by Ashley Williams-Brookens
We repurposed a 1986 International School Bus, and created within it a very warm, comfortable, highly functional, off-grid, self-contained cabin. We live in the wilds of Southern Humboldt County, California where our home sets on an organic off-grid farmstead with a history of decades-old successful river and wilderness restoration. We exchange work for land-rent and water usage.
I’ve shown my daughters that innovation and creativity are positive, powerful tools with which you can create a joyful life that honors your convictions without sacrificing a rich quality of life. You’ll find below a write-up from my website that describes the why’s and what-for’s of my family’s own “Tiny House Movement.”
There has been a great deal of (slow) progress on the Novelty UnSchool Bus. (Slow is the new black, in case you haven’t heard.) There have been obstacles. But as it comes together, the vision is gathering clarity and the process is one of infinitely unfolding inspiration. I have so many ideas that reach well beyond the actual conversion… I’ve been gifted with new inspiration in how I teach my children, approach my own work and education, and how other women might be sparked toward self-empowerment.
There is also something deeply gratifying in the schoolie’s nuts-n-bolts transformation. Although it is an inanimate beast, there is still wonder in giving it new life. She, like many pieces of art, has become symbolic of rebirth, revived inspiration, and renewed purpose. Perfect for a thirty-five-year-old mother.
While being moved to share my experience, I realize not every mother wants to do something as dramatically unconventional as repurposing a transportation vessel for stationary housing. Although, as it turns out, the school bus cabin is as utterly safe, secure, practical, affordable and manageable as it is cozy, warm (esthetically and climatically), sanctified and beautiful. But whether or not other people choose my template for their own liberation, it gives them, by model, permission to create something wholly independent; something that works for their own convictions, and their family’s well-being. Something aligned with their desire to minimize harm and limit their dependence on unsustainable or exploitative institutions.
NOVELTY, as contextualized by Terence McKenna, can be thought of as “density of complexification and dynamic change as opposed to static habituation.” It is choosing something different instead of defaulting to engrained conventions. Allowing creativity and complexity as opposed to reductionism. The Novelty UnSchool Bus has earned her name as exactly that. We experience our unbound potential when we un-school ourselves by learning through direct experience, instead of accepting only prefabricated, preapproved knowledge. Perhaps your expression of Novelty doesn’t involve a forty-foot 1986 International School Bus with solar power and endless on-demand (indoor!) hot water… but I encourage you to manifest it, whatever form it takes. As the great Mind of McKenna assured us, “The history of the world shows that Novelty wins.”