After I gave my neighbor Tracy a massage this afternoon, she invited me up to our other neighbors house to check out the woodworking shop (where I may well be spending a fair amount time as I build my tiny house). I’ve had dinner with these neighbors a few times, and Carl takes yoga classes from me at the YMCA but somehow I had never made the walk up the steep hill, crossed under the clothesline, and past the terraced garden with wooden hand-cut life-size silhouettes of Vrksasana, Warrior 2, and other yoga asana.
Carl and Sue are inspiring. I see them out on long mountain hikes. Carl has had a dedicated yoga practice for years. And they are in their 80’s and have lived on this mountain at least as long as having kids (who are older than me…36) and probably longer. Now seeing their home, their woodworking studio, Sue’s weaving & sewing studio, the gardens, and all they have created on their homestead (yes, homestead it is), I get a glimpse of people who are firmly rooted with their feet on the ground. So much beauty and love here.
And I feel a surge of longing as they speak of building their house that took over ten years, through the 70’s, kids underfoot with out much to do but learn, watch, and as Sue put it, “learn to step with grace and balance so as to not trip over anything in process”. I honestly feel a little jealousy, but in that way that jealousy is simply a path to one’s longing–a space inside waiting to be filled.
I grew up in a house also built in the 70’s, but fabricated in the way many houses in that time were. Instead of re-used telephone poles and rough cut cedar and tiles you know someone spent much time laying in with care, my house was probably built quickly and by laborers who were building many of the same houses. An assembly line of houses, based more on efficiency than creativity or even love.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a “bad” house. It kept us warm and dry. It had some big trees in the yard and a red fence. But it wasn’t a house that taught me about process or where things come from or what it might be like to live inside the unfinished creative efforts of my family and community.
Sue said they thought perhaps their children would do something different. That they wouldn’t be attracted to the same choices, but all of them (4) in some way have chosen to build their lives and dwellings with their own hands, and I imagined , though she didn’t say, with the same love and consciousness I saw manifested without and around these four walls. I’ve known children of the same choices. Children who are my age, and unafraid to inhabit the world with bodies and hands, to know themselves as entirely capable in the most basic way.
I may be inserting some of the my own longing here, but those people seems to sit differently in their skin. They feel to me like trees. My friend whose family built her house while they inhabited (a family of 4) a simple army tent. Another man I know whose family re-created an old schoolhouse in Western Massachusetts, adding on more over the years. Their name was “Homestead”, ironically. Given name, not chosen. Another friend, whose kitchen floor took at least 10 years to finally be entirely laid down.
For some, that may drive them crazy. Even Sue said, that as they neared the end of building, she felt ready for it to be done. But the people I know who have lived through this either by choice or necessity or because they were too stubborn to buy into a pre-fabricated life are the most real, show-up, day by day, rain or shine people whom I have the privilege to be aquainted with. There is something about the process of living through something fully, and even inside of that something, that feeds a knowing of ourselves as being unfinished- beautiful life in process beings that needn’t and cannot be rushed or coaxed into anything but what we are. Really building a dwelling place, building intimacy, growing your soul into the fertile earth cannot be rushed or skipped just like a plant cannot skip over being a seedling. Too many things in my life have appeared out of thin air, and my human animal body is missing for, longing for the ancient knowledge of process.
I am tired of the supermarket. Even (or maybe especially the Whole Foods).
(BTW of course my neighbors were “up to speed” on tiny houses. Their oldest son is a timber framer, and has the tumbleweeds book as every day reading right next to their toilet. It’s a “tiny” world).