Where has all the time gone?! It seems like just weeks ago we wrapped up our fall 2013 “open season” – and the temperatures have now already dropped into night time lows in the 20s which means that the encampment will be off line until next spring. Here is a really sweet report sent in from Lily Fein who was one of our awesome visitors this fall at the A-Z Wagon Station Encampment this past fall:
My arrival at A-Z West began with meeting Alison, the camp host, who shared an alarming story of finding a tarantula in one of the sleeping pods, and another of a charging scorpion. This made for an uneasy first nights sleep! This scare aside, my initial reaction to the encampment was the sense of walking through a living art experience, or being on another planet. It was eerie being the first wagon station guest to arrive, but as the others filtered in, the unknown landscape became less like outer space.
Over the past 3 weeks this unfamiliar land has been fertile ground for paying closer attention to the art of living. On top of living outdoors in a barren desert landscape, which alone creates cues for how to be, the thoughtful design of Andrea’s structures parallels nature’s intuitive guidelines. A conversation occurs between the sun and Andrea’s communal spaces, and I navigate this dialogue each day as my movements through the encampment are mostly based on finding shade. At 4pm, when Andrea’s design and the sun discount my desire for shade, I can be found crouching shamelessly at the end of the kitchen table. But at 2pm, land and design are in harmony as I sit in the kitchen, facing the idyllic view up the wash. The elegant frame that the kitchen’s half wall and roof create for the mountains and sky seems thoughtfully composed.
Andrea and nature noticeably shape my newly formed habits. I drink and eat out of bowls always returned to the same shelf, and walk into the patch sun in the cold morning, as warmth creeps down the mountain a short ways away.
I am also guided by the “hour of power”. This is when everyone staying at A-Z West, or working for Andrea, gathers at the studio to labor together. My willingness to work stems from feeling as though I am receiving the better end of the bargain. The hour of power often consists of grounds maintenance, such as forming a berm and trench to control water flow when rain comes, or sweeping and raking the sand in the encampment. I initially imagined that moving sand around would feel pointless, yet it made for a very Zen-like gardening experience, not dissimilar to the oddly gratifying chore of carrying and dumping our poop in the compost, rinsing the buckets, and placing them back in the toilets.
Living in the landscape make seemingly small tasks and decisions vital; like choosing the most private place to squat and pee with lots of people moving around the encampment. While new patterns and activities feel fresh now, I cannot help but wonder if when routines set in, my actions will become mindless. However, I am reminded of the unforgiving presence of the environment when living outside that calls for a heightened awareness of one’s body in the landscape. Day by day, my 4pm struggle with the kitchen and sun will be earlier and earlier, causing a shift in space and time. Living at A-Z West, nature and design continually beckon us to experience subtle changes: bringing us back to the present, again and again.