Friday, January 7, 2011

The Joys of a Simple Wood Shed

Happy New Year one and all.

After the olive picking, 2011 came upon us in a whirlwind of chaos and confusion. John, Caroline, Maya and Violet had to cut their year long stay with us short and return back to London.  Many many rivers of tears shed. A sudden, rapid shock to our lives and theirs that has left us reeling. Arlene, Annie & Nathan arrived shortly afterwards to a tumultuous reception and Christmas crashed passed our eyes in the flashiest of flashes with days and nights interchangeable and sleepless.

It feels a lot like we just took a long sea voyage through the roughest of tempests. Coming out the other side and arriving in much calmer waters, although the relentless sheeting rains outside our newly restored Portuguese stone home, remain a constant reminder that winter is truly upon us. Engulfed by water and wind on all sides. The energy of it all is staggeringly powerful. Transformatively so, sem dúvidas. 

The weather here on the edge of wilderness, just like the landscape, often offers a reflection of that which is apparently occurring in the very depths of our souls. Through the sunny days of summer and autumn there is time and space to see far. Outside. Always outside. The scorching heat stirs the fires of our passions as nature sings her enchanting tunes and the drums of life beat their vibrational dance. In those days, if you sit, observe and listen, everything is revealed. Oh what contrast is this season of yuletide song!

Inside we retreat. Behind the newly built walls and doors and windows. Inside to the books and the films and the memories of a kitchen garden full, abundant and glorious, of a garden that fuelled the lunches and the dinners and the pizzas and the conversations and the games with the friends who are no longer here.  

We go inside to remember. Inside with ourselves. Inside we must retreat. For outside in the dramatic valley landscape the storms rage. Midday is dusk. And yet we see. We even feel the reflection. Because those same storms, those same relentless rains, they somehow rage and weep deep within us.

January 1st 2011, I woke up in a determined mood.

It is, if you didn’t already know, the International Year of the Forest. We have already made it our focus this year to look after, with as much love as we can, the forest where we live. To prune the wild shrubs, the strawberry fruit trees, the rock roses, the heathers, the gorse, the lavenders. But before we start on that we need to clear up the mess around the houses. The flotsam and jetsam of 2 years of building work. Piles of wood. Piles of tiles. Piles of stones. Piles of clay. All of which we have already begun to reuse, reform, recreate into other things like sheds, cupboards, shutters, garden walls, composting structures and furniture.

January 1st the clouds parted and the sun shone and I rode out to face the new year. Still determined. 

And what I wanted more than anything else in that moment, was somewhere dry to store firewood. Just a simple wood shed. Nothing more. I looked around the land, at the materials at my disposal. And one pile of left over materials after another, I gathered the stuff needed and began that familiar slow creative process of making something.  Josh joined me. Together we built our wood shed. Stone wall foundation to level the base. 3 cement beams and filling blocks to make the raised floor. Chainsawed a 70 year old sweet chestnut roof beam rotting on the ground for last 3 years, to become 4 majestic pillars. Off cuts from our new eucalyptus roof beams, to tie in the pillars. Old wine vat slatted chestnut wood, nailed to form sides to hold the logpile in place also doubling as a strong trellis for River’s roses to plant. 

4 chunky wooden planks, once scaffolding boards, with floor boards sawed perfectly to size by Josh, form the generous roof structure upon which old thigh crafted clay tiles, carefully put aside at the start of the restoration work, sit atop their new abode, basking once again in the joy of doing what they were made to be. Tiles. For a roof. To hold off the rain. So the firewood can dry. And the hearth can burn its hottest. Thawing our toes and soothing our hearts.

It’s not a great piece of engineering or architecture. But it serves its purpose and I am proud of it. It’s just a simple wood shed. Built by my son and I in a day and half. Out of the debris left over from the creative journey of 2010.  And for that, each time I look out at it, or sit under it, or pass it, this simple wood shed is a ray of hope, that even in the midst of a bleak winter, paradoxically fills me with much hope and joy for the year ahead.  

May your 2011 be full of adventure and love. And the simple things that bring you joy.



James said...

I think you must also start to write a book. Thank you for those words Memphis!

slbma said...

a beautiful post, which hit many notes within our own souls... as we cocoon ourselves away to try and work out our direction this coming year, we wish you much joy from simple things in 2011. x

The Winters said...

thanks James. thanks slbma. very encouraging of you both. especially as i take so much joy in reading your blogs. keep writing guys, somehow we will learn to navigate these coming months a little easier knowing there are others finding their way too.