Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Giver of Rocks

So it turns out I'm not quite done with the San Francisco de Asis church after all.  And it occurs to me that really, as long as I'm living in Taos, I will periodically find the time to stop by and sit by Clare and the hawkmoths.

Last Sunday, Eliana kept saying she wanted to go for a walk, so we went over there together, which is something we haven't done very often, and the last time she was still too little to walk by herself.  But this time, we went side by side, and it was lovely.  And when we walked through the grove that is no longer a grove, I noticed that the huge tarp they left there after enjarre last summer was still there.  (To be honest, part of what I was looking forward to about this walk was seeing if the tarp was still there, because 70% of my thinking these days is about where to get building materials and equipment, and tarps are needed to protect earthbags from UV rays during the building process.)  When I stretched it out and saw how big it really was, I realized I would need help folding it, so I called Graeme and he came to help me and then carried it back home.

Then Eliana and I proceeded on to the church, and I came across my second great find as we walked through the alley next to the gift shop.  They often leave boxes of empty used glass 7-day candleholders out there, but this was the first time they seemed of any use.  I've been researching making windows using old bottles and jars lodged in cob, so I was very excited to find these.  Now I will have part of the church permanently built into my house.

Do you see the cross design?  So cool!
Over at the church, there were quite a few visitors milling about the courtyard, and I found myself sitting at St. Francis' feet engrossed in a pleasant conversation with a couple from Dallas.  Meanwhile, Eliana was running happily around the courtyard, picking up rocks and then running up to whoever was nearby and saying "Here's a rock for you."  One couple was so delighted with this, they even included her in the photo they were posing for in front of the church doors.

It was a beautiful spring day, one of the first of the season, and I felt rich in my relationship with that place again, and blessed with the abundance of gifts of the day.  A tarp, a box of candleholders, a daughter who's an exuberant giver of rocks.  In my Lenten practice of giving up "stuff," it's these simple things that are coming to me in the new space I'm making.  I think Francis and Clare would approve.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Into the Desert

Lent is upon us again; I can't even believe a whole year has gone by since last year's life-changing Lent of giving up negative thought.

I've been so caught up in my housebuilding plans that I haven't given much thought to Lent at all this year, until a couple of days ago, when it suddenly struck me that I'm literally going into the desert for Lent this time!

Over the past few weeks, the occasional thought has crossed my mind about what to give up this year, but nothing was really jumping out at me.  Then the other day, as I was perusing the many tasks ahead of me before I can start building my house, the one that settled on my brain like a giant bloodsucking leech was about having to move out of this house.  Dealing with all that STUFF:  sorting it, selling it, throwing some away, taking some to the Free Box, dividing some up between my two oldest daughters to take to their respective apartments, possibly putting some in storage (ugh!), and ultimately just narrowing it all down to what is essential - because I'll be living in a 32-foot bus for several months.  And even after my house is built, I will need to live more simply as it's going to be on the small side.

Sigh.  I hate moving.

Today though, it occurred to me that I could just give up "stuff" for Lent.  Dress the whole dreaded task as a spiritual practice, thereby enlivening and redeeming it.  Now I'm actually excited to begin this process, and it's nice that I have a couple of months to do it all.  This way, I can focus on one little area at a time and be thorough and unrushed.

Just one of the many places in my house where there's TOO MUCH STUFF
I happened across an article today called The Zero-Waste Home from the January edition of Sunset magazine, about a family who lives very simply, producing almost no garbage.  I don't know if I'll ever live as austerely as they do (they don't even have any pictures on their walls), but it definitely inspired me to pare down quite a bit, to get excited about the challenge of choosing to keep only those things that are functional and/or inspirational.

My plan is to release at least one thing from my possession every day of Lent.  Some days it will be much more than one thing, but the goal is to be fully prepared to be out of this house with a minimum of - well, everything - by Easter.

And when I finally do get out into the desert, I will be carrying a much lighter load.  Literally.

Friday, March 4, 2011

All My Longings Know Where To Go

I love the relationship I've developed with our northern New Mexico spring.  When I lived in Louisiana, spring started in February, and by Mardi Gras, all the azaleas were blooming and I could comfortably open every window in the house.  Not so in northern New Mexico.  It took me several years to get used to the fact that February is still winter here.  Since February is also my birthday month, this felt like a personal insult.

But now, I've stopped looking for spring where it's not to be found, and embraced winter in its fullness instead.  I tend to forget that spring is even a possibility; I don't hope for it anymore.  So when it does arrive, it's always an unexpected delight.  It's a little like when you know what you're getting for your birthday, but the giver wraps it anyway so you get the pleasure of tearing the paper away.

Spring has begun to make her descent, and once again I find myself unexpectedly enlivened and delighted.  But this spring, there is the added factor of my housebuilding plans.  Spring means it's time to build, and I couldn't be more excited to begin.

A month or two ago, I copied the following horoscope from Rob Brezsny into this post draft, because it rang so true for me.
"All your longings know where to go," writes poet Nick Piombino, "but you have to tell them to open their eyes." That's one of your big assignments in 2011, Pisces: to make sure your longings keep their eyes open. It's not as easy as it might sound. Sometimes your longings get so entranced by obsessive fantasies -- so distracted by the stories that are swirling around in your imagination -- that they're blind to what's right in front of them. You must speak to your longings tenderly and patiently, as you would a beloved animal, coaxing them to trust that life will bring more interesting and useful blessings than anything fantasy could provide.   ~ Rob Brezsny, Freewill Astrology
Well, folks, my longing's eyes are open, and life has indeed been providing "more interesting and useful blessings than anything fantasy could provide."  In fact, I've been continually astounded by how beautifully different aspects of my housebuilding project have been falling into place.  I won't go into detail about that here, but if you're interested, you can read all about it at my new blog, Home Sweet Hive.

What I will say, though, is that my direction has definitely changed.  It occurred to me recently that I haven't even thought about the San Francisco church in a while, and in conversation with my dear blogging friend, Jennifer, I realized that it's time to close the door on that chapter of my life.

However, part of my plan for building a house has involved getting a 4WD vehicle for the rough terrain where my land will be, and when I contacted the man I ended up buying my new Chevy Blazer from, he suggested we meet in the church parking lot.  Walking over there that morning, I felt a satisfying sense of closure, that a beginning was happening in the exact place where something else was ending.

Another thing I copied into this post a while back (I do that sometimes, just gather snippets to build a post around later) was this quote from Thomas Merton, via Abbey of the Arts:
Forest and field, sun and wind and sky, earth and water, all speak the same silent language, reminding the monk that he is here to develop like the things that grow all around him.
The last snippet I had copied into this post was about clouds, as I noticed after I made my 2011 collage that there were an awful lot of them, which I didn't consciously intend.

I began to think about clouds as living things, and taking my cue from Merton, I pondered how I could develop like a cloud.  This goes back to longings, because I think of the expression "head in the clouds."  With this building project, I feel a profound balance of head in the clouds and feet firmly planted on the ground.

Developing "like the things that grow" is what building an off-grid house is about for me, and I've realized that it's not just flowers and trees, hummingbirds and bats that serve as models, but that gorgeous, handmade, majestic church building that I've sat gazing at for so long.  She herself is a growing, living thing, and that's how I want my house to be.


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