Sunday, 29 June 2014

Saturdays are for being Hypnotized and Hysterical

I went to watch the Rugby yesterday. South Africa played Scotland. The stadium is beautiful and its always nice to visit there. Of course I am grateful to the people that invite me to these things and for the food and the booze and all the hospitality that goes with it.

 I try my best to get in the spirit, but yesterday, like with most of these type of events, I felt that I had disappointed my hosts by not getting more into it. And its not really something that's changed recently, to be honest I have never really felt part of the "crowd". I do try. I do put in effort but, for reasons I don't completely understand, I don't feel what I see many people around me are feeling. Are they faking it? Are they really interested in who scores, or who comes out of the scrum first, or whether the ball is kicked over the poles to add an extra two points to the scoreline? Are they really thrilled that the Mexican Wave has gone twice around the stadium without stopping? I do try to fake it. But most of all it just makes  me sad and confused to know that I am having to fake it.

All I see is thousands and thousands of people hypnotised and hysterical; falling hook line and sinker for a massive corporate marketing exercise. It is my fascination with the scale of this hypnosis and the willingness with which we embrace it that plays in my mind over and over while pretending to watch the game.

But at least I did manage to get out to the farm this morning. It really looks to me as if though the brown heifer is pregnant, her genitals seem to be swolen and oversized, he udders seem to have enlarged, she seems be dragging her hind legs a little and every now and then she arches her tail as if though she is about to poop. She is a heifer still and this will be her first calf, but I really don't have the experience to be able to tell. I will keep watching carefully.

We have made progress with week with stripping down the interior of the "north room" I was hoping that we could just scrape off the flaking paint, but on the west wall (where the prevailing wind and rain come from) the plaster has had to come off as well.If I can get this room into a habitable state I can begin to sleep over there (at very least for weekends) and get a bit more done. I would really like to be able to really get into the house repair project and commit some real time to it. The experience I had with the builder there was not a good one. I know it will take longer, but I would prefer to do it myself.

I plan to take some leave from the office in the next week or two. I will use that time to make a big push forward.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Sundays are for quiet reflection

Sundays, for me, are for sitting silently. For reflecting. For taking it all in. And today was a lovely Sunday. The sun was out . It was windless. But in that quiet time today it seemed, for the first time, as if everything was beginning to add up. Beginning to make sense and that all the bits were beginning to talk to each other.

I have told you before that I have not really full understood what has driven me to buy Pebblespring farm.
It has been a compulsion that would not let me go. It is something that I have had to do because I know that the regret of having not bought it would be far greater that the sorrow of having tried and failed. But having bought the place, I have been left wondering. What now? Where will I find the money? Where will I find the time? By doing this, am I really doing the best that I can do for my family? and what of my career? Is it not just too weird that this architect would rather spend time with his cattle, his gumboots and his chainsaw than "networking" on the golf course or the banks of the Krom River? If I seem certain to those around me, it is an illusion, because I am constantly in doubt. I am constantly questioning the wisdom of what I am doing.

But today was different. Today I felt certain. Today I knew that for me it has always been about one thing.Today I could see clearly that in fact I have been dabbling over the years in aspects of the same idea. Today, I see that, more than anything else, I demand for myself.... FREEDOM.

 Perhaps this burning for freedom came from the time when my freedom was taken from me. When I was locked behind those high fences in training camps and on parade grounds. For two years in the eighties, everyday when I woke up I would think of the time when I would be free. I did not even really know that I was free before that freedom was taken from me. They took my clothes, they took my hair, they told me where and when I would sleep, what I would eat, when I would eat. When I could sit, when I could stand. They told me how I should walk and what clothes I must wear. I had no freedom to choose anything. In the Angolan Border war, in the Townships under siege, I was not free. I was a pawn in their game. But then out of the army, to University in the late eighties, I immediately disregarded thoughts of my on freedom, and what felt like to have lost it. I got caught up in the sense of doing "the right thing" about the ending Apartheid. I took it very seriously, even though the little protests and campaigns we ran were of such a little impact so as to be meaningless in any lasting way.

As I came to the professional world and my first job, I did not last long working for a boss. After two short years I could see that this was not for me and I opted for the relative freedom of going into practice for my own account. Yes, I was free, but I was now married and compelled to earn the money required of a marriage. As the practice grew, I came into partnership with others who would help me to work on ever larger and larger jobs. Things were busy, there was no time to think about freedom. Bigger offices, bigger projects and bigger payrol.

And this is where I am now. I have built a business for myself. It gives me a lot of things, but I am coming to see that it does not give me freedom. Its is my own fault of course. I have built up around me a family who has become addicted to the money that is brought in from our business. We have become addicted to the same things that everyone around us is addicted to. I love my family and I would not have it any other way. But that does not make me free.

But when I am on the farm on a beautiful morning like today, I see a hint. A faint glimmer. A possibility of freedom. A life not without work. A life not outside of society. But a life that does not require me to "keep afloat" a company that pays the salaries of so many people. A life that does not require my to do business with mindless state and corporate machines. Machines that are necessary, if our world chooses to continue as it does, but that are mindless, and need to be mindless in order to function at the scale that they do.

This faint glimmer tells me that I do not have to forget about freedom after all. That it can be achieved and that it can be real and it can be in my lifetime.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Design and the limitation of language.

For me, it has always been about design. Well I suppose not always, but for a long while. Even today as I cut away the brambles, trudged through the marsh and dragged dead branches away from the driveway, it is about design.

My career has been about design.

Pebblespring is about design.

I have learned from clever people that words point to a truth, but they are in themselves not the truth, so when I say I believe in "design" I may mean something different to a fashion designer friend or a structural engineer friend saying these words. Because, in truth, I have come to see that there is some magic dimension to design. (and I suppose by "magic" I really mean something that is very difficult to put into words) I will talk a little more about "magic" later, but let me explain what I call "design":

  • To me, Design is more than problem solving
  • To me, Design takes stock of what we have and reconfigures it into something much more
  • To me, Design finds beauty in the re-configuration.
  • To me, Design finds its order and its harmony in the relationship between the parts that make up the whole.(the parts "speak" to each other and inform their nature, their form and their position.)
  • To me, Design is always about the configuring of the whole, it can never just be the part.

The "magic" though is that in any loose arrangement of parts there already exists a higher harmony and a higher order. There exists beauty!

Beauty is beyond science. There is no mechanism to quantify the amount of beauty that exists in a rose or a sunset. Beuaty is qualitative not quantitative. But, beauty exits. When you sit by yourself overwhelmed by the beauty of a sunset, you are not bullshitting yourself, you really are experiencing the beauty of the sunset. It exists. It is true. It just cant be measured.

So, it seems to me as if though the design,.... the beauty, exists before I sit down with the fragmented parts. It requires a still and receptive mind on my part to spend time with these parts to give each of them the "voice" they need to find their role in the new whole. As the designer, I am facilitating the parts toward their higher self in the new whole.

I know its sounds a little spacey, but its difficult to put into words a process that goes on in my head when the design process is going as I like it to go. And by the way it very seldom goes the way I would like it to go. In the work I do in the office as an Architect everyday, there are so many perfectly normal businesses reasons that make it impossible for the design process to go as I would like it to. But still, from time to time we are able to step beyond even these limitations and get some good work done.

At Pebblespring right now I am getting to know and understand the parts that make up the whole. I am getting to understand what their existing relationships are and what they could be. I am in a stage of observation, yes I have done some work, sometimes subtracting parts, like the poison Inkberry trees that kill the cattle, and sometimes adding parts, like a roof over the old cottage to stop the rain from melting away the sun dried bricks.

Every system is a living system. Pebblespring Farm is a living system. So if I change something, by addition or subtraction, it reacts, it adapts. I, as the designer, must be there to observe the reaction learn from it and correct my design and approach if necessary. I must remain concious and aware.

I cannot see that it is useful in this project, or in any project, to arrive with a pre-conceived notion plucked from Top Billing or Cosmo or the latest trip to the Seychelles. That, to me, is a different process and needs a different word to describe it. Not "design". But I suppose this is the limitation of language!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The New Beehive

Its been really cold this week. Winter has come in a big way. While there is lots of rain, I can see that the grass is not growing without the heat an the light it needs.

But the big news is that, we now have bees. Yip. The swarm was moved out there on Tuesday night after work. It was a swarm that we had caught in a "catcher box" at our home in Walmer. The bees tried to make a nest in an air vent in my workshop toward the end of last year. We called the bee keeper and they came and set up a box which the swarm promptly moved into. We have a swarm almost every year in Walmer and every year we call the beekeeper to catch it. So for years he has been taking it away somewhere else. This year we took it to Pebblespring Farm. My sister says its an omen of sorts. "The Bees will seek out their beekeeper" she says.

Well, if I am the beekeeper that this swarm has been seeking, I am afraid that they have found a beekeeper that is not very ready for them at all. I don't feel ready to take on bees, it was not at the top of the list of things I wanted to get done.

To be honest it all feels like a bit too much. I am not getting nearly enough progress on the cottage, let alone the construction of the new house. Its a complicated dance. I have to keep my professional life going so I can bring the cash in for the project. The more time I spend in the office the more I am too exhausted to think of the farm. The more time I spend on the farm the more I begin to worry that I wont be able to bring the money I need to do what needs doing on the farm.

But for better or for worse we have now employed Mandoza full time on the farm. Monday to Friday, earning weekly wages. Mandoza is able to make his way to and from the farm and does not rely on me for transport this is a big advantage.

He has spent the week clearing up mostly trees and branches that have been cut making the driveway and other paths. It will take a long time. the site is big and out resources are limited.

But perhaps this farm has been to me like a swarm of bees finding its beekeeper. It has come to me "ready or not" in fact quite a bit more not than ready. Perhaps, as an experiment I should just trust that idea and go with it for a while. What's the worst that could happen?