What a Natural Building Workshop Means

At EcoNest we hold four Natural Building Workshop sessions each year. Students are met at their own level and then gently challenged to cultivate and hone the innate builder within them.  Whether the entry point is “screw gun 101” or refining complex wooden joinery skills the environment is created and the tone is set for enrichment… but not just of building skills. There is something significant that happens on a soul level when we come together to build with common vision….a vision of working in balance with nature.

This winter I had the rare opportunity to be a full workshop participant. I “unplugged” from my office where the design and administration keeps us busy, and I experienced a profound reminder of why we choose to do this work.

I am seated on a bag of rice husks across from Kat whom I have come to know well over the past few days.  Today we are making mud patties destined to become the walls of our building. Sooney joins us in the work and teaches us a song of gratitude for food. As we learn, Kat chimes in with beautiful harmony. I find my own voice, under-used, rusty, in and out of tune but appreciated none the less. This is not the first time this week that I step outside my comfort zone, a good sport, well-supported. Our patty work takes on the rhythm of the song. We decide to sing this song at dinner for Jorleni and Flori the two village women who have been consistently churning out incredible meals for our group of 15. Even though they won’t understand the words we feel certain they will feel our appreciation of them and so we practice in earnest.

The work never stops.  As we sing together our pile of patties grows to an impressive mountain. This camaraderie creates an afternoon of light-hearted pleasure I am never afforded as I sit alone with my computer, my usual portal of communication and creative expression. I feel alive. My body is working. I am outdoors and in the heart of nature with butterflies, strange birds and even a daily inspection from the village deer “Bambi.”  This time in this place, Costa Rica, the walls are of waddle and daub and bamboo. Back home in Ashland, the workshop experience repeats itself in an equally beautiful bio-region with a more substantial clay/fiber and timber frame fit for the vicissitudes of this climate.

At the end of the week a new building stands in this little village. It models a sustainable way of building an elegant structure with the materials at hand. It models working in community, building skills, and building bridges inward and outward. We sang our song and the kitchen ladies smiled shyly, a little teary-eyed. Not too bad at all!

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