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Fri, Jan 14, 2011
6:00 am

SIMPLICITY & NATURAL ENERGIES: I discussed goals in the last blog because I felt that one of the important issues in building this house, was making sure it felt right on the outside and on the inside. One of the key issues for the success of this house was simplicity. I had a big sign at my desk that said, "Keep It Simple". This was for both physical and monetary considerations. Like most people, I walk into a store and am drawn to the highest quality product. These days, home construction has become a major focus of consumerism and investment. You can spend a small fortune on kitchen and bath accessories alone. Doors and windows can cost as much as my entire house. I had to look to cultures where homes and simply shelters and statements of wealth. I truly just wanted a safe shelter for my family that enabled me to pay the bills and reduce the stress in all our lives. I had already endured too much stress. I figured I could do my best to make it look friendly and welcoming, but at the same time, I got the advice from the Steens that if I built smaller, I could use higher quality products because I wouldn't need so many or so much of them. It was great advice.

I was camping with my friend from Germany over the New Year and he was telling me about the glories of German washing machines, where you sort your clothes into at least four piles, have four different kinds of detergent and then you set the washing machine to an exact temperature for each type of clothes. Hmmm - not simple. What about the cultures that wash their clothes in rivers? I wash my clothes by hand now - the pack rats ate up the belts on both my dryer and my washer. My kids moved away and so I just have my own clothes. They generally aren't very dirty - just need to be cleansed of body oils. I wash them by hand and then hang them on a line that is hidden behind lattice on my porch. In the desert, we are at about 100 degrees and sunny half of the year. Passive solar energy at work. I'm not saying everyone could do this, but I think if we look at our modern inventions, then look back to simpler cultures, it is worth pondering whether these inventions are really necessary, for all the energy they use. Are we making good use of our time, while inventions work for us, or are we surfing the web and watching tv?

I wash my dishes by hand, too. There is no dishwasher in this house. I remember the time when we often had people over for dinner, because evenings were not spent watching tv. After dinner, the women would gather in the kitchen, wash and dry dishes and chat. The men would have a beer or a brandy and chat in the living room. These days, maybe the men should do the dishes and the women should have a brandy. But regardless, it was not a miserable time - it was a social time. Something to think about as we examine our lives and our culture.

I sure enjoyed Obama's speech at the Memorial Service the other day; I feel fortunate to be alive while he is President. He had great words on how status is not important, but being kind is and how we need to really think about being better. Our commercials and media often just want to sell us stuff and we really do have to think, deep down, if we want to step away from this consumerism and get back to basics. Happiness does not lie in consumerism. Obama sure has taken a beating and his hair is turning gray. Everybody who is elected as President with non-gray hair, comes out gray. We don't change easily - those who are making lots of money the way things are, fight change really hard. But they cannot force us, if we are willing to think for ourselves, refuse to support the old ways and demand change. They will go where we put our money - we actually have great power, so I hope we use it well.

I am wandering, but I'll leave it because I think that is what blogs are for. I'll get more into the solar and natural energies that propel this house in future days.

Be Kind!