So Long, So Brief.

“I maintain, despite the moment’s evidence against the claim, that we are born and grow up with a fondness for each other, and we have genes for that. We can be talked out of it, for the genetic message is like a distant music, and some of us are hard-of-hearing. Societies are noisy affairs, drowning out the sound of ourselves and our connection.”
-Lewis Thomas

Greetings to all with a last Hello from this funny vantage.

It has been its own kind of pleasure to share images and thoughts from the past few months, and with intern involvement now wrapping up for the semester, I have a few things more to share, and to say. (Don’t worry, I am broadcast at a delay- of several weeks.)

But why not speak as though everyone is still here? (Because we are in a way.)

And as though there is work to be done. (Because there most definitely is.)

To wit:


As with the series of custom built wood sills, our concrete countertops are made on premises. Thank you to Kate Heath, local builder and tradeswoman, for guiding both this stage as well as the bathroom Tadelakt work (see below). Formed with melamine affixed to a plywood and two-by base, the countertops were poured with a darkly dyed concrete using aggregate local to the site. During pouring, a palm sander was run along the edges of the melamine form to shake all of the wet material into place. Makeshift scree bars and magnesium trowels pressed and leveled from above. Rebar reinforcement was inserted into the form midway through the pour.

Once dried, stripped and flipped, the countertops were wet polished with a diamond-padded grinder. Varying degrees of fineness were used to achieve the desired look of the final piece. The bathroom countertops were polished several times over with increasingly fine diamond pads in order to expose the colorful aggregate within.

(Look at everyone carrying the kitchen island countertop into the house! It’s no 50-mule team, but it works.)

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Adobe Floors and Finish Plasters.

As everything hurried toward a finish, we welcomed the participation of professional plasterers, Bill and Athena Steen, as well as Lilian Hill of Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture with a crew of friends and interns. Everyone worked together to bring the interior to its near final finish in a welcome departure from several days of concrete and a return to natural building techniques.

Using yellow clays harvested locally by we the builders, the Steens conceived a plaster for the walls, while Doug plotted ceiling plaster experiments using various concoctions for different rooms, including: a drywall mud based mix with a swirling textured set for the art studio, a lime-based plaster for the living room, master bedroom and bathrooms, and a clay based plaster for the second bedroom.

As Friday arrived, and half a foot of snow began to fall, the final three adobe floor pours took place midst the hurry of last minute plaster touch ups. It will be a while yet before the mud dries, but it is beautiful to take in from unaffecting distance.

Thank you to everyone involved, especially to Lilian and our friends from the Hopi Reservation.

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All the while we were plastering Andy’s house, Kate and Jeffrey led Tadelakt workshops at the campus. Tadelakt is a lime-plastering technique originated in Morocco and often used today in shower stalls or bathtubs. Etymologically, ‘tadelakt’ means “to rub.” As those who have tadelakted [sic] will attest to, the word is the verb and the process itself is the act of repetitive (or else meditative- depending on your bent) rubbing of a drying lime plaster surface with smooth river stones in order to close all pores before applying an olive oil soap (source of oleic acid) to seal the surface against water penetration. To the initial lime and marble sand mixture may be added a dye (see below) for a colorful finish.

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So, there is a new home now where there was an old one just a few months ago. It has been a quick four month burst of activity in the greater snailing drive toward a fundamental shift in the way we, as a culture, account and establish the value and the meaning of the places we create and live within. This is an immense project: to attempt to open the way we act out of habit and ease of seeming comfort. To begin to change peoples’ minds on a broad scale, to present to them (and to discover for ourselves) information-whether the lost indigenous, the ignored established, the never found, the recently imagined, or otherwise- requires much more than the casual strum of a guitar, or the measured swing of a hammer, or the deliberate ink of a page–and yet, how else do we bring the big things performed in small ways to the narrowest gaze? In a way, it is in what we have done these past four months and what will begin again in a few short weeks with the next set of interns. But, maybe more important than anything else, it is up to what we do now, in the aftermath of the thing itself, as time stretches immense hands across a fleeting face and we choose not to check the hour. As we anxiously assume the continuation of ourselves, wondering what is next. How wide a wake do we leave and what are we piercing to the heart of because of what we have seen and felt with our hands?

Many of us, I suspect, will move forward in our short lives toward varying projects, quite different than what we have experienced building Andy’s home. How will this time now passed help to define what we continue to do, to create, for ourselves and others? It will have to be in the materials we use, the way we apply our hands and our second glances toward what before was taken simply for what it seemed to be. There will have to be more asking ‘Why?’ and less habitual disregard.

Despair will not help. I cannot say this enough; I have seen enough of it, too much, in my peers. Our generation is prone to it. Call it the drugs our industries have force fed us in experimental serotonins and these screens’ brightly colored squarish waves of light. Call it the ever-rising disconnect of This and Then, the lack or the lapse of tradition between the isolated geometries of this vast country’s geographies, separated as we are by mountains, great plains, swamps, heavy fog, forests and, some would say, something more sinister. (But, no. No more accusations of the lurking devil. Or of the absent god. These things, these gods and devils, they are simply the noises WE make.) Call it whatever you do so choose, but do not merely call it. Observe, then take your hands, and act. Maybe the hammer or the banjo or the pen will ease the sensation. Something will. Try lifting anything. Let the devil and the god watch us help ourselves.

Speak a word. Do you hear the sound? That is all. Sound. Feeling. The touch of something against your skin. Of mud. Of earth. The plasters we draw out. Do not stop on each breath as if the one before has more to say than the one to come. Our language came of our breathing. It is the way our senses transformed our ability to push more than air out, to release back into the world what we’ve breathed because we must.

Take a step back and look around. I see a home. I feel the mud between my fingers on a frozen morning and the sun on my neck through a desert summer. I smell the rough sawn beetle kill. I taste the cold water I was reminded to drink. Remember the way you felt building. Then, remember why you built. You may have to ask yourself this question every so often (maybe every day), and this is okay too. ‘Why am I doing this?’ If something feels wrong, in your heart of hearts, in your gut of guts, let it be known: act. Leave school. Leave town. Leave. But know that it will never be the leaving alone, just as it is never the idea alone. That though we may stumble on our thoughts, a single act is not an entity, and dynamism requires reaction and re-action. Redundancy. Remembrance. For every leaving, bring a return. For every thought, an act. If you came here thinking one thing, and found something totally different, Speak out; then, act. Give what you hoped to receive. Look at that Hope you held; find within it Love you sought; then Give it all as much as you can.

Memory is a vessel springs forgetting. Let what drips and pours flow into the larger body. Have that conversation. Write that thought. Paint that imagination. Then give it away. Find a means, somehow, always to return of a leaving.

Keep your friends close.

See You Soon.

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