Ric and I drove around to the Bill Pyles’–Volunteer Fire Chief– house in tiny Romeroville to purchase a second 1600 gallon cistern. (We already had one lurking near the barn.) It was too big too strap to our truck so Jamie hauled it the following evening once again through mud. He is good at mud driving.
According to Bill, who knows the formula, our capacious roof should be able to collect 800 gallons of water from one inch of rain or ten inches of snow melt. Terrific! My goal has been to get the catchment in place before the winter snow in the hope of harvesting enough snow melt and rain to provide for the coming needs of earth floor construction and possibly a portion of summer retreat next year.
Ric and Jamie had two hours to get a large PVC pipe, mounted below the gutter for the gutter to drain into, as well as the fittings onto the cistern before the sun set. They worked steadily as the light dropped lower and lower.
The final day on the barn is a day of finishing—edges & trims. All the doors and windows have been framed and installed except the slide doors, which lie in position on the ground at the south end, ready to be hung.
Tim gathers tools, piling leftover lumber, propanel, and insulation as Steve and Juany measure and mount the slide door track. They all stop and smoke a cigarette around noon.
I walk around, inspecting, asking final questions about the bottom edge of the west wall which doesn’t touch the ground. Steve nods. “See it touches on the east side. The ground slopes ever-so-slightly which is why that side has a gap,” he explains. The barn is level and squared. I’ll have to seal around those edges before winter. I continue to inspect and see nothing to complain about. The barn is clean and sharp and wonderful.
They grind out their cigarette butts, heave up the first slide door, working it onto its track. Then the second. Jauny shoves them together. Thunk! He gestures to the door, like the circus lion tamer, “Fits snug as a glove!” And it does. The barn is done.
They will go now and I feel both sad and relieved. It’s been a consuming five days; I can use a digestion period. We shake hands. I give them the second half of the payment, a small tip each, a box of Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies for the ride home, and to Junay for his birthday, a set of antelope antlers I found on a hike. I wave them off and stand in stunned silence. Has this really happened, this thing that six weeks ago was phone calls and internet digging? Did I really find Wilson Pole Barn Company, research them, vet them, put in an order, transfer money from one account to another, send in the first half payment, fly out to the mesa and find the site, locate a jackhammer and a hauling tractor? Me, a dancer, who knows nothing of all this? Yes. I did. I cry as I imagine myself managing to do this, choosing it, learning it, and moving forward instead of thinking I can’t, or getting stuck, or saying that I’ll do it later.
It is a beautiful barn. A perfect barn. I feel such affection for the wonderful crew (Wilson Pole Barn specialists out of Wagoner, OK) who hammered in every nail by hand.
The barn looks like a barn. Tim makes the frames for doors and windows. All the wood is there. I love how you can’t see the barn until you are almost upon it, yet it has that lovely and inspiring view of Hermit’s Peak. Yay ravens!
This is for me the first major endeavor where the ideas and actions remain. As a dancer, all my work disappears—a performance that I prepare three months for is over in twenty minutes. The same with dances that I choreograph on others. My memoir was better. It lingers as do videos, but both of these are projects that are consumed rather quickly by others and which once I’ve completed them, I rarely look into afterward. The barn however is there. I will be going in and out. I see it again and again as I walk the winding dusty track between the pinions. I think back to the moment when the ravens revealed that spot and think how in just a few days, the Wilson crew is evolving the insubstantial into substantial. Not six months, or a year or two years. No. It is happening before my eyes. Like a pre-digital photographs in a dark room. The edges sharpening, the form filling, timbers, metal sheets coalescing into a barn!
A seed that has found ground and does not blow away…
I watch them continue steadily on. Very zen-like without any zen to their self-concept. Tim leans intently over the saw horses to trim a piece of 2X4 for a window frame. Every frame he has made fits perfectly. He didn’t finish high school. Never saw the need. None of the three have much use for college—didn’t go themselves and can’t see how it would have made much difference to their lives. If their kids want to go, they shrug, its up to them. On day #4, I hear more detail about their lives and opinions as they chug down orange soda (Tim), 7-Up (Juany), and Coke (Steve).
Steve has been married twice. He is wise. He has gentle sotto voce advice for impetuous young Juany, who, at 29 , knows it all: is so decisive, his wife spends all his money!, she wants him to make more money but she wants him home. Juany wants to get home soon cause he loves his little girl who misses him, she wants her daddy. Yes, he loves his wife BUT… And there is always the “I love my wife, but,” in every break-time effusion. Steve listens, off-hand, dropping a bit of succinct, calm advice here and there which is mostly ignored.
A dramatic day. I watched in awe for an hour as the guys erected the rafters. First, the pre-fabbed trusses were laid on the ground inside the barn parameters below where each would be hoisted aloft. Tim climbed up to one south-most corner, and Steve to the other corner. They perched 12 feet up, like gargoyles, chatting while Juany tromped below getting things ready. He threw one end of a rope up to Steve and attached the other end to the first truss lying on the ground. Steve hauled the truss as far up as he could, then Juany lifted as Steve continued to pull until his end was up and leaning on a top brace. Then Juany to the other side where Tim hauled up. Now the truss hung upside down, its ‘v’ pointing to the ground with its wide edges at the top corner of each wall. Juany then nailed a 2×4 to the tip of the truss pitch and, on a teamwork “Go”, swung the point upward to vertical, bracing it from the ground while Steve and Tim nailed their sides in. There was a bit of nailing to do along the face of this truss and some pitch boards to secure it. Steve and Tim, relaxed, poised acrobats, danced and balanced beautifully on those top beams. Juany had the grunt work below as they continued in sequence down the line until they had all ten trusses up.
I was totally enthralled. Smooth, experienced, elegant. they worked quietly, just the sound of hammers striking the wood. No nailguns, no power drills. I felt their energy going into the nails, into the boards, into the large, sturdy poles. This is a human barn made by men who are seasoned artists. Now I understand Steve’s impeccable posture. In perfect balance, he trots around on the roof beams, sure-footed as a high rope walker.
By the end of the afternoon, the barn’s bones were there. I can now see the entire skeleton and have only to fuss in my dreams over where the doors and windows should be placed.
I couldn’t focus on anything else much today. Excited, I ran back and forth from cabin to barn site, called or emailed a bit here and there. A dream is coming true.
Heavy fog. I can’t see anything outside my ring of trees. Dripping wet. Quiet. The clock ticks. The wood stove ticks as it cools after I burn the paper trash. Outside is the piquant scent of juniper and pinion. I curl up in my pink chair and sip my tea, getting ready to watch the crew, though I wonder if they will make it up the wretchedly muddy road. I decide I’ll finally set up the 60 gallon blue rain barrel under the downspout from my top cabin roof. Can’t let the rain escape.
The guys made it up thew mucky road in their 2-wheel drive truck! I’m impressed. They are digging with the auger then jackhammering the limestone in the fog. Inspired by their labor I feel industrious. I make a platform for the blue barrel, get it positioned and, right on cue, the heavens open up with a gushing downpour. Such an orchestra of sounds—thunder booming down the canyon, and once the storm leaves me, the rain pummeling the land fifty miles away. At the end, that barrel is full—60 gallons in a half hour.
Then I slog up, my boots twice their size with heavy clay mud, to see how the crew is doing. They took shelter during the rain but are out again, digging, jackhammering. By the end of the day they have half the poles in.
Late night. So still. The canyon has captured the fog in its stony arms. I remember chatting with Steve, the foreman. He’s my height, lithe, with beautiful posture, terrible teeth, and a twinkle in his eye. He is soft-spoken. He emanates kindness. I like standing beside him, saying little, gazing at the barn site, happy with it, happy with the fog, the day, the men, the project, with my life. I tell Steve about the ravens choosing the site. He nods, but who knows what he thinks.
“Now it is the time to know that all you do is sacred.”
I read that the night before the barn was scheduled to arrive when I was very very blue, very alone, very unsupported. No one was going to be here from my world to celebrate, to cheer me on. To be excited with me. Of course I have been keep this somewhat secret so how could I have had that support, but I guess I thought Ric should drop everything and fly out. Then I read the Hafiz, realized I was being childish, and settled right down. I was able to get out of the lonely child head and see that this project will be the source of great joy, peace, deepening, beauty and Beauty for years to come, for me and for others. Read more
I sit on the deck bundled in a sweater after a late afternoon rain storm. Fans of sun rays burnish the land between the humps and banks of clouds. The mesas and canyons all have names, have had many names over time. I don’t know any of these yet. And most names aren’t contained in the hard edges of language, the sticky net of thoughts. The mesas approach and retreat in the play of light like a line of country dancers. Long shadows spill over the crest and slide down the slope into the shadowy floor. Read more
Late night. The crickets sings. I don’t sleep. I wake, light a candle, and read beautiful Hafiz poems and Koran. My cabin is a cranium, the door a mouth, and the deck its tongue. I walk out of the head, through the mouth, onto the tongue, and fall into space as a song. Quiet settles in me. It grows too cold for the cricket. I close the window and lean toward the candle. Read more
In retreat trainings, relief is always there. For everyone. Improved health is always there, spiritual growth is always there. For everyone. Beyond this basic healing, there is a range of benefit for participants and this has to do with individual propensity and intention. I see three general types show up at retreats—Passengers, Voyeurs, and Seekers. Passengers need contact with those embraced by Path, and will find healing. Voyeurs show up for drama, highs, or escapes; that can only go on for a short while before the process burns them out. There is a lot of ego there, and a tough road ahead.
Seekers find their hearts opening to the Path—that great gift feeling of ‘coming home’. These people are fortunate. They have inner certitude about their experience. Soon, however, they need to choose to gratefully, responsibly cultivate evolution. What does this look like? Arrive with good intention, participate with respect and fullness, then take care of yourself after trainings. Personal practice gives the transforming self time and sanctuary.
In striving for this, we grow to understand the embrace of Path.
Post-retreat there is a tendency to go home and blow it. Blow all the money! As one friend says, “It’s easy to piss away all the energy built up in retreat, overworking, over committing, letting it leach away.” It is extremely unwise to squander the work done in training periods because this is dangerous to body and being. In retreat we fill our circuits and forge new tendrils, then these need to ‘set’. They need to cohere. If, after a training period, the we forget about or actively destroy the energy by not caring for our health, eating badly, getting into tumultuous relationships in work or life, then we not only undermine health and mental stability. We also damage spiritual capacity. We damage spiritual potential. We burn our circuits. You can do this a few times, but after a while the body being wears out. It’s like, How many times can your break your ankle in the same spot before it hardens?
I have lifted the requirement of daily practice from those in Intensive Training, but I still recommend daily practice—daily ‘remembrance’, as the Sufis call it. Remembrance of our Truth. I don’t want to police it, not because I’m lazy; I just think it isn’t serving the people who train with me. It puts the struggle for one’s Path outside the self, keeping the self from ‘growing up’, spiritually-speaking. Each of us has to recognize our resistance, our choices. We need to reflect on them and weigh them. No one can put you on your own center. If you want it—inner peace, authenticity, perception, solidity—you have to strive for it. Struggle for it. A child’s little legs must work. It’s best if I step aside there. Go head—have your own intimate self-dialogue about that.
Our questions: What is important to me? Where does real happiness come from? When do I feel most whole? If spiritual path is where we live in Truth, then a regular return to the Doorway is one of the most crucial stages of growth. Retreat training and personal practice open that Doorway. Over the years, I’ve personally come to rely on a brief but focused daily practice, thus my recommendation. I hope for us all that the heart will cry for it and land us in a quiet room, with closed eyes, breathing, moving, feeling the world beyond thought. I hope the practice calls us to it. Wouldn’t that be wonderful…But if not, well, what are you going to do about it?