Tuesday, April 26, 2005

hemp disciples

Arriving at the factory in Entraigues, rain dimming the view of the Ventoux behind a rape curtain, I was informed that there were no loos, but that i could go 'tranquil dans les bamboos'. I did and, crouching there in amongst the flexible reeds, feet well entrenched in rain sodden earth, I suddenly felt the bio-dynamic building course was going to be good. Very good.

Right from the start there was magic in the air. Yves Kuhn's introduction, though we had heard much of it before, brought tears to our eyes. With hands spiralling and words emphasised with firm tango steps forward, he presented us with his philosophy. He could have been talking about Beethoven, bowing, meditation or mountain climbing. I was back in Cornwall with the late Sandor Vegh, or in New York with Tim Eddy holding forth... I was truly inspired.

Having renounced what was clearly a brilliant dancing career Yves chose to return to what he felt to be one of the two noblest professions - builder and gardener. What nobler thing could there be than to build an 'envelope' for the human body and spirit, he asked? And there we were, his 'disciples' for the weekend - ten maçons, a hurdy gurdy player living in a chateau, a nurse from the Pays Basque, a world famous soprano, two artists, a cellist and a young man who had walked straight out of Tess of the d'Urbevilles wanting to build a straw house. There we were, mixing lime, ochre, hemp and pumice as our souls turned in a vat of alchemical change. There we were, as the big mixer chugged and clacked its bio-dynamic ingredients (its music one up on the Michel Jarre score) building hemp walls, making stuccoed floors, turning a hay bale into a tadelakt bar and laying a sonic floor. There we were, in the barn- building scene from the film 'Witness'.

We mixed ochre rouge and ochre jaune in huge bins and folded it in to creamy chaux like a chocolate to egg whites in a giant cake. Then we spread it over a surface like icing. We touched and pounded and splat, smoothed and combed....

"N'ayez pas peur de vos grande gestes"

"C'est une question de marriage; marriage d'amour"

"Toute est musique"

"La structure a un skelet, la chair, derm et epiderm"

It was awe-inspiring.

Julian has never done a course before. To this 'maitre' who simply arrived 'bouche a l'oreille' on our doorstep to rescue our house from concrete floors, he has opened his heart. We returned home with our great friend Julia spun and spinning, blinking with emotion and yet calm from a forty-eight hour prayer for the earth. Julian, hitherto (though always a Birkenstock wearer - even at our wedding) having poo-pooed anything group, bio, vegetarian or new age, didn't even gulp when energy was mentioned, or 'alchemy', 'sacral', 'sacred' or 'organic'. This wonderful man who is my husband, has softened. We have both softened in that we are both closer to our nature, and closer to each other; we have abandoned the concrete not just in our house but in our hearts.

As a result, hopefully, and with a fair amount of prosperity, our beautiful ochre house at the foot of the Mont Ventoux will be well taken care of too - for us and for whoever next passes through her.

...and before I can say "tadelakt" Julian will be going on a yoga retreat!


Blogger Jean said...

Wow, this is very inspiring. I hover between two visions of the future: a cottage in the French countryside and a community in England with cohousing, ecobuilding, some opportunities to explore living a bit better socially and environmentally. Reading this makes me wonder if it just might be possible one day to have both. I'll certainly bookmark their website, anyway.

And this is so beautiful. The image of concrete softening... Your writing soars. I'll refrain from further trite musical metaphors, but they come to mind.

12:55 PM  
Blogger ruth said...

yes it is possible jean, and in Italy too where my mum is living in a bio dynamic 'trulli'!!!

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Zuleme said...

Your story does inspire visions of a more natural future. My husband and I built our house 29 years ago of green hemlock from a local mill, no plywood, no wall to wall, mixing concrete in a wheelbarrow. This is in northern New Hampshire where wood is the natural available material and we have no termites. I believe in the southwestern US people are building with adobe and maybe doing projects similar to yours.
Can you tell us about the place your mom lives? I love reading your stories about life in Provence. It makes me feel connected to another part of the world I love.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I loved 'we have abandoned the concrete not just in our house but in our hearts'. Great process; great writing.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous caroline said...

Yes, I loved that too Zinnia.

And - at last! proper usage of the phrase 'awe-inspiring'.


12:28 AM  
Anonymous Max said...

I'm a natural builder and plaster in Czech. I read your blog and would love to find out more about the place you participated in the bio-dynamic building course? Are you able to supply a contact? (your link in the article is dead!),

Friendly yours,
Max -www.permalot.org

8:30 PM  

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