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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Genius of the Place

Three straight days of London fog blanketed not only the photo-voltaic array and the solar hot water array and the passive solar bank of windows, but my spirits as well.  By the third of December, Home the Land Built relied on its backup systems.  I started the ear-splitting, diesel-reeking, tractor-powered WINCO generator for the second time this season.   The unimpressive---deserving of an entire blog---Bosch tankless heater warmed enough water for a quick shower.   As for lack of passive solar heating, I could have started a second fire each day in the masonry heater.  But we didn’t need to.   Believe or not, it was warm out.  Or as near to warm as southeast Minnesota comes in December. 

As meteorologist (and worthy of a superhero’s cape) Paul Huttner explained in his Updraft blog, the unpredicted fog was caused by warm moist southerlies blowing over cold, even frozen, ground.  If I had asked him, I wonder if the Huttner would have applied his explanation to my own personal funk, my brooding fog? 

Would he perceive the ice of our agony:  Linda’s pain (and even terror) of double hip replacement, the pain I felt just watching her?   Would he perceive the recent warm southerly?   Caressing her steel hips, a sudden healing breeze lifted her from the recliner onto her feet and out onto the prairie where she now walks twice a day!  Would he be surprised that in the meeting of the two, the warm healing and the cold agony, created an unexpected weather?    Would he be surprised that in my transition from 100% caretaker to…well…something less than 100%, a fog enveloped my heart?   And if not, what would, what could he have done about it anyway?  

 Why don’t I have a backup system like Home the Land Built!  A backup generator for my sagging energy.   A backup tankless heater for my chilled blood.    A backup second fire, penetrating my fog with its warming light.    While I’m sure I do have backups---something is keeping me moving forward in ¼ mile visibility---Home the Land Built and I are quite different in one respect.

Recovery time.

By design, Home the Land Built recovers instantly from deprivation while I require considerable time.   When primary systems fail, Home the Land Built’s backup systems leap into action, instantly filling the void.  Minimal recovery time.   I, on the other hand, respond quite differently to change, requiring time to adapt.    Lengthy recover time.  And for me this recovery time---even when moving from a tough situation to a hopefully better situation---feels unsettling.  The current situation, no matter how bad, is visible.  While the future, no matter how hopeful, is hard to see.   What will this sudden southerly bring?

And so if this is it---a lengthy recovery time---for which I must allow, then I need different tools.  Not the quick changeover, instant gratification tools of Home the Land Built, but the tools of slow adaptation.  Patience.  A willingness to learn.  An extra splash of cream in my chai tea.  

And if I had to do it all over again, I wonder if Paul would design Home the Land Built differently.  We asked Paul to design us a home that enable our connection to the Land.  And from everything I’ve observed its seems the Land and I share one trait:  slow adaptation.  We both experience the thrill (and terror) of finding our way in the fog of change.  What else did Alexander Pope mean—other than wildly creative adaptations to new situations---by the Genius of the Place?

Maybe that’s the next home, the Home of Adaptive Genius.  Until then, I need to find my way in the fog.  I need to slowly recover and adapt.  I need to find the Genius of my Place.


  1. I love your blog - I found out about it from a friend named Lisa forslund, she had something about it on Facebook, maybe the newspaper article? I love how you write clearly, from a combination of mind and heart. I feel like I know both of you a bit :) What a wonderful experience you are having with the earth (the dirt, fire, air, water).....I havent read everything but am wondering if you have any farm animals. I saw the cat in a picture.
    I appreciate your writing and sharing your life with the world,


    1. Nicole, you humble me. Thank you for your generous words. No farm animals, yet! We've had many a conversation about chickens, and a few even, about goats. And it is this---this seeming planetful of possibility here at Home the Land Built---that keeps our minds, bodies and souls alive.