on our sleeping platform as I prepared for bed. It’s been nearly a year since we’ve been spending most of our time at Sarana Park in our tiny houses, and none of our fears about not having enough space have been realized. Of all the hassles we’ve endured, the most burdensome has been dealing with our county planning department, which happens to be a prime example of really good intentions gone horribly, horribly wrong. Right now, we are “camped out” on a neighbor’s land that is adjacent to our own, because the county does not officially allow trailers or RVs to be parked on any parcel (even a 23 acre one) that does not have a building permit.

We originally thought we would have broken ground on our “official” house by now, but we chose to buy land in a county notorious for being difficult and they are living up to their reputation. At the beginning of the summer, we had quite a bit of bad news. The water source for our property - a wonderful spring that supports a few other households - was deemed unworthy to be our water source of record. At issue was the percentage of the spring deeded to us, not the quality nor the yield - our portion filled two 5,000 gallon tanks of pristine, great-tasting water in a few days. This technicality meant that our entire process was put on hold until we could get the water figured out.

When we were hit with this delay, we made a very conscious decision to embrace it, in part because we are actually really happy and content in the space we have created for ourselves.

If I had one tip for anyone designing or planning a tiny house, it would be to leave enough room to dance and spin around a bit, as this has proven to be essential to maintaining our sense of humor and joy.

For us, waiting and dancing seemed to do the trick. Our old well, which had sat unused for decades and was not believed to be functioning, produced a glorious amount of water that should solve our “official water source of record” issue.

Another realization that came to us is how the process of dealing with the county had really caused us to lose sight of our vision - which was to create a sanctuary for ourselves, our family, and our friends. We became frozen by this idea that we had to have “official” permission to get started on the work we’ve been called to do here. We dedicated this land to service, compassion, restoration, and transformation. There is too much suffering going on in the world right now to get hung up or sidetracked by an inane bureaucratic entity, so we are focused on staying curious about what we can do with our land without a building permit - like preparing our first garden area. Yes, our plans have changed, but our vision is still strong.

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Celebrating Milestones, Large & Small

One of the ways we were able to commit to living in a tiny space is because we conceived of it as temporary, anywhere from a year to eighteen months. When we decided to change the setting and pace of our lives, we also started the process of putting plans together in order to purchase a building permit, as required by the county we live in. After a thoughtful process, we settled on a one bedroom, open, passive solar design using SIPs that is just over 1200 square feet. But we never imagined we would be as content as we are in our tiny spaces. 

Sarana Park entry

One of the most compelling reasons to move forward with the building of our official homestead is that it will free up the tiny houses for our invitees. In the meantime, we are moving closer to being able to offer our friends (and friends of friends) who like to camp the opportunity to come and spend some time in supported solitude. 

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Sarana House Interior

Tiny House Kitchen

The interior of Sarana House, one of two “tiny houses” we currently occupy, is finally complete enough to be photographed! There are still details to attend to - finishing all of the trim, getting one more light fixture in place, and connecting our propane boat heater - but we are happily enjoying the space we refer to as our “dining car.”  I was taken with the idea of living in a tiny house since I became aware of them via the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, but my husband had his doubts - especially because our household includes pets. We finally agreed that while one tiny house for all of us would be too cramped, two tiny houses would fit us just fine.

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12 Weeks Into Our Tiny House Adventure

Tiny House at Gas Station

It is hard to believe it has been nearly 3 months since we moved our second tiny house to Sarana Park. We have just over 260 square feet of living space with both tiny houses, and we are sharing that space with several pets.

Working while two dogs relax

Our sleeping quarters are in a tiny house I purchased last year, and the tiny house pictured above serves as our dining car and guest quarters. We are not yet in full-time residence, and find ourselves going back and forth to Los Angeles for work and other obligations more often than we would like. Letting go of so many material things in order to fit into such a small space was not as difficult as resisting the urge to repopulate our lives with more of the same kinds of stuff. The big purge felt good, but the real work is in the day to day honoring of our commitment to live with less.

We are very fortunate to live on a large parcel of land in a moderate climate, so when I need space, I can go outside. Having “his” and “hers” tiny houses also means that if either of us needs some private space, it is readily available.

When I spend time in our soon-to-be-former 2,000+ square foot living quarters in L.A. and return to our tiny house “village” in the forest, I experience a sense of relief - I am amazed that we were ever willing to take on a mortgage in the first place. After two years of uncertainty and fear about losing our home, I am really happy with our decision to release ourselves from that cycle and to go in an entirely different direction. Mostly, I feel gratitude for how all of this has come together, from the miracle of finding this land and the privilege of calling it home to the support my spouse has shown for this idea.

A lot of people are interested in the interior of our tiny houses, and it is my intention to get some photos and description of our space up in my next post - may this moment find you moving through your life with peace, ease, and grace!

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