Last night I was organizing files from one of our many (too many) hard drives. I came across a file of unnamed video clips. I began opening them one by one—they were short clips of two years ago when we were just beginning to build our little straw bale house. First, the empty land, a tiny green trailer (our home that first summer), and then tall red oak and tamarack logs sticking straight up out of the ground like dead, branchless trees. We wanted to build a house without concrete so they are stuck deep in the sand. Next, stringers and Kenny G. up on a tall ladder notching the poles with a chainsaw. Rafters raised one by one with a Pettybone. Tired faces, suntanned faces, cold beer, small gatherings.
Each little scene left me feeling amazed. Here I am now sitting on my couch in my cozy little home.
I have so often thought back to the week I spent in a Structural Consulting training with Robert and Rosalind Fritz. Robert is the author of The Path of Least Resistance and Your Life as Art. If you have not read these books—and there is something in life that is eluding you—read them now.
Anyway. Vermont. Beautiful leafy forests, small streams trickling along every roadside, and inside Robert and Rosalind’s training center some of the most intriguing and challenging learning I’ve done in my professional life.
So, a woman in the workshop is telling Robert about the house she and her husband are building. They got the basement in and then their finances went south. They are living in the basement. She tells Robert that she “knows” the house will get built soon.
Robert asks her, “How do you know if you can build a house?”
She was puzzled. “I just know it. We can build this house. I can see it.”
He asked again. “How do you know if you can build a house?”
Now the woman was squirming a bit. “I know we can.”
“How do you know?” He persists in questioning her.
The woman was getting peevish. “I have absolute faith that we can build our house—that’s how I know.”
Robert shook his head. “Do you know how you can tell if you can build a house?”
“How?” she asked.
Robert grinned (pretty pleased with himself). “When you have built the house.”
I’m not sure the woman got—or appreciated—his little exercise, but I got it.
Prayers and wishes and dreams are one thing, but we can never actually “know” if we can achieve those things we set out to do—until we have done them. The point of this whole training, in fact, was to teach us how to use current reality and our own vision and put them together in such a way that they begin to pull toward one another. Robert calls it “structural tension,” like a pulley that brings the bucket up out of the deep well.
I’ve made pretty good use of all I learned from Robert and Rosalind that week. In fact, I built a house.
But the creative, dynamic urge in us is a hungry, pesky little cat. We no sooner achieve what we want and already the next goal is scratching at our pant legs.
Next summer—a room, bright kitchen add-on to our house sounds great. Hmmm—what do I have to do in this current reality to bring that about?
The short video clips, however, reminded me that we need to take a moment sometimes to look back and really appreciate the house that is already built.