Adding to the lore of the land

Adding to the lore of the land

Tuesday + Wednesday July 26-27, 2011

Today was the only fully cloudy day we’ve had the entire trip. Rain came later in the afternoon, a light sprinkling for about at hour. We worked through it. The mood of the group seemed to match the skies – not as cheerful, quieter, more still. Partly I think this is due to how tired we all were (late night last night) and the fact that the end was near and we didn’t want it to come any nearer.

After a while we slowed down in our work, perhaps subconsciously savoring it, not wanting the moment to end. We were so used to the go-go-go schedule, it felt strange to be running out of things to do.

Our last steel corrugated wall panels went up much easier today. My hands figured out how to trick the tin snips into cutting a much smoother, consistent edge, even if it was 1/8”-1/4” at a time. I was proud of that cut, dog-gone-it! I hope I will have filled my quota for cutting steel corrugation for at least a year or two! The top trim piece fit nicely, and the trim on the windows completed the frame in a most complimentary way.

We finished early, cleaned up, and even had time for the birthday cake (three birthdays in 2 weeks!) Charley and a few others made an extra covered wood storage area, and positioned it in harmony with the other buildings, at the back. As we were moving it around, feeling out the right place we must have looked silly. It’s interesting that you can just “feel” a good place. I think we take this feeling a bit for granted.

It was nice that we weren’t rushed; we had time to absorb and just be. Since I tend to be a perfectionist on my design projects, I sometimes carry them to the wire – so this was nice to have time on our side.

We showered (cold, because the sun wasn’t out, even though at times the clouds glowed from behind) and it was raining as I showered, and since the showers are open to the skies, it was like a double shower, of two different spray consistencies, and perhaps not surprisingly, the temperatures were quite similar. The best thing about cold showers on a cold day is how warm and reset you feel when you put clean clothes on.

After a delish dinner, we all followed Julie and the sage smoke scent on the “official” path to the finished spaces. It felt like a light hearted, quirky procession to me. We were all glowing. (At least I liked to imagine we were.)

Not to be left out, Justin and Nate hooked in with Skype and gave their share of birdmans (silly game involving pushups) and virtual hugs. They were silly and the mood was so warm. As we all tucked in the gathering space, Paul and Barb did a great job of the final presentations. All 13 of us got a wedge of the tree we used for the columns with our reward written on it. Awards ranged from Charley’s Most Improved, to Eli’s Most Cheery, to Andrew’s The Bull Award. (Earlier he said his arms didn’t look this way because he was lifting puppies!) We all signed our names under the wedge, and Paul presented this to Julie. Paul also made Jeannie (our amazing chef) a bowl out of the same 65 year old tree (yes, Tim and I actually counted the rings, giggling as we counted from opposite directions knowing how silly we looked holding the round section between us as we stared intently at it). We also got to pick out a piece of rose quartz, which is believed to have heart-healing properties – activating the heart energy. We could all certainly feel it.

Julie had good words to share, reminding me of what I like most about architecture – transforming ideas and visions into physical realities, calling materials to act as our vision, enabling the place to be shared with others. From the client’s point of view, Julie said it was fun to be able to see us take her visions and piecemeal thoughts and turn them into a creative space that we can all collectively call our own. She ended with declaring the two spaces sacred, which was truly a touching moment.

I can feel that I am transformed. I am tired, yes, and my hands remember well all the steel corrugation, but, I think what sticks with me the most now is the story, and, now having accomplished our goals and worked through all the problem solving together, I’m filled with a new kind of energy.

We light our inaugural fire pit and the multi-tiered seating around it is perfect; perfect height and perfect distance from the flames that cast a warm glow to add to our own smiles.

The space feels really good, especially filled with people and laughter. It’s the first time we can truly experience the space in a social way, without worrying about connections, materials, and process of assembly first and foremost in our thoughts. It really can be intimate and accommodating for larger groups, just the way Julie imagined.

Later on, as some turn into bed, others decide to sleep our last night there. We return, sleeping bags in tow, and stoke the fire. It feels odd going to the site without having to work. This night is different then the other group sleepovers we’ve had. The fire changes the dynamic. People cluster in smaller groups and find their own little nooks and spaces to be in. We are there together, but in our own spaces.

Being here, living the work we were doing truly did rekindle my love of design and reminded me of how much I enjoy being outside. I am reminded how much I love woods, how comfortable I feel in them (even with the mystical unseen threat of mountain lions and the sound of the coyote pack). I love the way the trees capture the wind. Julie has had people out who have said the trees have spoken to them about their history, and that oddly comforts me. There is also something about the energy from the rocks. And perhaps its all riding on your won belief system, but I’d like to think they hold an intrinsic power.

I’m especially proud of our reuse of materials – the process in building is repeated throughout. Who says the formwork has to be thrown away immediately? And the bracing and supports? Those are perfectly good rough sawn 1×6. Perfect to form our kitchen wall composition. So, in a way, the buildings can tell their own history through their materials – and it extends beyond its life already! I think this is partly why it feels good. For me it was a real treat to work so closely with wood, chiseling it out, piecing it together, working around the knots, and with the grain.

Oh and my favorite tools, you ask? Chalk line, for one, and chisels for another. The speed square was also extremely valuable too…

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Adam, Tim and I had one last yoga session on the high rocks above the abode. The terrain was challenging and unlevel, as usual, but the views and the breeze and the openness were unmatched. Stretching up there seemed to make my molecules stretch even farther – the expansiveness of the sky is catching. We joked that we could design a yoga session around the idea of construction…. “stretch your arms out like a beam, making sure to remain level…”
On the quiet trek back down to camp I felt lighter and springier. The small stand of aspens glowed white in the morning sun, set against the meadow and ponderosas.

Over the course of the last 2 weeks I also appreciated the small conversations about health I had with Jeannie (our amazing cook). A bee/wasp stung me on my left arm on 2 separate days (I’m pretty sure he just accidentally backed into me.) Jeannie pulled out the OLBAS healing-everything oil from Switzerland. Peppermint and ginger were two of the ingredients. Strong in scent, it was used for many cures. I rubbed a drop on my stings and it provided relief. Another day after lunch I had a sharp stomachache that came on suddenly (I’m still not sure of the cause). I sipped on 2 drops in a 16 oz. glass for a ½ hour and within short order it was gone. Other people were able to clear congestion using the same stuff. Amazing.

Lastly, silence is also something we don’t get enough of. We have the radio playing constantly, or music. There needs to be silence to balance everything (even if it is just within us.) The nights here were so piercingly quiet; at first I could not believe it. No crickets, no frogs, no cicadas. Occasionally there was a coyote pack that could be hear from the hills. I could definitely get my fill here in this place, but as I think about my home in Charlotte with the street out front, a main corridor for sirens, I can’t imagine it. Perhaps I’ll also have to work on cultivating the silence inside as well.

Speaking of silence and, now buildings, reflecting on the experience of just being in the site, absorbing the silence surrounding and taking advantage of the new sense of shelter, in the perfect ways…just a little from the hotness of the sun, and just a little from the sprinkling of rain. The openness of the clerestory still embraces the forest, still connecting, still letting the silence in. I remember, in one conversation around the fire, it was said that architecture should enhance your experience of the place. These structures have done just that, making the site more usable and accessible. They also help to tell the story of the place, through their own making, adding to the lore of the land.

And, with that bit of alliteration, I shall sign off for now.

I'm pleased as punch to be apart of this story with these super people!

All the best,


I am in a dual Masters program in Architecture and Urban Design at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. I am participating in the RAW Dakota 2011 workshop in Custer, SD July 13-27, 2011 and blogging about the experience. Please add any thoughts or stories of your own! Thanks for reading! – Keihly Moore

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