Monday, January 19, 2009

An excerpt from my journal/workbook for my novel-in-progress "Earthship"

(below is an excerpt from my journal/novel-in-progress "Earthship" which is the sequel to my other novel-in-progress "Jam")

 . . . 

My trips to New Mexico two years ago found me driving west of Taos, just beyond the Rio Grande Gorge to the Greater World Community Subdivision which is comprised of several dozen earthship structures and homes.  I had read about them for years and had entertained the idea of living in one someday.  Driving through the community is not welcomed for this is a private community, however there is a Visitors Center at the entrance to the community which is actually an older earthship that you can tour.  There are attendants at the visitor center who will give you a tour and answer questions and it is also set up so that one can walk around on an unguided tour and read about the various functions of the earthship.  The staff is very friendly and earthy and are often interns of the Earthship Biotecture’s hands on seminars or construction crews. 

I fell in love with earthships and decided that I would build or buy one day.  The sustainable architecture as presented to me by the Earthship Bbiotecture people represented to me a form of liberation and an attainable means of realizing my desires to live a simple, peaceful  life in harmony with nature.

The next year while in Taos again with my friend Laura who was visiting from California we decided to tour the visitor center. When we learned that there were several earthships available to rent for overnight stays we decided to stay in one.  It was winter and thought it would be interesting to check out how well these earthships held up to the freezing cold New Mexican nights.  Also I had been trying to increase the clarity of my intentions of living in an earthship so actually spending some time in one would be good for me to actually feel it first hand and know what it felt like to live in one.

I remember that after we brought our few things in, we sat down for a simple meal of hummus, pesto, bread, cheese and apples before taking a nap.  Our plan was to head out after sunset to find some local hot springs.  When I awoke from the nap I walked to the front of the earthship with its tall southern oriented row of  windows.  As I stepped up close to the low wall which housed the indoor planter cell full of leafy plants, I was taken aback by the sight before me.  

The night sky was laid out before me like no other building or home I had ever been in.  The star filled expanse was visible to my left and right and above and, due to the 60˚ angle of the windows, over and behind my head.  

The Greater World Community sits several miles outside Taos so the stars were not washed away by the lights of the small city.  I could actually see the milky way from inside the earthship.  

I was in awe of the celestial heavens.  

I felt like I was in the nightsky.  

I felt like a starship captain at the helm.  

I felt like getting naked.

We left in search for the hot springs.  We had received directions to two different ones.  The first route we took down a dirt road brought us eventually to a cardboard box in the middle of the road that was weighted down with rocks and a message scrawled in sharpie marker read road closed.  It was kind of eerie.  After some deliberation we drove past this box with some trepidation in hopes of simply violating this handmade sign.  Shortly afterward the road ahead had been bulldozed with enormous gouges and mounds to prevent motorized traffic. We turned the car around, eyes scanning the dark for anything freaky and out of place.  

Like Texan cannibals with guns, chainsaws and hooks improvised from scrap metal.

The next hot spring suggestion took us to another dirt road along which were several houses, mostly cracker box style but a couple that seemed to be earthships, especially one which had many warmly lit sections.  This road ended at the edge of the gorge where we would have to climb down to hot springs situated along the Rio Grande . . . in the dark.  We hadn’t quite expected the severity of the hike down and had no flashlight, so we abandoned the idea of hot springs and headed back to the earthship.  

Outside it was freezing cold, but as we entered the earthship it was noticeably warm and comfortable.  It was amazing and we chatted about the warmth and how great the earthship functioned for awhile before retiring.

In the morning we made tea and had several peaceful meditative moments of soaking in the sun as it came in through the row of large windows bathing us and the plants growing in the planter cell with wonderful warm sunlight.  It was this very sunlight streaming in all day, even though it was cold and wintry outside, which would be absorbed by the thick thermal mass walls and floor and radiate back out into the living space at night to keep us warm.

This year my wife decided that we were going to get out of town for the holidays and suggested renting an earthship.  Our friend Laura decided to fly out and join us.

Due to our last minute decision making there were only two earthships available and on different days.  We chose to stay in the same earthship as last time.  It’s called “The Studio”earthship and is actually a duplex.  A woman who works from home resides in the other half of the rental.

This year it was even colder than before and had been snowing for days.  The snow had actually drifted a foot up the windows.  It was an interesting sight from inside the earthships  living space with its floor actually several feet lower than the ground level outside, to see snow crawling up the window beyond the copious pink blooms of the bouganvillia growing in the planter cell. Many of the plants in the planter cell were blooming.  It may be winter outside, but it was a kind of endless summer inside.

several successive days of overcast weather had limited the amount of power stored in the earthships’ batteries so even though there was power for the water pump, water heater and lights, there was little extra for the electrical outlets to charge our phones and the EtherNet router kept going out leaving us without internet service as well.  While we went out in the daytime a member of the Earthship Biotecture dropped by to check on the power, probably alerted by the tenant in the other half of the duplex, but we never really got an answer about the power problems nor did we get more power so we assumed it was due to the cloudy weather.  Wind power would have been a welcome addition to this old earthship.

Another aspect of the cloudy days was that there was little solar energy coming in to warm up the thermal mass.  This left the earthship at around 58˚, which is the constant temperature of the insulating earth below the frost line.  We kept a fire going in the fireplace which was beautifully sculpted into the wall for the first evening and night.  The next day we ended up getting some sun and it warmed up nicely inside.

I remember getting up in the morning to make tea, meditate and do some writing.  While writing I stood in the kitchen looking out the great windows. 

Outside, the cloud cover of the  overcast sky was breaking up a bit.  Far to the south, closer to the mountain the sun was illuminating a section of clouds.  This section was glowing, the sunlight behind them seeming to increase until suddenly huge beams of sunlight angled down and swept across the blue grey slopes of the mountains.  Because the beams of sunlight were illuminating the light snow falling in the air, they seemed nearly solid.   They appeared to have manifested directly from a child’s drawing.

The sky was enormous and as the clouds  began to break up and allow the sun to shine down onto the desert floor as well as into the earthship, large patches of blue sky were emerging.  

Standing at the large windows which stretched up over and behind  my head and looking up at the clouds had just as striking an effect on me as it had done a year before when I had observed the stars from these same windows.  

I stood there for awhile, mesmerized by the swirling morphing clouds.  Funny how I had never noticed how good a windy day was for cloud gazing.  I guess that I had mostly stayed in on windy days in houses and buildings with small vertical windows and usually poor views of the sky above our heads. 

These large over arching windows which had given me such a celestial vantage at night, now allowed me to cloud gaze in style.

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