Monday, November 10, 2008

Old School

suderbyn barns

My time at Suderbyn was full of recollection. That is to say, I was immersed in history, and in learning skills that have been around for ages. Suderbyn Eco-village is situated on Gotland near the medieval trading town of Visby. The setting is idyllic – both dramatic and graceful. You can feel the patina of age on the island, both in terms of nature and the human activity.

It was a delight to live with Robert, Ingrid and family – I could feel their passion and anticipation, delving into the realization of a long-held dream. It was inspiring to be with them, seeing a real example of a family busily engaged in living in closer coordination with natural systems, living by what they believe in. It was rather impressive to see the toilet of the house torn out, after just two weeks there, replaced by a composting toilet system.

My time there was spent busily helping with preparations for an international workcamp, as well as with various minor house improvements. It was a nice chance to get involved with the nuts and bolts – Lifting and carrying rocks for a new grill, preparing and helping with barn roof reparations, and otherwise using my skills to help things where I could. It was also quite fun to be there to help with the beginning of the work camp. Many delightful people participated, from around the world. All good hearted and friendly – wanting to do what they could to learn about eco-living and to think about what they could do to improve our relationship to the broader system.

near by chapel

nice cliff stair

My time wandering through Visby was somehow deeply influential in a way that I’m still processing. I find again that I’m fascinated by the evidence of human life in a city. That it’s less about the building as an edifice than it is about what people are doing, how they’re living, and how well the edifice allows for that life. Visby, as a very old city, has the great quality that maybe only comes from many many feet passing over its stones. Still I’m hopeful that my skills can be used to generate such power. Buildings with facades and walls have changed many times over the years, showing generations and telling stories. Maybe buildings should be thought of in terms of the stories they can tell about human life. How well do they behave as a kind of parchment for the writing of our experiences? Can they be used like a sheet of news print, brainstormed over, marked up with sharpies and bits of charcoal?

Visby images

So, my appreciation of the old continues to bud – and it’s not to say that I dislike modern advancements, it is to say that there are many things we have learned as a species, that we quickly forget – but maybe to our detriment. So I hope I can use this passion for simple technologies, to perhaps fold some early ideas into new compositions and uses. Or alternately, to combine them, and remind people of our bare handed vulnerability and folksy abilities.

Some experiences to remember: Collecting beach wood with Suderbyn resident Disa, Lifting a few rocks that took everything I had, Outdoor shower at night in the cold and mist, Lovely dinners with a fascinating group of people, Making a hay bale seating area in the loft of the barn, making harness’ from rope, and proceeding to hang from the roof with Robert, wielding hammers, flat bars and screw guns, feasting on apples from the many trees.

Robert and workcamp at beach

new grill in process

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