Friday, May 21, 2010
Living in Harmony with Nature
In what might appear to be my never-ending quest for The Perfect Fort, which I have written about previously, I have been busy trying out a variety of places that might work. What I'm finding out is that many of the places I thought might work as a fort, either do not speak to my soul, or I have outgrown. I'm also finding that the places that really speak to me, my inner self, can be approached with a new perspective. Not retro-fitting. That would be going backwards. I'm talking about a whole new approach to aspects of those things that did work. That will not just work now, but will carry me forward, right into the perfect place to build a fort.
For those of you who remember "My Own Island of the Blue Dolphins," that is closer to what I'm referring. A somewhat spankier version of that place at the end of the clothesline. I visited a Barnes and Noble in St. Cloud the other day, looking for a particular book, when I veered over to the periodicals section, which I am wont to do, and, Lo and Behold! There was a magazine I felt drawn to for reasons I didn't even question. There was something about the cover story... I just added it to my ever-growing pile and marched to the checkout. Before things got really out of hand.
The cover photo was the dining room of a home created using the boulders and trees just outside its doors and windows. The magazine is Modernism and the article was "Living with Nature," a look at the home of American designer, Russel Wright (no known relation to Frank Lloyd). Although I had for the past couple of years been very intrigued by Modernism, as it applies to architecture and design, this seized my imagination as nothing else has. Perhaps I'm just finally listening and the time is approaching where this little dream of mine could finally take root.
I love the idea of living in harmony with nature, to see the outdoors clearly right outside my window and to live in such a way as would allow the outside in as often and as much as possible. The reality of building such a place in Minnesota, where snow and cold comes fairly early and sometimes hangs in there long after we're ready for its retreat, has not escaped me. Nor has the reality of mosquitoes. I'm working on that one. I believe what we see as pests in nature can be dealt with on a purely spiritual level. I am not there yet.
What I loved about this particular structure was his desire to use space wisely and in line with nature. What I did not like so much was his use of less than natural products, i.e. formica, styrofoam, plastic. These were all new and very popular in the time period in which he built his home and he wanted to create something using these new materials. He said, "My own experimental and personal country home is intended as an experiment and demonstration that contemporary design can create from old and new materials a home highly individual, capable of a variety of moods that can be found in traditional homes, a home that can join the emotional, sentimental and esthetic characteristics with the practicality and comfort that we have created in the 20th century." Taking that into consideration and understanding his approach, looking now from a new perspective early in the 21st century, my own project would perhaps include more natural if not recycled materials as much as possible. There is much I could incorporate from his vision, including his door knobs made of stones.
He and his wife, Mary, who passed on in 1952, found the perfect land in the Hudson River Valley in 1942. Construction did not start for sixteen years and was not completed until 1960. He named the place Manitoga, the Algonquin term for "place of great spirit." He built amongst an abandoned granite quarry, using land that had been decimated by copper mining and logging. His daughter, Annie, renamed it Dragon Rock, after a granite outcropping on a cliff, visible from inside the house. The background story of how he chose the building site and his approach to its design really intensified my own desire for just such a place. On a somewhat smaller scale. I love his descriptions of what he saw from his own personal space, including windows just above ground level that provided, "a worm's-eye view."
Rather than go into an in-depth re-writing of this story, I'm suggesting the link to it. If you like magazines about home design, you might like this. Unfortunately, a subscription is required to read the entire story. That's how these things work, it seems. But, if you like the idea of living in harmony with nature, if you appreciate reading about an aspect of our American heritage in architecture and design, I suggest picking up a copy. This is a good read. But, it's the photographs that really tell the story. I've always liked stories with nice pictures.
The magazine article also includes information on his other projects, such as furniture and dinnerware. His designs included pitchers. I haven't had my eye on collectible pottery and such for many years. I thought I was down-sizing. I fear I was just making room for the new. Well, the old-new. I might be able to justify a small plate...
God help me.