THE BUILDER'S SECRET: LEARNING THE ART OF LIVING THROUGH THE CRAFT OF BUILDING,
by George Ehrenhaft.
George Ehrenhaft has opened a new door, one that leads into the mystical, highly personal realm of why
remodelers, rehabilitators, and home builders create their personal domains with their own hands. This
is touchy territory--one potential subject flatly told Ehrenhaft it was none of his damn business. Others
made excuses. I'm glad the author persisted. The result is a balanced offering of widely diverse stories:
teacher, housecleaner, teacher, architect, graphic artist, symphony flutist, policeman, artist, builder-writer.
Most interviewees began their projects overenthused and underinformed. Lacking knowledge, skills, and tools,
they were impelled by financial necessity, curiosity, fantasy, a hunger for a transcendent adventure. Men
with wives struggling to understand; women dealing with macho members of the building trades. Personal
relationships gone awry. Disaster and achievement. Despair and elation. The author found sentiment,
resilience, intuition, testing of limits, reverence for nature, "a conspiracy of forces," and "'being
filled with a thrilling and joyous sense of Shelter--with a capital S.'" Like writers who must write,
owner-builders must build. Pity those who never feel the natural high of living in their own created shelter.
Pity yourself? Or step into the lives of these nine and live the transcendent moments with them.
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THE BUILDER'S SECRET
GAVIOTAS: A VILLAGE TO REINVENT THE WORLD, by Alan Weisman
In 1966, when he was 22, Paolo Lugari and his brother drove over barely
passable roads to a desolate area 200 miles east of Bogota, Columbia. The
llanos area is a poor-soil barren that grows only a few nutrient-deficient
grasses, a vast expanse of sun-baked plains in spite of over 100 inches
of rain per year. A place of deadly water and hungry mosquitos. Conditions
were so daunting that the Columbian government abandoned an attempt to
build a road through the area. Lugari saw an opportunity to create something
very special. And he did it. Today Gaviotas is a thriving, sustainable
community of hundreds of joyous people studying, inventing, producing,
singing and dancing amidst a huge forest that they planted. Residents from
all walks of life have designed and built, planted and harvested, birthed,
nurtured, taught, and entertained. There are teeter-totters that operate
super-efficient pumps to bring water to the school, solar heat to cook
meals, solar kettles to sterilize drinking water, ultra-light windmills
to provide power. The hospital has been designated one of the 40 most important
buildings in the world. Some have called Gaviotas a utopia. Lugari insists
that, "Utopia literally means no place. We call Gaviotas a topia because
it's real." Gaviotas the village is surprising, uplifting, extraordinary.
Gaviotas the nonfiction book is as compelling as a novel, as educational
as a textbook, as inspirational as the biography of a great person. If
you need to rise early, do not take this book to bed with you.
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