Things built

Field of Dreams

July 16, 2012

Washed of colour, ill-defined and crumpling, the birthday tulips fresh three weeks ago droop limp beside the dry vase.

I keep them there on the dining table, though, not as a reminder of a past joyful celebration, but simply because they inspire me as I watch them grow more beautiful in their diminishment, more graceful in their fragility. They speak of a dignified humility in their acceptance of who they are.

“We’re flowers till the end”, I hear them murmur to each other.

It was years ago on the island of Barbados in the Caribbean that I met a retired couple from Germany. Watching them play social tennis everyday between swims, I started to visualize what it might be like to “retire” in such a manner: with friends, daily having a happy hit or two before breakfast, before sculpting, before other work.

The vase of tulips made me realize the tock was ticking. More importantly, their spirited presence kept me motivated and determined for the three days the excavator scraped the field flat as a start in fulfilling this dream of community coming together via tennis.

To be honest, I’m not really sure of its ultimate end use. For lack of funds, maybe just a dirt volley ball court. I do have other dreams to consider — such as expanded artist-in-residency studios.

What I do know, however, is that to make any vision a reality — whether artistic, scientific or otherwise — a bit of “irrational”, “out of the box” thinking needs to enter into the equation along with courage to do what seems impossible.

It also helps to accept that the journey is more about discovery than end results, and, that for anything to unfold some sort of start must be made for the possibility to unfold. Staring at a blank canvas never created a painting. Staring at a sloping field never created a level playing field.

But my knees “are” shot and my lower back “does have” degenerating discs. Walking is always a bit painful, let alone trying to chase a tennis ball.

But still….

But still….

Dreams never sought after result in a crippling of the soul.

When neighbour Yve and I ran around the dirt yesterday making winning Wimbledon shots, it didn’t really matter that we were…. were….. were what? Silly, stupid, naive, childish?

What we experienced was a moment of pure potential. A moment where the world was all that we imagined it could be.

A moment when this “field of dreams” became real.

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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 ~

When I think about the creation of Windgrove in relation to Stafford’s poem, there has been a certain thread I’ve followed over the past 20 years. True, it has been hard to explain to others; those friends, lovers even, who wondered then wandered away, never sure of the validity of what I was pursuing. Yet, this thread has remained a relative constant whilst people, myself included, move hither and thither through the seasons of the years.

Looking more closely, I find that if I de-twine and unravel it, this thread is comprised of two strings that make up the whole; a sort of double-helix braiding.

I would label these separate strings the “red string” and the “blue string”; or, what could be called the “soul string” and the “spirit string”. And nothing better represents the visible aspect of these strings entwined than the physical structure of my current home where there is a reaching in to soul and a reaching out to spirit.

To this end, in the house’s construction and fit out, I have followed the red strand of a soulful physical sensuality and the blue strand of a spirited mental intelligence. This woven, single thread allows the house to stand in a littoral landscape/seascape/airscape that mingles deliciously between flesh and spirit.

The “spirit-blue” half of the thread was lengthened this past week when a larger satellite dish was installed to replace the smaller, slower dish, thereby, enhancing my ability to communicate across the globe through Skype and other means. A faster, bigger Mind, so to speak, with more left-hemisphere power; the external, logical, rational aspect.

At times, it is hard to imagine that my first four years at Windgrove were without radio, TV, electricity, or any type of phone. Slowly, over the years I have acquired a sufficient amount of “communications technology” to embarrass even myself when I compare what I have to what I actually need to survive.

I don’t need any of this for myself. But in trying to build Windgrove as a “refuge for learning: dialogues with nature on community, peace and healing” (as written on the Windgrove stationary’s letterhead), I have been willing to move beyond the very real, very comfortable, very sustainable, very manageable Thoreau type of existence I experienced living in the Peace Bus for eight years in order to honour and to keep following and building upon the mysterious “thread” that is Windgrove.

When people come to visit, whether for a day or a week, hopefully what they first encounter when entering Windgrove’s heart center is a feng-shui feeling of harmony inviting a welcoming comfort; where comfort is not just physical creature comforts, but where one’s soul can rest easily. This did not happen from a plan drawn up by an interior designer from some office in Sydney. Rather it employed patience, devotion, persistence, and an obligated willingness to engage with the soul of the house — this internal womb of love and nurturing — over a period of many years.

This past week I purchased a deeply red, hand knotted, 10 foot by 14 foot, wool Persian rug from Afghanistan. It feels so in place that a close friend who visited missed “seeing it”. What I love about this rug, woven by nimble fingers over a mammoth amount of hours, is that it exudes an embodied sense of crafted, cultural skills imparting a globally connected world of Afghani souls to an already soul stuffed home.

Food and wine served at the dining table is now an even richer experience. As this is a shoeless house, bare feet on the rug is a bonus treat.

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Windgrove maintenance

December 13, 2010

Warning! This blog entry contains images that might offend the sensibilities of some people.

Looking along the fence line that separates the outdoor bath area away from the hungry wallabies who would like nothing better than to munch on the tender foliage in the enclosed garden, one can see a red wheel barrow up against the back wall of a wooden structure that is, itself, separated from the main house. Inside this pine lined space one finds a shower, sink, mirror, change bench and two toilets.

Two toilets? Is this about new age, enlightened, back to the 70’s hippy style communal living and sharing?

Not really; rather, a practical solution to the contemporary problem of the over consumption of water in a world that is becoming increasingly water depleted. It is estimated that the average person will flush down an average of 5,000 gallons of fresh water per annum. The two holer at Windgrove has been in operation for nearly 15 years and has never used even one gallon of water. Considering the number of people that have lived, stayed or visited here over this period of time, the amount of water saved amounts to well over 200,000 gallons. Quite impressive, isn’t it?

And, the reason no water is used is that Windgrove has composting toilets; both waterless and chemical free. And totally free of any smell usually associated with the normal outhouse found down by the swamp at grand-dad’s fishing cabin. The smell here is simply vented away by the white stacks seen in the photo. A ten dollar solution that solves a century old problem.

There are two toilet seats because two are necessary for the system to function properly. However, only one is used at a time. The other simply waits until the first one gradually, one poop at a time, fills up over two to three years. Then the first one gets shut down (rock placed on lid) and the 2nd toilet slowly fills up.

And, do you see the wicker basket between the two toilets? This contains saw dust. After each use of the toilet, a handful is tossed into the “hole” thereby helping the composting process so that after the toilet gets filled and has “rested” a further two to three years (or until the other toilet gets filled), the result is a totally odurless, crumbly soil suitable for the garden.

The above photo shows how I access the back of the toilet to remove the composted shit, sawdust and toilet paper. Not so much a bad job as just a job that has to be done. This was the 5th time in 15 years I have emptied one of the composting bins. At two and a half barrow loads per bin, that comes to 12 and a half wheel barrow loads of decent fertilizer. When I think of all the water saved and the non-usage of any chemicals over this time, it leaves me with a good feeling. The broccolli and carrots certainly thank me.

And this year, after I cleaned out the toilets, good neighbour Steve got the job of cleaning out 18 years of wood shavings from my studio floor that had compacted to be a foot deep. At the end of a long, dusty day, Steve took away over 30 wheel barrow loads. It certainly seems obvious, to me, that my hands have produced more waste than my rear end.

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Gateways

November 8, 2010

It is said that to die rich is to die disgraced.

Well, even though I am “cash poor”, I am certainly “asset rich” because Windgrove’s ocean front 100 acres is a valuable property. It behoves me, therefore, to use this richness to the betterment of my community as I dearly want to be graced by their continued presence in my life.

To this end, on a drizzly Sunday morning a week ago, several of my neighbours gathered at my home, first for breakfast, and then for a ribbon cutting ceremony to dedicate the opening up of a new coastal track I surveyed and then had workmate Steve construct along the western edge of Windgrove. This now allows my community a rather stunning walk (humbly speaking) through coastal flora of banksia, tea tree, acacia, she-oak and a multitude of smaller shrubs and flowers while, all the while, catching glimpses of the magnificent Roaring Beach and surrounding cliffs.

[The photos of the “dry” path on a sunny day I took this morning. The photos showing my neighbours on a “wet” path were taken last Sunday.]

But isn’t it also said that “good fences make good neighbours”?

In my personally philosophy, I would have to agree with Robert Frost who writes in his poem “Mending Wall”:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

In truth, I understand the need for boundaries, but I prefer to “honour” boundaries by making them porous and open to ritual (such as our ribbon cutting ceremony).

The proverb “Good fences make good neighbors” relates to traditions and rituals antedating the Romans. The god of boundaries they named Terminus and he was annually honored in a ritual that not only reaffirmed boundaries but also provided the occasion for predetermined traditional festivities among neighbors.

The festival of the Terminalia was celebrated in Rome and in the country on the 23rd of February. The neighbours on either side of any boundary gathered round the landmark [the stones which marked boundaries], with their wives, children, and servants; and crowned it, each on his own side, with garlands, and offered cakes and bloodless sacrifices.

George Montiero; from ‘Robert Frost and the New England Renaissance’

Here at Windgrove we offered pancakes, sausages, maple syrup and fresh squeezed orange juice to the gods before dedicating the new path.

Notice the clean plate in the front of the dining table? That’s for the unexpected guest. Welcome to my home. Come with me and take a walk along the wild side.

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Merry bathing

December 23, 2009

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Just in time for summer solstice ablutions my neighbour Steve and I moved a 600 pound carved Balinese water bowl into position in the far corner of the bath area and then spent the rest of the day hauling in top soil and pine bark and planting out 18 prostrate juniper bushes. Even though these bushes are slow growing and will require several years before maturing, already the area feels very much the contemplative meditation zzzzz zone. Not that it wasn’t before, but the Zen quality has just jumped up a notch or two.

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I could have planted out Australian natives, but besides the spiritual component to the bath garden, the practical aspect is that the juniper bushes will act as more of a fire retardant than the more fire prone Australian bushes.

Being on the south side of the house and susceptible to cold winds, this area probably won’t get much daily “sitting” use (see bench on left), but already, just walking past it is enough to calm the heart. Best time for “viewing” will be in the evening when bubbles pour over the lip of the bath as one slowly immerses their grateful body into the steaming waters. Life certainly has its sweeter moments.

Off the older, grey weathered deck can be seen a new walk way that goes to the back side of the house and my bedroom, thus providing me with more opportunities to greet the Buddha and engage with the garden and surrounding trees.

As an artist I am always looking for emergent qualities. When the cistern was filled with water and I dropped some kangaroo paw petals into it, the tiny waves created a wonderful mosiac of patterns. Almost Christmas like.

May everyone enjoy this time of the year with friends and loved ones; human or otherwise.

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The Buddha and the Car

December 7, 2009

P1000480Both are recent additions to the landscape at Windgrove and each in their own way, whether static or mobile, provides a service.

The Buddha was purchased because I am creating a secluded zen garden for meditative bathing just behind the house where the present outdoor bathtub is located. Yes, just using plants and stones could do the trick, but as an artist, I appreciate the power of iconic symbols to enhance and move the spirit as well as being an informant or visual representation of the state of mind desired when seeking solitude, inspiration or a quieting of the too quickening mind.

One doesn’t have to be of any religious persuasion to feel the calm and serenity emanating from the Buddha. Complement this with natural surrounds and there is a doubling of the effect.

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The Subaru was purchased because I wanted to arrive in Hobart less physically hammered out than when I drove the 1987 Nissan truck.

Being an “all wheel drive” I can still use it to get around the property as seen in the photo. Of special interest is that situated behind the Subaru are trees and shrubs planted on a barren hill side 17 years ago. In the foreground are banksia and kunzia, while behind them are the taller she-oaks.

Like the soft maroon wine colour of the kankaroo paws held in Buddha’s vase, the colour of my new car was deliberately chosen to reflect my wanting to wear my emotions on “my sleeve” so to speak; to be more public with what I am honestly feeling and not suppressing whatever it is I might want to say. Rich and passionate and representative of the heart, it’s a great colour in which to be wrapped up.

Trip to Bhutan May 2008As a postscript to today’s journal entry, there are two more photos. Taken in Stuggart, Germany while I was there in June, the first photo tells the story of my friend Bine Braun whose job is to photograph just completed re-finished older Porsches. Some Saudi prince owns this Porsche and 999 others. It was completely stripped back and “cleaned up” for the neat price of US$250,000. Somehow, I feel the photo of my Subaru is a little more elegant. Yes?

P1000053And this lichen? It grows on the very front of my truck just between the windscreen and side door. I know that lichen are considered extremophiles, but the tenacity of this one deserves a reward. I suppose it also shows what can grow if one never washes their vehicle in 15 years of ownership.

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