'To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top."
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
We started building about a week ago. Our first cabin, tiny house, one-room sanctuary, with a view fit for a king. None of us have ever done anything like this before. When I say ‘us’, I’m counting myself and my desert sister, Xio but really the structural building is being done by the menfolk, Doc and Steve. Xio and I are helping when and where we can whilst running the day-to-day of our lives and existing livelihoods. We’ll be working on the finishing, painting and decorating eventually.
So anyway, none of us have ever done this before. Steve and Xio build and finish furniture made out of salvaged wood at their shop, the JT Trading Post in Joshua Tree. Doc has helped them build tables and I’ve helped with some finishing. The driving force then, is not our shared expertise in house building but a shared passion to build a dwelling from scratch in this magical corner of the Californian Mojave desert we have made our home. And this idea of home is, I guess, what this is all about. Even though we won’t be living in it ourselves, this cabin represents the self-sufficiency necessary to create your own home. We moved here to escape something and to begin something completely new, to live life on our own terms, like most people who move out here. This little cabin, in the middle of a vast desert, facing a mountain range over which the sun rises, is the story of the four of us, the disparate lives we’ve lived and left behind and our need to create new lives free from the bullshit we’ve all been conditioned to believe as true.
The first week of building has been exhausting, exhilarating and challenging. This structural stage is naturally, the most important, especially out here where we sometimes get winds of upto 100 mph, not to mention earthquakes. The base for the floor is down, the beams for the walls are up. More experienced builder friends of ours have seen what we’ve done and given us some valuable advice and suggestions. Anxieties arise about whether we need to revisit certain things, to reinforce them. Doubts surface about what the hell we’re doing and if this is even going to work. And then I remember why we’re doing this, I remember that the universe always supports acting on your dreams. There is this unmistakable feeling of being supported by this desert, by this community, by something nameless.
I watch Doc, essentially a recluse when we were living in England, become the force of nature that he is. The passion and excitement in his eyes as he learns new skills everyday is infectious. Seeing someone come this organically alive after they had been living a purgatorial existence for so long makes me want to do cartwheels. I think of the two of us, a couple of crazy dreamers, who first came here to Joshua Tree in 2012 and we were hooked. We didn’t know how, we just knew we had to be here. Our single-mindedness fortified our dream against any naysayers. And then we acted, we worked, we waited patiently and we trusted. We kept our dream impenetrable to doubt. That nameless force, the universe, call it what you will, acted right back. It colluded on our behalf to the point where we would wonder with delight at how anyone could ever not believe in magic. We learned that the key ingredients to this magic are dreams, trust, audacity and action. I watch Doc, my fellow adventurer, building this little cabin in the desert and I’m filled with open-hearted gratitude.
It’s been almost a year since we moved out here, and we’re running our own business and building this cabin to expand on that. It takes my breath away. But this is just the beginning. We have many more mountains to climb, so much more to learn and do. Each day we encounter new challenges. Instead of running and hiding, and feeling like victims, we face them head on, hungry to learn as much as we can. Most days, we’re so physically exhausted, we’re in bed by 8:30pm. But there’s a pleasure that comes from moving my body, an enjoyment in the physical work, that the sedentary life of sitting at a desk never once afforded me.
We don’t know how this cabin will turn out. We do our best everyday, working together from diverse pasts towards a joint vision of the present and future. Looking at it reminds me to enjoy this fleeting moment, to enjoy this journey, as clichéd as that may sound. If ever there was an art of living and doing, I think this reverence for the simplicity of the present moment and the journey, with all its highs and lows, would be it.
Keep an eye on our progress here.