Sunday, December 6, 2009

Between visits to Maine and a book review

I spend most of my time on Cape Cod. This is where I work and dwell with my wife-to-be and our three cats. It is a beautiful place with many interesting resident characters. But my emotional view of it has changed since moving here from New York City three years ago. Since beginning the construction of my house sculpture, the Cape has become a sort of purgatory where I kill time before my next trip to Maine. It sounds harsh to call such a beautiful place as Cape Cod "purgatory". Cape Cod is a natural paradise and within it's local population reside many fine old souls. Even so, it is next to impossible for a person of the working class to own even a very small piece of this place. The Cape and it's beauty is so well known that many wealthy people have bought up most of the property. Their willingness to pay any amount to own a vacation home here has driven property values into a realm that only someone earning a six figure salary can afford. There are no jobs that pay that kind of money on the outer Cape. Therefore most of the property owners go back to where their jobs are and leave their homes vacant for the remaining 50 or so weeks of the year. The locals are forced to live in small overpriced apartments and/or must move every spring and fall to make room for the more wealthy summer residents or vacationers. It's nice to live here but not an easy place to live or raise a family and no place for a person with my dreams. I have very large and very silly dreams. My kind of dreams could not be accomplished on the Cape even if I did have a great deal of money. This place is far too regimented and restrictive for such silliness.
Maine is the place for me! I can build whatever I want as long as I don't violate any of the simple environmental regulations. That's fair. A person should not destroy the world around them in order to accomplish their dreams. That is God's privilege. But I can build my own house however funky I wish. Awesome. Another thing I've wanted is a tree house. Maybe I'll build that next. And a race track so that I can have demolition or enduro races in old jalopies with my friends. I want a zip line that spans 10 acres. I want to build a self sufficient home; one in which I could produce my own food, heat and energy. All these things are possible with my Maine property, not Cape Cod. These are my dreams... and what is that thing called in which a soul is barred from trying to accomplish his dreams? What is the name of a place like that?
Remember The Prisoner? Remember #6 and the pretty Village where he lived? There is nothing I loath more than a prison. I hate the sort of place where only the rich are allowed to seek and accomplish their dreams; and what boring dreams have they got anyway? To have more money or more kids? A bigger house? The latest model of the newest Fuckmobile? Fuck that!

Now that I have those thoughts out of the way I'd like to get to my book review. I recently finished reading a Cape Cod classic: The Outermost House by Henry Beston. Many local Cape Codders are familiar with this story of a man who in 1925 buys 50 acres off coastguard beach in Eastham. He has a small cottage built on the dunes over looking the beach and spends a year living in it. All the while he observes the nature that surrounds him. It's the sort of adventure I would like to have, though I think that I would become very lonely after so much time alone. Beston's prose is beautiful and descriptive. His observations of nature, from his vantage point are fantastic. Nature is such a star that it almost completely out shines his own experience of it. Occasionally he draws contrasts of nature in the context of the modern world of humans but rarely inserts his own opinion. With such keen observations I wanted to know more about what he was thinking and what his emotional experience was. However, if you like birds you will love this book. Beston is utterly and completely gay for birds. They are the most closely followed characters in this narrative! With my limited interest in birds, I really had to push through to get to the end. I became bored with the birds. The prose, however make it worth the read.
It is yet another dream of mine to do as Henry Beston did. I was especially curious how he managed to afford to be unemployed for a year and how his fiance' reacted to this idea of his. My girl would not be happy at all. Not at all.
I have spent up to two weeks in my own little fo'castle in Maine, but I start to get stir crazy. I become very run-down, tired, depressed and most of all lonely. Of course, my goals and experiences are different than Beston's, and I am living within a construction zone. I tend to spend much of my artistic capitol when I am there. I feel such an overwhelming urgency to make this house a home that I work nonstop, scarcely breaking for food or rest during each 12-14 hour workday. I find it impossible to rest. At the the end of two weeks I am exhausted and just want to return to the warmth of my Girl and indoor plumbing. However, a hot shower never felt so good!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

November '09

November was beautiful with temperatures well above average: good weather to spend in the pit of my pump house. During my stay I concentrated on building the shelter for my water pump, running electrical cable and plumbing. Building the shelter was easy. It's basically a shed built over top of the pit I had dug and sleeved on my previous visit that connects to the house. It took me a couple of days to construct.

When that was done, I connected the water line that enters at the bottom of the pit from the well to the jet pump. As for the water line running into the house I needed a system that would prevent freezing of the pipes and the pump on the coldest of Maine winter nights. To accomplish this I employed three measures. First is depth and insulation. Freezing below ground level can only occur to a point. In Maine the frost line is about four feet. My pump's incoming pipe is only about one foot below ground level at the point that it enters the top of the pump. To help protect it I built a box around it and insulated the shed. But that's not enough to be safe. My second remedy was to wire in a light fixture near the pump that remains powered when the pump is powered. That way a 100watt bulb can help heat the area in the vicinity of the pump. Third, to ensure that the pipe running into the house does not freeze I sleeved the 3/4 " CPVC in 3" schedule 40 vent pipe. As the pipe leaves the pump it immediately enters the 3" sleeve and travels through an opening into the house. Here it exits the sleeve via a capped T. The remainder of the vent pipe extends to the ceiling where it is connected to a small exhaust fan. That will of course propel warm air from the house into the pump house and warm the incoming pipe along the way.

After my adventures in the pit, one last day remained for this November trip. I spent the time working in the sun, adding trim to the outside of the kitchen and closing up some of the remaining openings in the foundation. This last part includes an access door to the underside of the kitchen and an exterior storage compartment.
So that wraps up my week long trip to Monroe in November. I plan to return in mid- December when I may add some insulation to the underside of the house and work on a stone backing for the wood stove that will include a deep mantel piece.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wouldn't that be Cool? Oct'09

This Oct. of 2009 marks two years since beginning this House Sculpture. In that time I have found this to be as psychological a journey as it is a building process. As the construction of this house continues, my personal psyche seems to be undergoing deconstruction. I've noticed for sometime now that what I am doing here is some form of walking meditation. Old memories, current unresolved issues and internal chatter are constant companions. As I work on any variety of projects my mind follows all sorts of pathways (in addition to visualizing and measuring the goal of a completed home) that correspond to different parts of my psyche. It occurs to me that in dreams the mental framework of the dreamer is often represented by a house. Different rooms tend to represent corresponding aspects of the dreamer's psychology. For instance the basement holds old memories or unresolved issues. In turn the attic typically represents higher awareness; the bedroom, sex; the bathroom, the release of old unwanted "dirty" emotions, etc.. This is very general and the representations vary widely with different individuals. In my case some of these representations have been very accurate in past dreams. Currently not so much. I recently had two dreams that concerned the house I am building.

Last night I dreamed that I was on the land with my Dad. I think we were cutting firewood. It was near dusk. We were working nearby the house. My Dad went to get something from the house and in his absence a car pulled up full of people, all roughly my age. I recognized a few but they were not friends; at best acquaintances. They all got out of the car and immediately had a campfire going. Someone produced a joint and they passed it around. I took a drag as well. Around this time my Dad showed up and I introduced a couple of people I knew the names of. (In reality they are not familiar.) Everyone was very jovial but I began to feel rather put upon. Who were these people and what are they doing here? I wondered. I felt that they were intruding on something private. This was my land and I was spending time with my parents. At that point my Mom showed up driving a long old fashioned flatbed truck. I noticed that it had a flat rear tire.
The other dream I had while in Maine: I dreamed that Sarah showed up in the middle of the night and crawled into bed with me. In the morning we awoke to a huge construction crew with cranes and everything. They had begun to build a massive steel framework outside against the house. It dwarfed my house by comparison. I was horrified. It was an incredible intrusion and it was spoiling the modest dwelling I had created on my own. The crew was huge and worked very fast. Soon it had it's walls and roof and stadium seating was being erected inside. It looked like a huge theater with drapery and wall sconces. More and more people began showing up all dressed in formal attire. At some point I was informed that it was a wedding that was to take place. I wondered who was getting married and who were all these people and who had invited them? I didn't recognize a soul except for Sarah who I could only occasionally pick out of the crowd before she would disappear again.

I'm not sure what any of this means to me. There is certainly some fear of being intruded upon but I am unsure in what way it translates into reality.
Perhaps an update on this project is in order.

I arrived on the property on Friday 9. My parents were due to arrive on Wednesday so I had a few days to myself. During that time I worked on the entryway to the kitchen. I had previously put some stone blocks in place for the stairs and molded them to the foundation. I continued this work by finishing the foundation and putting up a timber structure to support a ceiling/floor above the entryway. It was about this time that I had a flash of creative brilliance. It occurred to me that I should build a tower that would house a wind turbine and a Double-Decker greenhouse. Wouldn't that be cool?

It was such a profound shot of awesomeness to my original plans that I took a break on that part of the house for a day. I needed an idea this cool to foment in my mind for a day. Instead I began work on a pump house: a below-ground little structure to house my water pump that will be capable of drawing heat and electricity from the house and in turn deliver water to wherever I should need it. All I accomplished that day was digging the hole (easy with the backhoe) and setting cement blocks on a level course to build upon later (hard).

When my parents arrived they immediately set to work. My Mom cleaned the disgusting wreck that was my kitchen and made lunch while my Dad and I prepared the kitchen addition for it's roof. And that's how it went. They wanted to help in any way that they could and did so for the duration of their stay. In that time we put a roof over the future kitchen, thus opening it up as a usable, heatable space that brings southwestern light into the entire house. Also we built the first four feet of the pump house that is basically a brick and wooden sleeve that extends down into the ground. This was the hard part. What's left is to build a roof that connects it to the house so that vent pipe for electrical line, heating and incoming water pipe can be added with insulation. Doors or a lid for access will open to the outside.
My parents also cut a ton of firewood that I sorely needed for the upcoming winter what promises to be a cold one according to the Farmer's Almanac. It was a huge help and a great bonding experience. But all things come to their end. As has happened immediately after previous visits I was struck with a profound sense of loss and sadness when they drove away. Somehow this house project leaves my soul bare. I've never been been so emotionally connected with any art project or my family before but there is something bigger in building a house. It is a home, a nest. It is a primary task undertaken by a multitude species. Shelter is a basic need and is almost essential to raising a family. Humans need it more than any other animal yet they rarely build their own especially in modern times. And what is the importance of family? This is a question that I've never seriously pondered until I began this project. It first entered my mind when I was setting the stones for the hearth in the first month of construction... right after my folks left in October of 2007.
So now since their departure I have been thinking about the importance of having a son or daughter of my own. It is a conflicted subject of consideration. I have and still maintain the belief that the Anglo-Saxon side of humanity is a cancer upon the earth. It's ideals based in selfishness have practically enveloped all the other races of human kind. As a species we have destroyed and inflicted unspeakable amounts of pain and anguish upon our own and the rest of creation. We have done this not out of any sense of survival but out of arrogance and fear. We are a pitiful, spiteful race of beings. Even now with our technology and enormous wealth with the potential to do so much good in the world our most powerful seem only interested in more power... this is no great secret. Everybody knows this... I know this. I am ashamed of what I am, and somehow this shame has recently been charged to it's apex by it's compliment: the unconquerable love of my family. Interestingly this translates for me into the need to procreate and continue that family. I really don't understand it at present. I feel raw and troubled. But this is the consolation prize of being human: the ability to discern our history and present actions truthfully and do it better in the future.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sept. '09 Current Progress

The end of the Summer Tourist season on Cape Cod has signaled my return to Maine and to continue regular work on the house. Ideally I would like spend 10 days each month working on it until the summer season resumes. Such a situation would be the height of luxury to me, but low earnings this year may make such plans impossible as I may have to take on another job. The prospect worries me. My greatest passion is the construction of this home and I have worked very hard all summer to have some extra time off in the winter. Time will tell. I must remember that the universe is unfolding as it should and that sometimes I get what I need: not what I want. The most important aspects of my small part in this cosmic production will somehow be fulfilled if they are valid to my conscious evolution. I just hope that this house project is part of that. For what it's worth, I am happy that Fall is here and am excited to do more work to my "house sculpture".

This last trip was rather short.. I certainly was not ready to leave but I had work obligations to attend to on the Cape. I was able to spend four days working on the kitchen addition and even though I slacked off quite a lot, I accomplished a fair amount of work.

I first sheathed up what I had framed the previous visit in June and finished framing the box that will be my future kitchen. I put in a front door that I salvaged from a demolition in Eastham, MA to close in the last bit. After that it was time to turn my attention to finishing the foundation which I wanted to form the first steps of the entryway and a little planter box for some future shrubbery. It's a rough job collecting stones from around the property, fitting and mortaring them together. All the better is the satisfaction of doing it myself, making something that looks heavy, organic and fitting to the environment and doing it cheaply. For about 24 ft. of this foundation I spent roughly $20 for four bags of mortar.

There is still more to do before I can install timbers that will support the future-roof's peak. There is also much to do to the house and overall foundation in order to seal up the house for the winter. One of those projects will be the construction of a pump room for the water pump. Last February when Maine was hit with temperatures around -20F my incoming water pipes froze and split. The pump room will hopefully remedy a repeat occurrence. The small room (3'X5') will project off the northern wall and step down below ground level about 3ft. so that the pump may meet the pipe from the well below the frost line in a room that will receive heat from the house's wood stove. This winter's freezing temperatures will test this new idea that should shield the pump and incoming pipes from the cold. More to come on that...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Current progress June 09

A break in my schedule left me with a few days to do some work on the house at the beginning of June. During my previous visit I had cut away the front half of the camper, thus exposing what little kitchen was left attached to the house to the great outdoors. I left the house with a blue tarp bungeed over the gaping hole. I wasn't able to return for nearly two months and I was afraid that a family of coyotes had possibly moved in. Luckily, upon my arrival the house was undisturbed and ready for more work. It was late in the day Sunday so I spent the remainder of the day getting my tools together and thinking about how I would proceed with the foundation (which was partially started from my last visit). Another area of thought was of how to smoothly connect my new kitchen addition to the hulk of camper. Ideally the camper will disappear altogether in the final stages of siding the addition.
On Monday morning I cranked the old Chevy pickup to life and drove out to Thorndike where I have previously purchased rough-sawed lumber for 35 cents a foot. I got several hundred feet of 2X6s and 1X8s. The mill was hopping like I had never seen it before. There were many new employees and there seemed to be new projects going on in addition to the usual custom beams. It was good to see this local Maine business located along a bumpy back road doing so well.
When I returned I began gathering stones and mixing Mortar for the foundation. Fitting the raw stones together is time consuming and back breaking work but it looks wicked cool when done. It took me all day to finish the northwestern-facing L of about 16 feet. It looked heavy and organic, like the earth had grown this foundation for my little shack to sit upon.

The next day was considerably easier. I finished framing out the floor in the morning and decided to also frame out (and support) an outcropping which, when the foundation is molded into stone steps, will form the back entryway. Perhaps I will tackle that project next visit. For this day my goal was to frame and insulate the floor and put down the 1" sub-floor. It took 14 hours that day but I reached my goal. After pounding in the last nail of the sub-floor I laid on my back and rested. It feels good to be so tired and to work hard for a cause that I know to be meaningful. I rewarded myself with a cold Guinness. It would give me the energy to make dinner. I was starving.

On Wednesday, my last day, I framed up some of the walls and connected them to the camper. The connection required some cutting and the removal of a temporary roof I had erected over the camper. I then framed out a new roof that now connects the addition to the rest of the house by spanning the length of the camper. Again, the plan is to entirely encapsulate the camper with the house which of course includes a new roof. The roof is also something I will need to finish at a later date. Towards the end of that day I installed the windows (generously donated by Dave Tubman of Brewster MA). It was another day of valid accomplishment. It made me sad to think that I needed to leave my little utopia so soon, but as usual, I was out of money and needed to return to my work on the Cape.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Breaking Ground

In the Fall of 07 it was time to get started building a structure off the back of the camper. My plan was to spend two weeks in Maine. The first week my parents were to arrive two days after my arrival. When I first showed up I had a momentary episode of panic. My plan throughout the summer was to attach a small house to the camper where I had parked it the previous spring. When I arrived at the land and looked around, there where so many excellent sites to build upon I didn't know what to do. This was a big decision! I spent one day second guessing myself, weighing pros and cons of each location and decided to build where I had originally planned.
By hand, I dug out 3ft. square sections of of loam and vegetation until I hit compatible soil or bedrock which meant digging down only about 6-12 inches for every 8ft. (Eventually I shortened the span to every 4ft.) . In each dug out section I placed two 8"X16" cement blocks (to form a 16"X16"sq.) and filled them with concrete. I placed metal pipe strapping in the wet cement. By the time I was halfway through this step, my parents showed up. They had flown all the way from Oregon to help me out. And it was a good thing too, because I was feeling pretty doubtful about this sort of foundation. But they gave me just to boost of encouragement I needed. They got right to work with no hesitation as to my design or the fact that they had just driven three hours from a motel in New Hampshire!
So this is what we did: The foundation consisted of cement blocks every 8 feet. On top of these we placed chainsaw cut cedar and hemlock posts ranging in diameter from 10"-16" and anchored them with the pipe straps. Their lengths were all different so as to accommodate for the different elevations of the blocks and end up with a level floor. The house was to perch on a moderate incline. On top of the posts we set 4"X6"X8' pieces of hemlock and atop those we attached 2"X8"X8' stringers to form a 16'X16' sub-floor of rough cut 1" hemlock of varied widths. In addition we built a 4'X8' step up to attach the camper. At the NE side corner we built a pillar of cement blocks to stand flush with the floor. This was to support a future wood stove. There was no electricity so all of our cuts were made by chainsaw or handsaw.

Towards the end of my parent's visit we began to frame up some of the walls with 2"X6"s. We got most of the western walls framed where the camper was attached before my parents had to climb into their rental car and make the 4 hour drive back to Boston to catch an 8 hour flight to Portland OR to get into their car and drive another 3 hours to finally make it home to Roseburg. What a trip to take! On top of that they bought me dinner for every night of their stay. That's love. I broke into tears as they drove away. I could scarcely believe that they would go to so much expense and trouble just to help me build a shack in the woods on the other side of the country! But that is not the first time I have underestimated their love for me...

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Shack

It was the winter of 07 and I needed some kind of small dwelling on the land. It had to be small and basic with heat and a sink and maybe a place to sit and draw, like a desk. It was very much the thing I had imagined as an adolescent.
To date it is not finished. I constructed what is pictured mostly from poles on the land or scrap wood and pallets from various dumpsters on the Cape. At the end of February I bought a truck and camper combination for $500. It was a lot of money for me at the time but solved the problem of having a place to sleep on the land. It was fully self contained with a propane stove, refrigerator and heater. Before that I would either sleep in a tent or when it was crazy cold, stay in a motel in Belfast.
At some point I hope to finish the structure. I'm not sure what function it will serve...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Beautiful Conflict

My friend Shane recently asked if my Jehovah's Witness upbringing has provided inspiration in doing art projects. It's a good question and I think it relates to this Maine House project. The short answer is "yes"; and although I am not altogether sure that I would use the word "inspiration", I cannot think of a word that seems any more appropriate. Inspiration is not necessarily some rapturous event. The creative process involves a lot of love but just as essential is conflict. It is conflict of the soul that drives people to create in the first place, to manage it. The craft of Art is really little more than the management of opposites. The greater the harmony of light and shadow, of cold and warmth, of great and small of all elements contained in the piece, the more pleasing it is to experience.
The people that we become as adults is largely influenced by our childhood experiences, especially as we relate to others. I think it is true to say that the way in which we relate to others determines how we live our lives and spend our time. All people need people. That is why solitary confinement tends to be a prisoner's most severe punishment. That is where the conflict comes in for me and the subsequent drive to make art.
My personal experience with organized religion maybe a little unusual but the end result for many who were raised in heavily religious households can be very much the same. The Jehovah's Witnesses is a cult that finds loyalty by coercion. The Governing Body which is at the heart of the organization, creates lessons and sermons which are passed down to the Elders of each congregation. The outlines that the Elders are given site many Bible verses (which usually consist of one to three sentences) from all over the new and old testaments, that back up the prevailing message of each sermon or "talk" as they call them. A new scripture would be sited every 60 seconds or so during the discourse and it was strongly encouraged that all members of the congregation look up each scripture and read along with the speaker. As soon as the verse was read, you could hear the crackle of a hundred Bible pages flipping simultaneously to the next verse sited. Of course each reading would backup whatever fear-based horse shit the speaker was rattling on about. Sometimes I would try to read the paragraphs surrounding the verse to figure out the context, but the rest of the congregation was always off to the next verse and if I wasn't turning pages my parents would notice and smack me. So it was in this way that from a so-called scriptural basis nearly every form of social interaction with the outside world was reduced to outright sin. I was to have no friends outside the congregation. (my parents did make an exception to that rule regarding a neighbor boy that I had made friends with. That however did not last as I was excluded from all extracurricular school activities. He found normal friends.) Other rules excluded me from any activities that had their basis in religious or national holidays. I was not to salute the flag. I was not allowed to play sports after school or attend any dances or other social functions. If a film or school project contained any depiction of religious holiday (i.e. Christmas, Halloween, Valentines Day etc.) I was excused to some other room to do worksheets or some other form of busy work. Sometimes I was allowed to draw.
My estrangement did not become obvious to me until around the 4th grade when I began to notice that the other kids were beginning to form groups or "clicks". In addition, I was becoming very interested in girls which were also forbidden. By Junior High, the horrible reality that I was a "weird" kid was painfully sinking in. It also became obvious to several other kids. Some of them would spit in my face or sucker punch me (among other things). My moral center was so askew that I felt I deserved it. It never even occurred to me to fight back. They were doing the same as I would do. I loathed what I was. In my opinion they were being easy on me. It was a bit of real interaction in what was otherwise a world of solitary confinement.
So I spent a lot of time alone. I experienced the harsh conflict between the need to be among my peers and lonely despair that was my reality. Conflict turned to rage. I discovered great depths of hatred for the unexpressed thing in me that was ceaselessly pushing, asserting it's humanity. Nature wanted to make me a man; a filthy disgusting sinful wretch. My body and mind conflicted terribly with what I was groomed to be. The Jehovah's Witnesses demanded absolute cleanliness of mind and body. To think a sin was the same as committing the sin. If a sin was found out, immediate expulsion from the congregation and from the offender's immediate family was the penalty. And there I was, committing countless forms of immorality in my mind upon most of the girls at my school and most especially upon myself where I had free reign. Next to nothing was not a sin and at age 12 I dreaded the very real possibility of disassociation. Even sitting quietly at the Kingdom Hall, flipping back and forth through my Bible, I was sinning up a storm. Some of my "sisters" were looking good, especially the way my extra-developed, badly disciplined imagination removed their proper dresses and altered points of their anatomy. It was around the age of 13, with the looming possibility of being expelled from my home, that I began to design my own private dwellings. They were always cleverly hidden so as to avoid the authorities and generally very small, like a clubhouse. Even at that age, building such a thing was not out of my realm of possibilities as I built several "practice" structures out of scrap. The problem was always feeding myself. We lived very far from any stores and I had no money. The possibility of stealing what I needed did not occur to me until later. In retrospect however, I think that the thing that held me at home was the emotional connection to my family. It took many years to mentally and emotionally "kill" my parents to sever that connection. Only after that could I endure disassociation from my family and attempt to cast off the built-in moral constraints that made it impossible to live with myself and others. I am now resigned to the possibility that I will never fully rid myself of this manufactured behavior. It's just too deep. I learned so well to be without people that I am now repulsed by most contact with them; and yet I love and need people around me to maintain my sanity. Most aspects of social life make me very uncomfortable. But art is a sort of sanctuary. Managing 55 acres in Maine, far away from everyone is blissful, but only for moderate amounts of time. I tend to become ungrounded and depressed within about two weeks.
Through my upbringing, I experienced great conflict which in turn gave me the power and the need to create art. Maybe the seed of inspiration lies somewhere within. For me there was no other form of expression. The punishment at the time for talking about my feelings was too great. I cannot resolve the conflict between my humanity and the artificial morality implanted by the JWs, so I try my best to control or harmonize the conflicting elements of my environment like color in my paintings or structure in the house sculpture. The house is very much the expression of my conflict, but with many more dimensions. I am realizing many of my old childhood fears and possibly putting some to rest through this process. Each dimension helps me understand myself a little better which in turn makes life in my body a little more bearable, sometimes a pleasure!
Sometimes I make conflict beautiful.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The outhouse

One could define a spiritual experience as that of being released from a prison to a state of perfect freedom. The prisons in which we find ourselves locked tend to be mostly if not completely psychological. Their liberation equally so: despair to love or from hate to joy. Euphoria can be experienced whenever our perception of reality moves suddenly from one opposite to another. Spiritual experiences happen all the time.

When the snow abated in the spring of 07 I set to the task of building an outhouse. Oddly enough I did not need a building permit for the house I planned to build. No such thing in Monroe. The state of Maine does, however have strict environmental laws. I did have to go to town hall and buy a $100 permit to dig a hole for an outhouse. The hole I dug had to be inspected by the local code enforcer. The hole had to be exactly 30" deep and approximately the same size across and back. As soon as I had dug the hole I called the inspector and he drove out (surprisingly promptly) to look at my hole. He climbed in, measured it, and told me to fill it in 6". It was a little too deep but other than that I had the go ahead to start building my out house.
It took me three days to build. No finish siding or trim work, but complete to National Park standards with a 4" exhaust pipe. I did not "use" the outhouse as I was leaving for the Cape that afternoon and the inspector might want one last look. Besides, I wanted to save the christening for my next visit..
In June of 07, my parents came to visit me on the Cape with my aunt Punkin and uncle Mike. After a short visit in Provincetown we all drove up to Maine. My folks were excited to see the land. I had been sending them photos and updates since the purchase. Upon our arrival, we took a walk around the property then went into Belfast (about a 15-20 min ride) to eat dinner and to check in at the motel where my folks and aunt and uncle were staying.
I could have stayed at the motel with electricity and running water etc. but I wanted to stay on the land, so I drove back that evening. At that time I had recently acquired the camper so I had a place to sleep and now I had an outhouse; an enclosed throne upon which I could poop with dignity and grace. As luck would have it, I had been constipated for the last three days. Whether that had anything to do with my parents visit I don't know. What I did know is that I needed a bit of comfortable me-time.

As soon as I had arrived back at my land I made way to the outhouse with haste. It was dusk, nearly dark. I settled onto the seat and sat with the door open. It was a beautiful scene to see the tops of the trees against the darkening sky. Then one by one fireflies began to light up the darkness until there were hundreds of little sparks diving back and forth. Seated firmly in the Captain's Chair, with a couple of puffs of Mary Jane, I was ready for take off.
I must have sat there for half an hour. It is to date the most memorable bowel movement of my life; perhaps a spiritual experience.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jan. 2007

My second trip to the land after New Years 2007 was again unseasonably warm and it was possible to camp again. A local soil tester from Monroe named Ted Pelorin met with me and collected some samples of soil and deemed it good for drainage. He staked out a site for a future septic area and my much sooner to come outhouse.
I spent the next few days camping and walking around. I built a platform to keep my tent off the ground as it rained for most of my stay. Again I was hit with an almost blissful feeling of ...something...belonging? The work I did amounted to the clearing of brush from the general area of what was later to be my driveway. I did some sketches of what a small shack could look like. I was going to have to erect a shelter of some kind that I could heat if I was to stay there during the winter. I planned to build it on the platform I had made for my tent. It measured 8'X12'. Cozy.

House progress, April 2009

House circa Dec. 2008

My last trip was too short. I am rarely ready to come home to Cape Cod. I want to keep working. This is where I find purpose. When I am in Maine, working on this project, I feel I am where God means for me to be. I am however, always disappointed at the speed of my progress. For some reason I am under the impression that God has a deadline to meet and I showed up late for work. It pains me to leave, the work is never done.
But I have found a place where I need to be! What a relief! After years of driving back and forth across the country, living and working in a myriad of places, always searching, I could never shake the feeling of not belonging. The internal observer of my mind would never let me forget: "You don't belong here!" I tried to kill the voice with mass quantities of alcohol, but it did not relent. It would say nasty things to me that were no help whatsoever: "Fuck you!" or "You could always just kill yourself, you have options."
Eventually, with the help of a therapist, I came to the conclusion that the voice was a phantom from my childhood of growing up in a cult called "Jehovah's Witnesses". I was trained to be socially estranged from my peers. The realization gave me some momentary peace, and when the feeling returned I was able to look at it with some clarity. So, my childhood had a very strong influence on the adult that I am today; same as everyone else on the planet. At the time I was living in New York City which is an amazing place but not where I needed to be anymore. New York is a great big classroom in the School of Life and I was done with it, at least for now. I needed to be in the country with trees, my own home with a garage where I could build Hot Rods and Mud buggies.
It's never that simple getting from there to here, but that's another story, and the important thing is that my life is now going in what seems to be the right direction, albeit amid a tempest of doubt and second guesses.
At the end of April, 2009 I believe I am somewhere around the midway point to reaching the goal of having a small comfortable home with modern conveniences like heat, running water, plumbing, septic and electricity. Currently I have heat by wood burning stove and electricity for lights saws and TV. I had running water for a short time, via a dug well/ jet pump combination I dug and installed last Fall. Unfortunately during one of my stays in February, the outside temperature reached -23F. The pipes inside and leading up to the house froze and split open. There are a few reasons for the mishap, most boil down to my ignorance. I'll fix it later.
For now, I get water from the creek by the bucket full. It's the best drinking water ever!
This last trip was eventful and satisfying. Up till now a slide-on truck camper had been sticking out the side of my house. In fact, the house started with the camper. In 2007 I bought a truck and camper combo so that I would have a place to stay while building the house. Because my budget was is so limited I decided to simply expand the camper and make use of it's many appliances. The greatest disadvantage of the camper was it's heat source. It's propane/12v system was inefficient and difficult to maintain. I decided that by building a box containing a wood stove off the back of it, I could have free heat without the need of electricity. (please refer to the drawings in the post "House Sculpture").
Now, at the end of April 2009, the 16'X16' "box" is doing it's job and has become more elaborate than my original plan. The camper had gone from asset to liability. It was drafty, cramped, rotten and ugly. So I cut it off.

Well, not all of it. I had already added a little eating nook off the side and I still needed a place for the propane cook stove and refrigerator, so I cut off the front half with a Sawsall. It felt really good, like popping a big pus filled zit on your neck. I cut the sides then the top. The whole front section crashed to the ground as it hinged along the floor. The outside light poured in. The camper had been blocking the most beautiful sunlight of the day; late afternoon and evening. Sproket, my cat who had accompanied me on this trip, trotted downstairs to examine my progress.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning up the mass of metal and rotten wood that was formerly the southwestern corner of the house. As I had suspected it was also home to several mice and had been for years as I discovered that the walls were literally filled with mouse shit. Looks like I had also eliminated the mysterious odor coming from the kitchen.
The next few days I spent building a foundation out of stones from around the property and framing out a section of the new kitchen's floor with 2X8s from my friend Randy's old garage. The addition will add roughly 128 sq. ft. and will house the kitchen appliances and a washer and dryer.
Sarah came to pick me up the following weekend so that we could leave our little Subaru (which has been leaking oil profusely) in Maine before picking up Sarah's new ride (a '97 Saturn) in Maryland from her Grandmother. It also gave her a chance to check on my progress.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Land: first impressions, Dec. 2006

It was absolutely necessary that I camp out on the land as soon as it was mine. I could not believe that I had become owner of 55 acres of Maine woodland. The property had just recently been logged so it was quite cheap. Even I could afford this! I figured that in terms of investment, if I just let it sit for 20 or 30 years, until it's ready to harvest again, I could sell it and with any luck make a few bucks on which to retire. But that is not what immediately came to mind for me. Nothing in particular did, nothing but a compulsion to be there. I sensed real purpose connected with the land. The possibilities seemed very great! But for what? A house, a home; yes. But more. Finally I had a place that I could call mine. I could build anything!

So, it was very important that I camp out for a few days. I needed to walk around and drink the water and think about what to do. I spent a lot of time thinking while tending the fire, a very contemplative activity. The land felt good and ripe with opportunity. But the December nights were brutally cold in the small tent, even though the 30F degree temperatures were warmer than usual. The ground was lumpy and uncomfortable and the tent was impossible to heat. The other great hardship was that of pooping with dignity. I felt like an idiot squatting with my pants down around my ankles while hanging backwards from a tree trunk. Silly as I must have looked, it seemed the best way to hit the hole I had dug and miss soiling my clothing which was bulky and heavily layered. Luckily there was no one to witness how clumsily I performed one of natures most base and universal functions. I did however hear a squirrel chirping from somewhere.
So, a list of priorities began to form in my head while tending the campfire. That night, bundled in a full body sleeping bag and blankets I dreamed of a little shack with a stove and an outhouse with a real toilet seat.

House Sculpture

I am making a house sculpture. I am forming it out of whatever materials come my way: from friends (who may have extra house parts), from the dump or whatever I can find or buy locally within a 15 mile radius of the sculpture itself. A great deal of the materials come from Buxton's building supply or my neighbor Peter Cormier who sells rough-cut lumber that he mills himself with a portable mill; sort of a big table/chainsaw on wheels.
I hesitate to simply call this a house. House sculpture seems more fitting. I am much more experienced at accomplishing tasks through my own "artistic process" than from any traditional methods. I have no experience building houses, but I can read and I am very adept at making mistakes of all kinds. What more does a man need to build a house sculpture other than the desire to do so? I did some sketches before hand but I am not working from a specific plan. I change elements of the design as I go according to what might be best in relation to the sunlight or view or aesthetics or the materials that I happen to have at hand.
I started out very ambitiously. The property is varied and large (55 acres I purchased in Dec. 2006) and there seemed to me to be several good sites on which to build upon and make readily accessible by 4-wheel drive (and later any vehicle). The way I figured it, the first dwelling I would build would be small and somewhat temporary; a place for me and Sarah and the three cats (Jerzy, Vincent and Sproket) to live while I embarked upon the task of building a "real" house. I expected that the first house would be riddled with problems and design flaws due to my lack of experience, coupled with the desire to do everything myself. I could then take my "experience" to the construction of the next house on the second best site to build, hone my experience on that and then build the ultimate home on my first choice of location. It was an ambitious plan and now that I am about half way through the first small and relatively simple house, I have begun to rethink some of my earlier goals. A house does not come together as quickly as a painting, especially when the studio is 300 miles away from my current home on Cape Cod.
Before recounting my work, I must mention that in the progress of this endeavor, there has been a whole other path that seems to run parallel to the building process. There is something spiritual to all this that I would like to share. There are lots of books out there that will explain to you step by step how you can build your own house. But there must be something told of the underlying meaning and spiritual growth for a modern human to build a shelter for himself and future family.