Outhouses

By Vicki

We spent 10 days in Canada, in British Columbia on Salt Spring Island. We were on a meditation retreat. The retreat center we stayed at was on a mountain, Mt Tuam, in the southern end of the island. It is a Buddhist Center – very lovely setting, very remote, very peaceful, kind of primitive, and very good for meditating.

Robert and I were given the best accommodations, I think. We had a three room cabin with running water, although it was very cold running water. We also had heat in one room of our cabin, which not everyone had. Finally, we had our own outhouse down a little hill from our cabin. At first, we were a little taken aback by having no indoor bathroom. We didn’t realize before we got there that there were no indoor toilets in the whole retreat. We are both of the age that having a bathroom close, particularly in the middle of the night, is an important need. And we were in Canada, where it was much colder and rainier than we are used to, so I had images of cold and wet trips to the outhouse. I was apprehensive about the situation with the outhouse, but we were there for 10 days, so we needed to adjust.

Over the days, I came to really appreciate my outhouse. There were 10 people staying in the largest building, which had single rooms, the only two hot showers at the center, the main kitchen and the dining area. While these people had closer access to hot water and to showers than we did, they all had to share one outhouse that was located in a fairly public area. So they had to keep the door closed to their outhouse and they had to coordinate the use of it.

Our outhouse was off by itself, down a hill from our cabin, and the door opened onto the forest. This meant we could keep the door open when we were in the outhouse – so we had fresh air, a lovely view and complete privacy. It was also good exercise to go up and down the hill and it was not nearly as cold or as wet as I had imagined or as it could have been. So I found over the time we were there, that I grew rather attached to my outhouse. I began to think of it as “my” outhouse. Of course, it wasn’t mine and anyone in the retreat could have used it, but most people didn’t even know that it was there. The few people that discovered it, liked to use it too, but they always asked if they could use it – like we owned it. Also from the top of the hill, you could see if the door was open or not, so it was kind of like an occupied sign, if the door was open.

I’m back now with indoor toilets and hot water, but I still think fondly of “my” outhouse. I think it taught me to not make assumptions about things or situations ahead of time. It reminded me that something I was worried about, something I thought would be problematic, could be turned into a good thing – something that I can reminisce and even write about with pleasure.

March 2016