Productive Patterns

(Written by Jake Egelhoff)

It’s been a month filled with mud, frost, and volunteering. The weeks go by and the days become increasingly shorter. We’re left with most of our attentions facing inward—toward sealing up the remainder of these homes on the inside. On some days the progress feels gradual, particularly when I’m focused on my own job for longer periods of time, but when the opportunity comes to step away from my own bubble and observe the progress of my fellow interns, our collective advances become more evident. Each day reveals just how much this project has gradually become an integral part of our lives—representing something more than a mere building. Maybe it’s because I tend to over romanticize things, but to me our home feels more like an exhibit, a gallery, or some sort of time capsule that captures something of everyone in it.

 

Photo by Mia Krakowski

Photo by Mia Krakowski

Several weeks ago a man named Joel Glanzberg came to visit us as part of our weekend permaculture workshop. I found my time spent with him highly rewarding and enlightening. He talked about permaculture as something much more broad than environmental design, and explained how he felt that humans are capable of incredible beauty and potential when their efforts and energies are guided in more harmonious directions. Much of this, he explained, can be achieved by paying close attention to our own patterns and those around us—the patterns of our thoughts, environments, and relationships. Learning how to redirect these habits toward the benefit of our fellow community members and ourselves, he argued, requires concentration and mindful practice. Needless to say, I left his workshop feeling inspired and grateful for the opportunity to spend a few days listening to his thoughts and reflecting on how to make this planet a more hospitable place.

 

Photo by Mia Krakowski

Photo by Mia Krakowski

We have recently completed our finish layer of lime plaster on the outside of both homes. Soon they will be painted and take on their own specific color. The indoor construction of our homes has required much more attention to detail. We’ve finished our framing and have begun installing our air ducts for heating and venting. We’ve started hanging our drywall—some of which has been taken from the refuse piles of other construction sites. We’ve secured our trim and installed our shower drains. Soon we will begin applying our finish plaster layers on the inside, as well as the earthen floor that will act as additional thermal mass to retain heat from the sun.

 

Photo by Mia Krakowski

Photo by Mia Krakowski

Over the past month we’ve bounced back and forth between plastering phases. We’ve learned that this house has layers. We’ve learned that there is no other way to apply those layers than by the gradual and mindful application of hand and trowel. We’ve learned that certain plasters require specific ratios of sand, clay, water, and straw, which must be added to our mixer in a specific sequence or else it may fail by falling off the wall or cracking eventually. We’ve learned how to measure, cut, and hang drywall.

 

Photo by Mia Krakowski

Photo by Mia Krakowski

When I look around the inside of our walls I see the markings and measurements of previous projects. I see tiny dots of smeared blood and mud. I see inside jokes and words of wisdom scribbled along the framing. I see the markings of missed hammer strokes and dents caused by the slips of bits off of stripped screws. I see fake currency designed out of circular pieces of drywall. I can see an untold story of mistakes and corrections…In what feels like such a short amount of time, 3 ½ months to be precise, I’ve seen myself and those around me acclimate to a life centered almost exclusively on building these two straw bale homes. As it takes the shape of a real home, it starts to feel more like “our” home. Though there are days where motivation is more or less evident, there is always a steady stream of collective purpose that flows through our house each day, which leaves a noticeable imprint on both the tangible and intangible.

 

Photo by Mia Krakowski

Photo by Mia Krakowski

As we approach the last month of this program, our attentions will continue to focus on sealing up what’s left of this project indoors. I’ve been thinking a lot about momentum lately—motivation, following through, and the impetus to finish any undertaking once that task is started. Regardless of which task we commit ourselves to in this life, it seems important that we follow through with whatever that given process might be. While I can’t speak for everyone in this program, I can claim that I feel a certain level of purposeful momentum growing as a result of being here. It is my hope that as we disperse in whichever directions we choose, we might carry on whatever momentum we may have found here. I hope we can apply it to any passion or project we choose to pursue. It’s my hope that we’ve all found some positive patterns to harness and revisit here, and that they may pulse and drum throughout our time elsewhere.

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