One of the remarkable aspects of a project like ours is the manner in which good people seem to appear just as they're needed; after numerous such occurrences, one almost gets used to it. We've recently had another such unfolding.
As noted in recent posts, we're at the point where we deem it suitable to establish a first structure on our land. I'd thought this would be something small and inexpensive: a meditation cabin or hut, sufficient for 3 or 4 people to practice. The idea was that by building such a structure, at least our minimum responsibility would have been fulfilled: we would have successfully created a place where intensive dharma practice could be undertaken. My plan was to then take up residence in the area, to practice and work the land, thus hopefully creating affinity links that might support later development of the property.
It was with such thoughts that we began preparing for, and announcing, our meditation hut. The response we received, however, was more than I'd hoped for: not only donations of tools, but offers of help from a home designer/builder, an architect, construction managers, and a large crew of strong bodies. After some intensive discussion, we realized that our plan to build a small meditation structure had evolved. We were now discussing the possibility - financially and logistically - of going straight forward and building stage one of our overall Korinji project, a larger structure to serve as the staging ground for our future residence.
Right now an engineer is designing a 60 x 30' barn structure, sincluding an engawa (covered deck), and containing a main space as well as smaller rooms built out for storage and other needs. Our architect friend has offered to take that design and produce drawings. We have information coming on the materials cost: it looks to be a bit more than we currently have, but not out of reach given the generosity we continue to experience from our donors, and the success of fundraising events like the annual Fall-a-thon. As for labor, we have willing hands, and the simplicity of the post-and-beam construction we plan allows us to largely do it ourselves. The building will not be residential...it will not have bath, kitchen, or other important amenities; those we save for stage two, the main house. But most importantly, we'll have a place to begin working on Korinji together.
I spent four days on the land over this past weekend. The feeling of the place, even now at the end of winter, is remarkable. An electric, humming stillness covers the land there this time of year; other than a brief exchange of great horned owl calls in the early evening, and some yapping and fussing from coyotes across the far side of the valley around midnight, a deep, silent clarity seemed to well up from the hollows and ravines. Sleeping on the ground under a tarp, I awoke around 1am to see brilliant stars spread out from ridgetop to ridgetop, illuminating silvery patches of snow that still lay on the north facing slopes. Truly, our future home is a place well-suited to Zen training.
The days were warm, and we got some good work done: the parking area, an existing flat ridgetop accessed by the drive on the south end of the property, has been cleared of dead wood and brush. From there an already defined trail drops down east to an overview of the valley, zig-zagging then more or less north to the bottom of the main ravine (there we eventually plan a wooden footbridge, or at least flat walking stones, to allow passage over the bottom of the ravine) before rising up to the building site, a south-facing slope looking directly into the deepest part of the land. We needed to clear only thorn trees there: we'll get some good sunlight. The view from there in March is of snowy forest, gray rock, and the valley beyond. In summer I expect the valley will be obscured, and only a sea of waving trees will be seen.
We've identified other future sites as well, including the locations of our future house and a possible small retreat cabing. Yes, we'll still build it at some point for use as a solitary practice place. From its doorway there, one will just be able to see, north across the valley and past a grove of white birches, the zendo rooftop. Perhaps - if the wind is quiet - one would hear the sound of the meditation bell.