Sunday, August 28, 2011


Rainbow over the building site
In the earthbag house plans I bought from Owen Geiger, it says, "First, clear and level the building site."  That one sentence, those seven little words, became my entire summer.  And this, initially was for two main reasons:  1) I didn't have enough money to hire a guy with a backhoe, and 2) because of having to work, I could only work on the site an hour or two a day, and not even every day.  Compounding these were the intense smoke from the Las Conchas fire through most of June and July, and the intense heat during the middle of the day.

I had this idea starting out that I could get the house finished before winter, and if I had hired a guy with a backhoe, maybe I would have.  But after I realized that this simply wasn't going to happen, something very cool happened.  I gave myself over to the work; I allowed myself to fall into its rhythm. I began to look forward to moving my daily inch of earth, just as I looked forward to other little daily tasks unique to my new living situation.  It's all just part of this life, I now understood, each task as significant and ultimately meaningless as any action in life.

I came to look forward to rising at dawn and brewing coffee on my Coleman stove, writing in my journal, then going out with the mattock to chop grassy lumps, and eventually with a shovel, a rake, and a wheelbarrow to move dirt around to level the site.  I didn't care how long it took anymore or how hard it was or how dirty and imprecise. 

I realized I didn't actually want a guy with a backhoe to do it for me, even if I could afford it.  One day it struck me that the process I was involved in was much like giving birth at home - it was MY work, my transformation.  I was about halfway through the leveling process at that point; I was leveling the earth as it was leveling me.

My handheld tools powered by my lifeforce and gravity will have provided the foundation my house will rest upon until it is not more.  And that could be a very long time, far longer than the life of the body responsible for it.  Because it is not in fact the body that does this work, but the spirit does it through the body.  The body is just another tool.

In the Earthbag Building book, Kaki and Donald say, "Action dispels doubt," and that has become sort of a mantra for me.  Every time I've felt overwhelmed by the scope of the task, not having a clue what I'm doing, I've simply gone out there and started, and something in me has known what to do.  It's as though the earth in my bones is listening to the earth beneath my feet; it's an intuition deeper than than an idea.

When I first realized how hard and time-consuming it was going to be to level the pad by hand, I started looking for shortcuts.  I thought, Hmm, it's really only the rubble trench foundation that needs to be level, so I'll just start digging from the highest point and measure the 18 inches from there, and then level the trench with rubble later.  And then the floor can be leveled with scoria much later.

I could have done that, but that intuitive earth in me wouldn't let me.  On the practical level (no pun intended), I realized that I'd end up spending more on scoria down the line, but deeper and more primary than that was the need to become intimate with every inch of this project, this land.  The need to do it completely, to inhabit it.

And the joy of seeing that little bubble in the center of the level window is so worth it.  The joy of raking earth into spirals starting from the center of each dome circle and working my way out.  The joy of standing on the ground of my one-day house and seeing it now flat and round, looking like Owen's construction drawings.


  1. looks like a wonderful sacred circle
    congratulations on achieving 'step 1'

  2. Beautiful, polli. Your sacred work, sacred circle, sacred home. You're so much in harmony with the earth and the sky and the wind and the clouds and the sun, that they sing their wisdom through you.

    Blessings, Little Sister :-)

  3. Wow! Congratulations!
    Very impressive and inspiring! You deserve a medal or something! ;-)

    Keep going with the flow.

  4. Beautiful!
    "intuitive earth in me"
    I love these words. Thank you.

  5. Kel, Claire, numblock, and Jenny - Thank you! It's strengthening to receive such supportive words.