Off Grid Living
by Leaf Running-rabbit
As Fall approaches, and the heat and strength of the last days of Summer sun slowly transitions itself into the electrifyingly gold and yellow Aspen leaves of the Colorado mountains, I feel grateful.
I am grateful that all Summer long, my little solar panel array up on the hill has been extremely productive and busy taking in the fire energy from the sun, and that my batteries inside the house are satiated. I feel grateful that the air is and has remained clean and breathable, and that it is clear enough that through it, I can still sit out in my yard and not only see, but ponder the stars. I am grateful to have heard the rivers and creeks and mountain streams running swiftly, to have felt the pitter patter of the rain on my shoulders, and to know that fresh drinkable spring water still bubbles out of the ground, and that I was lucky enough to drink from it. I am grateful that the Earth is alive and well, that the mountains continue to grow and the stones continue to roll, and most of all, that my earthen bones are still strong enough to carry me forth through the busy days of my earthly life.
It is during times like these, the transitional times, as we close out the summer and enter the September autumnal equinox and begin Fall, when I really and truly contemplate my life: where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m going. It feels to me like a time of assessment and orientation, a time to take stock and once again set intentions and goals in order to remain on track as far as what I want to do with my life. I want to always remember that I am not the one following my life’s path, I am the one creating it.
When I built my off-grid straw bale church house, I had that same attitude and mentality in mind: namely, that I do not want to have to do the best I can do with what consequences I am given. More intentionally, I want to create a result from my actions that foster a profound, meaningful, and dutiful existence in this plane and on this earth. In other words, I wanted my life to become, and to be, sacred. And this idea is what led me to build my own sacred space, my very own church house cathedral using Sacred Architecture.
All I had at first was a picture out of an old magazine of an ancient Greek temple that looked like it was constructed out of adobe block. It was tiny, it was in the shape of a cross, most likely symbolic of Christianity, and it had a semi-pyramid shaped thingy on the top of it. As soon as I saw it, my imagination started running crazy with ideas adapted to my own authentic and Earth-centered ways and beliefs around architecture and symbology, as well as my personal geographic location and monetary means.
I wanted my church house to be straw bale. Straw bale happens to be most ideal for my high elevation mountain climate. It has the highest insulation value, the highest fire resistance rating, and the highest mold Off-Grid LivinG by Leaf Running-rabbit Photos by leaf running-rabbit Copyright © 2014 American Solar Energy Society. All rights reserved. SOLAR TODAY FALL 2016 45 and mildew resistance rating of all building materials possible. This is not to say that it is more fire resistant than a concrete block structure, just that its rating is also just as high. Post and beam straw bale construction also lent itself to the use of all the ponderosa and pine trees I ended up clearing from the building site, which are now inside and supporting the entire weight of the structure. Straw bale, in my humble opinion, is by far one of the best alternatives for 100% off-grid living.
I also loved the cross shape I saw in the magazine photo, not for its Christian-valued symbology, but for its four direction-valued symbology. I not only wanted to honor the East, South, West, and North, but I also liked the idea of the cross, as in a Crossroads, as in that point in the center where one has choices, and a decision to be made. I want to always be reminded, again, of the fact that I want my life to be lived with intention, rather than casually or haphazardly.
In addition to the honoring of the Four Directions, I also wanted a way to honor Father Sky. As a result, in the center of the cross shape, there is a pyramid shape with skylights literally pointing upward toward the sky. From inside the church house, standing inside the center of the house and directly below the pyramid, one can see the sky during the day and the stars at night. This feature has to do with promoting my uncapped potential. In low-ceilinged structures, it is my opinion that one’s abilities for artistic freedoms and expressions are energetically limited, rather than completely open and uninhibited. As a result, the downstairs ceilings are over 9’ high, and the upstairs ceilings are vaulted open at almost 16’ high.
Further, inside the church house and directly underneath the pyramidal skylights, is a round wooden feasting table, which represents the Mother Earth. The food presented at mealtimes on this table, by and large, were grown in the earth. The water that we drink there, flows through the earth. The root vegetables, the green leaves, the bread and the wood-fired heat used to bake that bread, are all symbolic representations of our rootedness, our connectedness, our very dependence on the earth itself. The round table, this is where we give and share nourishment and honor the Earth itself.
And then of course, there is the Sacred Geometry throughout the church house and structure. Every dimension, for example, as another means of honoring the Four Directions, the Four Phases of the Moon, the Four Seasons of the Year, the Four Phases of Life, the Four Chambers of the Heart, etc., is a multiple of Four. The largest section of the cross, the “bottom’ leg, is 16’ X 20’. The top leg of the cross is 16’ X 16’. And the two side wings of the cross are 16’ X 12’ respectively. For me, as the person living and breathing inside this space, habitating a majority of my life inside this space, it is a constant reminder of my earth-centered lifeways, choices, and intentions. As a human, I need reminders constantly, and always.
Ultimately, and in the end, what I ended up building myself is my own little church in the woods, La Iglesia, we call it. It is not a church of religion per se, but more a Church and Cathedral of Intention.
So, as we here in the Northern Hemisphere head ourselves with the sun toward the autumnal equinox, may we consider where it is that we have been? Where is it that we are? And where is it that we are going? There is a lot to ponder here, and I for one am excited, interested, and anxious to find out some answers. So think about it and let me know. And you won’t have to write to me or tell me, I’ll just simply already know, because intentional actions speak louder than words.
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