After a month of co-creating Mama Bear Sanctuary in Santa Cruz, with weekends dedicated to the transformation of a 1977 Komfort Travel Trailer into a Tiny Home Office (a.k.a. The Beanstalk), I am back on Bramble Mountain.
In the midst of blazing heat and raging wildfires we tore out funky ceiling panels, rotten support beams, and old insulation. We discovered termites, deserted wasp nests, and lichen—or maybe moss. We pulled out the bathroom, planning to install a private writing nook in that space instead.
“We” consisted of a small team.
Me: A lifestyle artivist with three daughters and six months of intentional rewilding under my belt.
Michael: A rogue software engineer whose talent for building far surpasses his actual experience. (He is our project leader.)
Nikki: A dear friend with a huge heart who showed up to help with re-construction.
Susan: Another dear friend with a huge heart who came to help, while constructing amazing meals from the garden.
Harii: A Mama Bear who recently migrated from Chicago with her 8-year-old son to test-run farm life.
Kayana: My teenager, who went almost an entire day without her iPhone and learned basic carpentry.
The build was hosted by Eco-Camp Coyote, a magical acre of earth-friendly industry in South San Jose. It’s a place worthy of explanation, so here is a short one. Eco-Camp operators Leo and Ero began with a reclaimed lumber business called Good News Wood Salvation, harvesting and selling what has been, for the most part, redwood fence boards. At first glance you might think they’re merely a couple of hunks installing a trendy new wall in a yoga studio, crafting a custom fence for a preschool, or supplying a local builder with affordable materials. Look closer, however, and you'll find an emerging business model that integrates Real Human Needs into its roots. (Actually, it’s the oldest model in the book, but it got smooshed under the heavy footprint of Patriarchal-Catholic/Christian-Consumer-Capitalism.) Right under the nose of Silicon Valley, this property seamlessly supports a large permaculture garden, four tiny houses, the lumber business, and additional project space. They make their own biodiesel for their fleet of vehicles, turn their poop into cooking gas, and run their homes and workshop with solar power. Piles of reclaimed redwood sit in all shapes and sizes between forklifts and fig trees. People gather regularly to learn about ecological restoration and renewable energy. Leo and Ero buy nothing new, preferring instead to discover treasures in the dumpster or along the side of the road.
This trailer is also a salvage; a reclaiming of space. By turning an old trailer into a tiny house, I demonstrate a commitment to using the resources at hand, rather than extracting more. I am pushing the limits of what can be healed and transformed, so I can best understand how these ideas apply to basic human needs (of which housing is a great example). However, no more trailer salvaging for me. My next building project will be an aircrete honeybee that hovers eight feet above a rocky mountain precipice.
Now, The Beanstalk sits on a ridge between the sweeping valley and the sleeping pond. When I open my eyes in the morning, I have only to tilt my chin slightly, and there before me spreads the pink bloom of sunrise flanked by the silhouettes of countless trees.
Although my Tiny Home Office has a resurfaced roof, new framing, redwood-paneled walls, freshly painted kitchen, tapestries, art, and two fuzzy kittens, sometimes I see only the unfinished business. The degree to which I am yet unsettled, unorganized, unsatisfied. I could easily cling to the frustration of having an injured right arm, of not being able to power through the myriad tasks on my to-do list.
Instead, I sit and breathe and write these words. Breeze moves in through the window and draws my attention gently outward, away from the mess, to the oak tree that drapes its branches across the view from my window. I still haven’t fixed the windows, either. But it is enough, and so am I.
This is a different pacing.
Let earth’s rhythm recalibrate me.
Leaves don’t all drop at once.
There are a million shades of green.