I said I would write about human habitat and I will. In building a house and in placing it in different types of settings, a static room in a changing environment, I have gone further than before in exploring the relationship between human and habitat.
I could rant about this endlessly, about how we still see nature as something outside our bodies, something put here for our sake, and not as what we are.
About how we think we can build ourselves away from the water we drink and the air that we breathe.
About how we want to save trees, but not the earthworm, fungi, bacteria, and beetle that make it possible for trees to exist.
About how we ruin the places we could have lived with little effort in order to make habitable the places of the planet less suited for our hairless, soft bodies, even willing to wipe out everything in order to find a new planet to ruin, thinking that space travel is a magical thing that doesn’t use earth’s resources instead of the ultimate consumerist fantasy.
But I’m tired of the sound of words, so I’ll condense it all in a jolly little poem. I call it:
De Naturae (from nature)
I thought that we made this abundantly clear
your new promised land doesn’t want you here
If the ground is covered with nettles that stings
it’s because it was made for the things that have wings
For the fur and the claw and the shimmering scale
the long curving tooth and the short stubby tail
If the sun is too sharp and the insects all bite
it’s a place for the things that will come out at night
If the rain is too cold and the wind blows right through
it was meant for the ones with skin tougher than you
If you need to make houses of concrete and steel
come here fiddlemonkey, I’ll make you a deal
Human, go back to your Eden and rest
leave the bear to her den and the bird to his nest
I’m following a few groups online dedicated to various ways of forming a life beyond the ready-made one. It’s hardly a single thread that doesn’t in some way post the question ‘yes, but is it authentic?’
For everyone taking a step to the side of society, you’ll come across the question of authenticity. An expectation that your goal is and should be to be completely self-reliant and exist in a sort of feral snow globe.
For me, reducing the presence of modern housing facilities, like washing machines, coffee machines and basically most types of machines, is a choice of comfort and beauty, not driven primarily by a desire for a life seen as authentic or free.
The western idea of ‘free’ has come to mean detached and closed off, yet few people really feel at great liberty when they’re all alone and isolated. Quite the contrary.
It’s easy when lifting your gaze from the treadmill to get the idea that you should go off into the wild, that is, go outside our house, and aim to become one with whatever ecosystem you find yourself in. But the wild can be further away than you’d think. Not everything green is living, functioning nature.
As I drive and live and form different patterns of everyday life, sometimes completely outside modern facilities, sometimes on the outskirts of them, the borders of human habitation come into view. And the idea of the authentic emerges as something a part of, not apart from, modern society.
In groups of people longing away from cities, away from an oppressive society, there is a story, one of many, but a prominent one, about the free individual as someone who sleeps under the stars and own nothing, no possessions, no obligations, no attachments. But this form of living requires a large habitat where you have the means to find what you need, and this kind of nature is inaccessible to most as it’s regulated or built on, overpopulated, poisoned or eradicated by industry. Most people who are homeless are far from free, and have no access to alternative ecosystems beyond the urban one, that relies greatly on houses to shelter humans from the ugliness, dangers and diseases caused by urbanization.
While I do wish for a greater insight into what I actually need and how to find it, it’s interaction I seek, not the idea of independence. Dependence is to me a reduced means of interaction, and freedom an expanded interaction with your surroundings. But to urbanized humans, they link interaction to communication with what they see as sentient, not co-existing with physical, living creatures.
I think for a lot of people it’s this interaction with a world beyond the one defined and fenced off that is meant by ‘real’. There is very little language to explain why, very few stories. But it’s the amount of possibilities, the greater network of creatures interacting, that increases freedom and approximates the idea of ‘real’.
Also, most animals will have some form of nest, den, sett, or form of living quarters. They don’t just sleep where they stand. If healthy, they will spend great parts of the day keeping themselves and their dwelling clean, beautiful and comfortable. If ill, they will ignore their grooming or in some cases, overdo it, washing away all their fur if stressed.
A house need not be any more unnatural than an ant hill, but the lengths humans have gone to in order to simultaneously expand and remove themselves from their habitat is absurd. And disruptive to anything living, including humans themselves.
In western society the house has become something like a religious matter. It is seen as a micro cosmos in itself. In many cases, as a reflection or expression of the dweller, their innermost self, their soul.
I like having beautiful and meaningful things to look at. I want my house to be a wunderkammer, a place for magic and dreams. It’s also a physical place to sleep warm and soft, to read without having the wind carry my books away, to cook without being invaded by over eager insects. I don’t however, want to be trapped, or have other things trapped in it.
The house, the dwelling, is only one small part of the whole habitat. The whole habitat of any creature will include the space to find food, find company, having an array of plants, predators, bacteria, the ecosystem, if you will. All the things the body interacts with.
I will explore the vast, strange world of the habitat in my next post.
ps. I made it beyond the London vortex, with help from my counter part, which is the only way to cross a maelstrom.
To move along it, on water or land, is to travel. Following the paths animals make through the woods, is to follow a road, for they know where they are going.
Humans, as a rule, don’t.
I have said it before and I will again, a highway is not a road. All roads that are roads are in some way linked to water. Either by the movement of water or by paths animals make to find water, it follows underground sources and roots of trees, carrying water. Sometimes humans alter the course of water, creating floods or droughts. And highways were invented to carry soldiers and weapons to invade your neighbor. They are not anything close to a road merely tools for human destruction.
I have no illustrative pictures of highways, because when I land on one, I’m quite enough busy with finding my way off again.
This past week I’ve been driving for longer stretches than usual. One drawback of having a car-towed house is that you’re confined to mostly false roads made for cars, and they are only built for transporting things and humans from place to place, and therefore extremely uncomfortable, with no time to think, or to look or to consider where you’re going. I’ve kept to county lanes, when possible, but even here it’s too easy to take one wrong turn and then be caught on a lane with no turning back.
The lane of no turning back is a narrative I understand that people like to use as a metaphor for life choices. This is, of course, a construct and has nothing at all to do with real roads, or real lives. There are no straight roads, and if there are, they’re human inventions. And there are no straight stories, no inherent cause and effect. And always another way.
I’ve always been afraid of the dark. Not outdoors, but inside, in houses. Not that there was anything there. The problem was you noticed there wasn’t. It took decades, of course to realize this, where I’d search films and literature for monsters to explain and embody this nameless fear. I had no real idea of what I was afraid of. In reading books and newspapers and meeting people, I soon found there were a lot of options, but none of them could really explain the reluctance to the dark room. Nothing that is dangerous for a human is more or less dangerous depending on the degree of light.
But you can’t really hide where you are in the dark. It reveals everything. It’s a common misconception that light shows things as they really are, but it doesn’t All light does is narrow down your perspective and make you focus on few enough items or ideas to make your surroundings bearable.
In the dark, you can’t set your mind to one thing and look away from all the others. Everything is apparent at once. And if then you’re trapped in tonnes of concrete, you’ll notice. And go mad with fear. Indeed, most modern humans are quite insane.
Night outside is rarely dark, and never quiet. Unless you live in an overly populated human habitat where the only sounds are sounds of desperation, others trying hard to hide where they are with mind- numbing musical sounds.
I have said before that I wanted to build walls I didn’t need to hide from and I think I have. I fully trust that if I should die inside of my house, both me and the house will dissolve and revolve properly. Because it is ultimately the entrapment of the soul that is the horror of houses. The worst ghost under the bed is your own.
In earlier years, I traveled the world as one does, as a body moving through space and time. It’s easy, and encouraged in western soliptic society, to see travel just like this, a comet, isolated, moving through the world. But you don’t and you’re not. You move energy.
Now that I have a whole house, a microcosmos, I move around quite a lot of things I had never foreseen.
There’s the physical movement of things, the car and the trailer, the energy needed and the roads needed.
And there are the materials, outside and in, things that I have found, changed, shifted on the way. Windowpanes from one place, a bench made of driftwood here, a horseshoe from a farm there, a piece of amber found on a beach. I take things and, rather than shift them from one place to another, move them about. This does something, but I’m not sure what.
But then there is the movement of thoughts, and of wonder. I bring with me a sense of ‘what on earth is that’. People wonder what the house is, and how, and why. And this is something I’m starting to physically feel the presence of. And I think this was something I had in mind all along and part of the whole point of this piece of enclosed air and dream.
An object placed somewhere might evoke wonder at first, and then gradually be defined by its surroundings. But my house is a shape-shifter. It is not one place, one thing. It changes form, appearance and purpose from place to place and time of day. For me , of course, it stays the same, for I know it’s soul. But it will never be one thing, and nor will I.
Video might have killed the radio star, but living with close, warm walls have revived her in my world.
When I was little, I used to listen to the radio all the time. This was before cable TV, certainly before netflix and The Internet was still a wild idea somewhere at CERN.
Gradually, these new and noisy things took the place of the radio, filling the space between walls with more and more light and colour. Somehow, around the same time, the walls grew hard and glaring. The interior of the modern appartement became increasingly impossible to look at, harsh and vast like a blazing desert of chrome and white. In this new and hostile environment, filling the void with sound and colour from a screen became the go-to option. So much so that I didn’t even notice how the need for outside stimuli grew. Silence was simply not an option, then the walls would simply start screaming at you until you drowned out the noise with more noise.
When I built La Chouette, it was with hope for silence in mind. To be inside a space where the walls had an integrity and a beauty of their own, walls I did not need to hide from, and where the distractions of a single book or a small radio was more than sufficient company.
I’m happy to say it does. The soft wooden panels and leather tapestries echoes Bach, Mendelssohn or Modest Musorgskij, radio plays, the occasional mindless chatter of an early morning news programme, or weather forecast in a way that quite filles the space and from where there is no need to hide.