For those who may have just joined us, my name is Ezra. This is the story of my personal journey toward the happy state of greenness.
At the time we began our adventure, back in 1976, my traveling partners included my friend/partner and our progeny. Some people refer this kind of group as a "family," which would be more or less correct I suppose. Being strong willed and creative persons, however, we often slipped the surly bounds of "family" to wear the many different hats of business partners, help-mates, advocates and even at times, well meaning adversaries.
If you have been following this prattle from the first you know I was the one who first threw the "going green" idea out on the proverbial table for the family's consideration. Hence, though all agreed it was a logical and desirable way to live, something worth pursuing, I naturally assumed a greater degree of responsibility as we ran, jumped, slid, fell and stumbled toward our goal.
When we last left off in the telling of the tale, we were wallowing in the heady heights of naïve bliss, having just found the "perfect," we thought, location, location, location for our new and green family digs. As so often happens, however, to those who are silly enough to believe they can wink at fate, disaster struck!
If you recall, our plan called for a complete relocation to an unspoiled area away from the city so that we might begin our new life of greenness unhindered by the hamstrings generic to every metropolis worthy of the name. This was based on the premise that remaining in a metropolitan area would remove a great number of variables from our control. After all, the so-called "majority" rules in most towns, with the reigns of power tightly held in the protective grip of the few. We reasoned that by moving out into the country we would by definition form our own majority. Thus might we better control our destiny.
The down payment on our newly found and profound piece of paradise had barely cleared the bank, however, when we garnered another one of life's great lessons, namely: all that glitters is in fact not gold.
As it turns out, the fellow we did our land deal with, let's call him Sam, was in, as we say here in Texas, a "bad way". In other words he was broke. And worse he didn't have a clear title to the property. Add to that his troubles with the mean old IRS. And finally, our "place" was but a small part of a large ranch that had been divided into twenty acre tracts. Sam was about to lose the whole thing. Which unknowingly put us in the same boat Sam was in.
Even if we started building our new homestead, we could lose everything, should the previous owner foreclose on Sam. Speaking of which, Sam's contract with us was as shady as a darkroom but just barely legal enough to make contesting it iffy, at best. Still, we had to ask. Could Sam perhaps find it in his seedy heart to forget about our contract and refund our down payment?
No and absolutely not.
I'll never forget the look on the face of a local legal person we consulted. "You bought land from Sam?" It was one of those "what rock did you crawl our from under" kind of questions.
You might say we were crushed. You might also say we were hurt and disillusioned. Certainly you might also say we were even angry. But all I truly remember is being totally and completely terrified! Just what were we going to do now?
What happened next is one of those mystical kinds of things that goes back to several basic premises of conscious existence. It is said that we are never given experiences that are beyond our capability to bear. It is also said that those who sincerely seek will find. We are likewise told there is light at the end of the tunnel and so on. Only trouble is, when you are in fact lost in that tunnel it can become increasingly difficult to believe one will ever again enter into the golden light of a new dawn.
I remember taking the gang back to the shack Sam was kind enough to let us use "'til us folks got your new cabin dried in". I managed to be calm and to exude the assurance that everything was totally and utterly under control. I suggested everyone go have a nice swim in the river while I took care of things. "Not to worry!", I soothed. All would be well shortly . . .
In truth I was a person who had burnt my bridges. Burnt the bridges of my partner and even the tiny little draw bridges of my kids. A weaker person might have found a big rock and the deepest part of the river. However, though I felt lost and weary, I knew in my heart this where I wanted to spend the rest of my days. I knew we had come home; we just needed to find the correct address.
Truth was, I was determined to henceforth live according to the values we as a family had agreed upon. Giving up before we'd even begun was not an acceptable option.
So I gave our little Chevy Vega its head, as they say, and set out to somehow set things right! Traveling down Highway 83, the longest continuous road in this continent, I'd gone but three miles when I came to a tiny little ranch road that joined the highway at the Dry Frio River. It somehow tugged at me.
Obviously the "road less traveled", I followed a winding road farther and farther back into the hills. The Dry Frio River meandered back and forth, sometimes to the right of the road, then you'd cross over and it'd run off to the left and then back again in a few more miles. I was so wrapped in the deep funk of depression I nearly missed the tiny little "For Sale" in amongst the brush. Again, something made me pull over and take a look.
The gate was closed. Beyond it an old white clapboard house sat well back from the road. Just behind it there was what looked like another even older building time had painted a weathered gray. The house was nested in a grove of Oaks; a patch of wild persimmon trees looking like naked marble statues stood off to the left.
It was impossible to tell how much land was involved, but one thing was certain: this was home. Grasping the gate with white knuckled fingers, I ached for this old house with it's neglected grounds like a fifteen year old boy in the throes of his first true love! Casting my misty puppy eyes over at the sale sign, no phone number was given, only the name of a Realtor in a nearby city.
Within moments I was again aboard my coughing little chariot of fire, racing off as fast as it's clunky little aluminum block four cylinders could go. After an hour of anguish I came to the west Texas ranching and farming community of Uvalde and soon sat amid settling dust out front of the Realtor's one story office. The next half hour would live forever in my memory as one of those bitter sweet times when agony and ecstasy mingle, giving birth to destiny.
My sire was a military man. He and my mom were in England at the time I came into the world. We lived many places over the years as dad pursued his career. I am no red neck and in all the ways that count am not a Texan. But I'm flexible. And I could tell Uvalde was not the kind of place where beards or longish hair is well received Anyone who had such offending features was most certainly a draft-dodging drug user; probably gay to boot. In other words, this was not going to be easy.
The man behind the desk, the Realtor, had the look of a sun baked, tobacco chewing, west Texas rancher in the middle of a ten year drought. His pointy toed boot clad feet rested atop a pile of magazines stacked to the side of his desktop. Without moving a muscle the Realtor's cold poker eyes peered out at me through the slits of his barely parted lids. A seven foot tall voiced rolled forth from his five foot ten body, "Kin ah hep ya?"
"Howdy, Sir. I sure hope you can!", I said in the most respectful, sincere sounding voice I could muster. My entire future lay in the hands of this man who obviously felt I was about equal to something a civilized person would've scrapped off their shoes before entering the building. Since my plea brought no reply, I pressed onward. "Sir, I moved here with my family to start a new life. I'm afraid we've made a big mistake. You see, we bought some property from Sam."
The sound that sun baked, tobacco chewing, west Texas ranchers in the middle of a ten year drought make when they chuckle came from the Realtor. A twinkle like a tiny flint rock spark shown through his slitty lids.
"I've got some good news and some bad news.", I continued. "The good news is I'm here to buy that place you have listed up in the Dry Frio Canyon." And then I said nothing. I knew a thing or two about poker playing myself.
After a period of time had passed the Realtor might have referred to as a "coon's age", he said, "Go on."
"The, the bad news is, I don't have any money, I don't have a job and there's not a soul within five hundred miles of here that would loan me a dime."
The Realtor sat as still as the picture of the border collie behind his desk for another coon's age. Then he slowly removed his booted feet from the desk and sat up in his squeaky oak office chair. His tired eyes opened and stared at me for another eternity. During that endless time I managed to return my best "eat humble pie" gaze and allowed never a waver. Then as beads of sweat morphed all across my forehead, the Realtor tilted back his head, opened his maw and out came a thunderous noise that shocked me clean to my tightly clenched toenails. I realized this was how the Realtor laughed.
Into the deafening silence, when it finally came, the Realtor said, "Yew haf ‘ ta' be the craziest sum'bitch I ever did meet in all my born days. Yessir, craziest sum'bitch I ever did met. So just whad you plan ta' dew with that place up ‘air in Reagan Wells assummin' you could buy it?"
I gave the dear man an edited version of how we hoped to start a new life for ourselves in the country. Somehow I felt constrained to skip the parts about social consciousness and alternative living but I did stress our desire to live a simple life, working hard every day to make a basic living with our hands. I sold myself and my family in every way I knew how and as I spoke of our hopes and dreams I saw the weathered face of the Realtor begin to soften ever so slightly. His eyes moistened just a tad and lost focus as he seemed to slip back to an earlier day when perhaps he too once dreamed. Suddenly flashing back to the present the Realtor bore through me with a look of calculated determination and thoughtful consternation, like he was somehow taking my measure. Here, I realized, was a good ole boy who was ready to deal.
The Realtor said he wouldn't lie to me. Said no one had ever found good water on the place I was interested in. Also, it was next to a ranch that was "kind of like a reform school only for juvenile delinquents from rich families." These two points had made the place hard to sell. It also needed work.
As it turned out, the Realtor had bought the place himself with thoughts of retiring there someday. When the school for boys went in and he failed to find good water, the Realtor decided to sell. "Understand you ain't got credit hereabouts so I'll carry the note on the place myself if you can make a sizeable down payment of say . . . a thousand dollars."
I reminded him I had lost almost all my money. In fact we had less than $400 to our names at that point. However, if the Realtor would allow us to move in, I assured him we'd raise that thousand dollars within one month. He agreed.
Tears of joyous relief washed over my glowing face as I drove back to share the unbelievable news with my family! I will treasure the looks on their dear faces for eternity! And how the memory lives in my soul of that precious moment when I carried my sweet partner over the threshold of our new home in the wilderness.
To be fair and equal I offered to let her carry me, but it was just a gesture. I was by far the heavier. I was also one of the proudest happiest persons on earth to be able to lift the burden of fear from the shoulders of my little clan. I was the hero of the hour and what fun we had exploring our new homestead with it's world of new surprises and delights.
We stood in front of the house that first evening and watched the most beautiful of sunsets. Then we built a small fire in a rock lined pit we found out back and had a little impromptu ceremony of thanksgiving. We consecrated our new homestead and named it "The Hummertage".
As dusk turned to darkness another miracle unfolded. Bats came forth and nighthawks shrilled and the occasional owl hooted or screeched. There in the all but moonless night our daughter looked up at the sky and whispered in her preschool wonder voice, "Another good thing about here is there's sooooo many more stars!"
Her wise brother who would soon enter the second grade said, "Wendy there isn't any more stars here. You can just see'um better ‘cause there's no city lights to hide'um." Joel always was a bright kid.
That night I explained how we now finally had a wonderful chance to start our new life. Instead of having to build from scratch, we had a venerable old house to recycle into our home. We talked about our plans to begin a special family business and over the next few days, as we grew settled, we began to put those plans into motion.
We set up shop in the quaint old "buggy barn" behind the house, filling it with special tools and loads of wondrous creative energy. Then we gathered up branches of trees fallen in years gone by and from this simple, silent, earth elemental, we began making music.
Oh, not the kind you hear, so much, as the kind you feel . . . deep in your soul. Now I know that might seem strange, but not if you stop and think about it. See, when a maker of any craft practices his or her art, the result is very much the same as when a virtuoso plays. The only difference is the tune is rendered cosmically slow. Just as the sound of a violin flows forward, changing with each heartbeat, so does a work of art or craft mellow and soften with each passing moment.
Over the years we've come to view our work as a kind of alchemy; creative hands, eyes and hearts bringing forth wonderment from the natural things of the earth. Clay, fiber, wood, stone and fire, to name a few, are fused and fashioned into objects that "hum" the primal earthsong of light, life and love!
We call this melding of mind and matter "earthcrafting." And "EarthCrafts" are objects that flow from the hands of master artisans who share in this marvelous mutual celebration of form and texture. Each piece begs touching and cherishing.
EarthCrafts, like the essence from whence they come, are eternal. They harbor calming feelings of warmth; coloring one's space with quiet hues, soft touches of soul and spicy whimsical accents of mirth! They speak of the origin of consciousness. Their nearness brings forth deep inner memories of a simple, yet dynamic time when mankind was young and the world a vast unknown realm filled with mystery!
The first things we made were walking sticks and hiking staffs. We sold them on the side of the road like a band of wandering gypsies of old. By the end of our first month we had managed to raise just over half of our down payment. But this time I took reinforcements when I went to face the Realtor.
The whole clan entered his office; our daughter placed our hard won partial down payment on the huge desk before the Realtor. He paid no attention to the money. He gazed at our fine looking, well mannered and well groomed children. He looked at my fetching partner in her best jeans and her patchwork vest. His gaze rested on myself only briefly and quickly moved back to more agreeable scenery.
We explained about how we'd managed to come up with a good part of the cash and if we could just have a little longer, we'd certainly earn the rest.
The Realtor broke into a wide grin, looked me in the eye and said, "Son, the Lord has blest you with a fine wife and two purty young'uns. If this down payment is the best you could do why it's good'nuf fer me! But if ya' wont my advice, you'd best git a har'cut and'a shave if ya wanna fit in around these parts. Make things a lot easier on ya."
The clan ran behind his desk and gave him a big hug. I held my ground and thanked him most kindly for his advise and for his kindness and cooperation. I the walked forward and gave him a firm handshake just like dad taught me to do.
Over the next few years we did good and were able to pay the Realtor in full. I never did take his advise about the haircut and shave. In fact I think I ended up corrupting the poor man because these days he sports a big bushy mustache! Might have something to do with the time I asked him to help me out with a moral issue I was having.
"Realtor," I said, "I'm confused about something. God gave men beards. Even the Lord himself had long hair and let is beard grow if you can believe the pictures in the Good Book. Seems to me it must be a sin to shave."
Yes, we've made our mark on the community in more ways than one over the years. But more than anything else, we have indeed realized our dream of going green. Happily, there's never an ending to the journey because there's always new places to go.
Next month, I will end this story with the specific things we did to make this tiny part of the planet we've been allowed to call home as green as a tree frog in the emerald rain forest. Also the kind of lifestyle we've forged to give us a delightfully minimal impact on this Good Earth.
Please tune in next month for the final part of the continuing saga of the greening of Ezra. Same time, same URL!
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