Things built

Refreshing the thread

October 28, 2013

For most of yesterday, a Sunday, I washed 21 years of accumulated dirt and grit off the Peace Bus in preparation for a fresh coat of paint. Back in 1992 when I drove it onto the property and parked it in a small grove of trees, thinking it and myself would be hidden from the world, two surfing neighbours came up and simply said “We can see the bus from the water.”

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Hence, the spattered camouflage paint of 1992 that worked well in allowing both myself to keep the bus where I first parked it, and, my neighbours’ surfing enjoyment not to be troubled with an “urban” intrusion into their wild Roaring Beach.

Today’s blog, though, is not about the remodeling of the Peace Bus. Yes, the interior is now completed with the hanging of curtains on Saturday, and the exterior, hopefully, to be painted over the next few days.

Instead, as I was up on the ladder yesterday, alone, getting wet and cold from hose water and scrub brushes, I couldn’t help but wonder “Why?”.

Most people on a Sunday visit with family and friends, take the day off, relax, maybe read a book, go for a bicycle ride, worship their god or eat a Sunday roast.

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And me? I have no answer other than to offer this poem by William Stafford.

The Way It Is
 
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change.  But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
 
~ William Stafford ~

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Morning sun

July 23, 2013

For the past two days a cold rain out of the Antarctic has lashed the windowpanes. Inside, though warm, the light coming in through the many windows is coloured cool, clean and speaks of rational thought. Outside, the shivering silvered branches, though elegant, seem to beg to want to come into the shelter of the house.

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Normally, assuming there are no clouds, for a few weeks on either side of the winter solstice the first rays of the morning sun tunnel into the house. This is because I cut a hole through the trees and opened up a passage to allow the winter sun to first peek into the house around 8AM instead of 9:30AM.

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This extra early hit of direct morning light only lasts around fifteen minutes before dimming into the darkening branches. But what a lovely, if brief, sensation on my awakening mood as I meditate to the sun’s low yellow grace notes tuning up the walls. All this while I’m nestled in a soft, cushioned red seat dipping into the morning’s reading of prose or poetry.

To create this sun tunnel (aka “sunnel”), I did have to chainsaw down four magnificent trees. My conscience, however, only tweaked a wee bit as the firewood gathered from these trees is what is keeping me cozy warm these cold winter mornings. Along with this, I have planted 8,800 other trees on the property sequestering more carbon than I will ever use in my lifetime.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety —
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light —
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Mary Oliver

Here is a one minute video showing what it is like when the clouds part and allow the morning sun to flow into the house. With a voice over of Mary Oliver’s poem “Why I Wake Early”.

morning sun from Peter Adams on Vimeo.

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Just another day

July 15, 2013

Back in the first week of June, an excavator arrived for the forth time in the past year to dig up the remaining deeply entrenched bracken roots that have tormented the construction of the tennis court at Windgrove. See those piles spread over the length and 2/3’s the width of the court? Well, after the guy with the excavator left, it was up to myself and neighbour Stan to go through it all, yet again, and sort out the roots — shovel full by shovel full.

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We had already done this three times before in the past year, but this time I decided to also roll out a double layer of geo-fabric as a weed suppressant. And, bless our weary backs, today we will reach the half way mark after six weeks of steady, repetitive work.

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Stan can be seen moving the dirt from in front of him to the back of him on top of the first layer of geo-cloth that is around three feet (one metre) below ground level. When this gets covered with around ten inches/250mm of soil, a second layer of geo-fabric gets rolled over the top of this newly layered dirt and the process is repeated. Eventually, we’ll leap frog our way down the whole length of the court (assuming our arms, shoulders, necks, legs and backs hold out).

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Yes, it is very hard work. Yes, I need to soak in a hot bath with epsom salts four times a week. Yes, I often wonder why am I doing this. But…. look at the view from the tennis court clubhouse’s viewing deck. Need I say more? Who else gets to work in such beautiful conditions?

And… I’ve never felt healthier.

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The colour of life

January 21, 2013

After three blog entries about scorched earth and the lingering taste of death on land and air following the massive fires of recent weeks, I now want to write about life. More specifically, the colour of life as exemplified by green. For without the photosynthetic capability of the molecule chlorphyll — a magnesium containing pigment in green plants — to use the sun’s energy to convert water and atmospheric carbon dioxide into life sustaining organic compounds plus nearly all the oxygen in the atmosphere, you and I would not be alive.

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Ironically, the above photo of tender green budding stalks of water melon flowers reaching towards the heat of light, does show the important role our the big fire-ball star, the sun, plays in creating life. However, like Icarus, being exposed to too much heat for too long a period will melt away any chance of growing full into life.

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I consider Windgrove a “refuge for learning”. For guests and visitors certainly, but mostly for me. The newly constructed enclosed garden represents 20 years of dealing with the “how’s and how not to’s” of growing vegetables on this land.

It is a private paradise, a walled garden within which the colour green is allowed to flourish and where I can find refuge away from the intensity of every summer’s lack of rain; an intensity that turns the ground a burnt amber.

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Inside I sit with the melons and cucumbers, tomatoes and potatoes, corn and basil, squash and peas. Surrounded by all this lush greenness I can’t help but feel alive. I can’t help but yearn to move towards the fiery heat of the day.

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The Danger of Wisdom

We learn to live without passion.
To be reasonable. We go hungry
amid the giant granaries
this world is. We store up plenty
for when we are old and mild.
It is our strength that deprives us.
Like Keats listening to his doctor
who said the best thing for
tuberculosis was to eat only one
slice of bread and a fragment
of fish each day. Keats starved
himself to death because he yearned
so desperately to feast on Fanny Brawne.
Emerson and his wife decided to make
love sparingly in order to accumulate
his passion. We are taught to be
moderate. To live intelligently.

Jack Gilbert

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Force of fire (rebuilding)

January 14, 2013

Twenty two years ago an arsonist set fire to a forest that eventually destroyed four homes. Mine was one of them.

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At the beginning of the fire, while the house was still whole and standing, two firemen arrived with a fire truck and went, oddly, inside the house and started spraying down the walls. They calmly assured: “The house will be okay, although there will be some smoke and water damage”.

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With no need to gather up valuables I had nothing to do except tend to small spot fires in the gardens and small pond at the back of the house while occasionally zipping into the house for a breather when the smoke and heat outside became too great.

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But then, just as I walked into the house for another cooling off period, the two firemen ran past me with their firehoses shouting “Quick, get outside, we’re losing it”. Within seconds the whole of the house imploded. All three stories of her.

The heat was so intense that literally nothing survived except for the metal strings of the baby grand piano, the metal roof, water pipes and other non-combustibles. Melted glass puddled on the ground.

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The home I had designed and built when I first got to Tasmania in 1985 disappeared as quickly as the fog off the pond on a summer’s morning. The ash pile contained everything I possessed. And I walked away with just the smokey clothes I was wearing.

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Except, that is, for one little box. A shoe box that I had grabbed unconsciously as I was fleeing the house.

Later, when opening the shoe box to see what was in it, I told myself that whatever the contents were, they would give me guidance in how to move into my now totally clean, blank slate, mortgage free future unhindered by possessions.

Opening this personal “ark of the covenant” was a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Especially so, since only a month earlier while canoeing down the Arthur river I had knelt down in prayer on a riverbank at dusk one evening and stated to the darkening air: “I am ready to be of greater service”.

Inside were two small items. Both would provide an important message in how and what I should be doing in the years to come.

The first was a small packet of brads. The type of nail used in fine, finish work. What this signified to me was the importance of “rebuilding” again; to continue my life as an artist — a creative maker of things beautiful and finely crafted — but now, using art in service for the greater good.

The second item was even more significant as it provided an insight into how I might approach a future dedicated to “being of greater service”. No, it wasn’t a book on the wisdom of the Buddha. Nor some religious reliquary. Rather, it was a plain packet of condoms.

All smiles and giggles aside, the condoms symbolized two things. The first was simply to find pleasure in the daily activities of life again and not be overly burdened by those huge material losses suffered.

Secondly, I took the packet of condoms to symbolize “sensuality” rather than “sexuality”. Coupling the condoms with the nails, i.e. sensuality with art, I then added the notion of “being of greater service”. Thus began the slow process of educating myself on the many philosophical, cultural and spiritual issues surrounding deep ecology, ecofeminism, social ecology, systems theory and the evolutionary science behind the sensuality of our planet Gaia.

“Re-sacralizing the sensual” became my artistic calling. And has continued so for the past twenty two years.

I turned the ashes of my Bonnet Hill home into what is now called Windgrove: a refuge for learning.

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The Real work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry

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This past week Steve and I continued with the task of planting out this year’s 400 trees. On one especially arduous day we only managed to put in 30 banksias, she-oaks and blue gums along a new section of the Gaia Walk.

At quitting time, as the lowering late afternoon sun dropped into a background of cloud, I thought gratefully of the hot outdoor bath awaiting my sore body.

“This is our pay off: the luxury of working in such an exquisite location.”

But planting a non-native fruit tree — to fulfill a fantasy of gathering juicy apricots from my own backyard — requires a bit more effort. To begin with, a large and deep hole must be dug to remove the infertile soil.

And then — as the below shadowy figure with shovel suggests — a sacrificial body is always useful for growing a fleshy crop of fruit.

After the body is buried, three wheel barrow loads of aged “compote of human manure” — freshly dug out from beneath the compost toilet — is layered into the hole. This also helps produce a tasty crop of fruit.

Lastly, after the apricot tree is placed in the hole with an additional lasagna layer of good top soil added, a temporary protective fence is constructed around the tree so the hooligan possums aren’t tempted to eat the tasty sprouting buds.

And now I wait.

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