Friday, July 15, 2011

Of Mattocks and Muscles

I've always had a hard time - being a writer since practically birth it seems - keeping up with all the things I want to write about.  It's especially frustrating these days, because I write for a living so most of my writing juice goes to that, but now there's the added (huge) factor that I'm building a house.  There are so many things, dear reader, that I want to share with you:  the daily morning soap opera of the hummingbirds that gather and fight around the feeder I've erected, the gloriousness of my outdoor shower.   I want to wax rhapsodic about the directness, the immediateness, the unobstructedness of simply everything the land is showing me:  Wind.  Water.  Fire.  Earth. 

But what I'm going to do is tell you about a girl and her brick.

When I was around 18, I used to go out on Chimes Street in Baton Rouge.  It was a magical place, hard to describe.  It was just off the campus of Louisiana State University, a tiny little street with a couple of hip dive bars on it, but it deadended at what was commonly called "The Enchanted Forest."  Truman Capote reputedly lived on this street for a while, in a small apartment complex known only as "The Ghetto."  The best bar on this street, The Bayou, was featured in the movie Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh, the director, is from Baton Rouge).  Sadly, the Bayou has since burned down.

Anyway, my point - and I do have one - is that one night while wandering around Chimes Street and the adjacent neighborhood, I came across a heap of bricks in an empty lot and picked one up.  It felt really good to hold it, to feel its weight in my hand.  I carried it around all night, and I later wrote a poem with lines inspired by that experience:   "A girl and her brick/ has become a woman building."

It just hit me that I am now truly that woman in a way I was nowhere near imagining when I wrote the lines.  No, I haven't laid a single earthbag yet, but I've been mattocking sagebrush, having graduated from a garden fork and trowel.  And I looked in the mirror today and saw muscles.  Muscles! 

What could be more rewarding than seeing how every day I can spend a little more time smashing and pulling sagebrush, raking and wheelbarrowing, before I get too tired and have to stop?  I know there are a lot of people who start working out at a gym and stick to it long enough to experience the triumph of increasing their weights, losing 10 pounds, etc. - but this is so much more than that, because all of this means that at the end of a morning or evening of work, I can stand there and survey the site where my house will be.  That I will build.  On my land.  That is mine.

Almost all the sagebrush has now been removed from within the boundaries defined by the little hot pink flags, which were carefully placed by measuring the diameter of my domes and the length of the whole house.  I have to admit, I stand there long and just look, every time I finish for the day.  Yes. Yes. Yes.

And now, some photos from the buswarming:

My awesome friend Nicole, who owns this land with me and finally got to see it for the first time.  Here she is making a masterpiece with a Shiner cap and some sparkly string.

Richard, Kerry, and their kids.  Graeme and I got our first hands-on earthbag experience at their barnraising in Colorado, so I'm really glad they came, and their kids had a great time with Eliana.
Richard and Kerry brought me two tomato plants along with two hand-painted tires and dirt for planting them.  They also brought me a ton of earthbags.  Yay! 
Richard and Justin (Eliana's dad) watch the kids play.

Have no idea what happened here, but I thought it was a cool effect.  That ghostlike creature is actually my good friend Alima, who brought me all kinds of goodies, including earthbags, a basil plant, a jade plant, and a braid of fresh sweetgrass.

Obligatory photo of self; have no idea who took this.  I love my new floppy hat with the chin strap to keep the wind from blowing it away.


  1. Just so cool, Polli! So neat to imagine you over there, free, off-grid.
    Happy bus-warming! So glad you have lovely friends.
    Sending you love, light, and laughter.
    And blessings, blessings, blessings....

  2. may the warm fuzzy effect from social celebratory gatherings carry you through the times when it seems less fun

  3. Great post from the Enchanted Forest to Alima and your Floppy hat. I know you are having the time of your life. Thanks for sharing!

  4. "Buswarming." I like it.

    Ain't that a satisfactory feeling? It's one humanity has long lost touch with. The feeling of holding a good solid brick in your hand. The feeling of standing on your own plot of land every evening and surveying the honest work you've done to clear it. Building your own home on your own land, and seeing muscles in the mirror.

    I'm REALLY glad you started blogging about this.