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When home becomes shelter and Mother nature becomes home: Natural building in Northern Thailand

Leaving home can be very uncomfortable most of the times. You get things ready to go, but there is something deep down in you that says: just stay and be. Still, eventually you receive a call to really step out there. There is this strength and urge to explore everything you can and unexpectedly you are ready to step the feet out of the cave and hunt. It is when out there that all the walls break down and what once was a desire to expand becomes the need to reconnect. Such reconnection is more of a search for the comfort one only feels when safety and love are around and, honestly, it was never something that would cross my mind, make me draw lines and make up words about. Yet, recent experiences have brought me some insights on the topic… insights that more than anything rebuild, recenter, recall the depths of my being, reconstructing the world around me from the simplest place one can imagine: home.

As a backpacker who has been in the road for a bit more than one year, I have met many people who would claim themselves to have no home and many others who would stick to a plan and go back to their countries, to their families and plans. Sometimes I wonder if home is just the place itself, if it is the feeling or the people whom we connect with. The question we are looking at is: what is home after all?

It was during meals and laid back moments, while eating some fruit or having some smoothie at L.E.A.H. that the word safety came to the scope of home and everything it means. It is not the cushions, your bed, the comfort of your toilet and the leisure vibes of your living room that really define home. The bottom line is that we are beautiful creatures of this planet, children of Mother Earth and as all other beings we need to be safe in order to balance our energy into what we really are. We need to be safe in order to sleep and restore energy, there is no healing in danger places, there is no balance in dis-harmonic conditions… simply put, no creature can function, at the simplest and most biological level, when surrounded by threats.

Now if you ask me, safety does not come from a single place; love does not come only from people, and comfort does not come from objects at all. Bigger than that, there is something inside of us that needs to be understood: it is our constant state of inner transformation and understanding of the processes of life that allows us to acknowledge energy, resonate with it and decide whether to stay or to leave. This being said, let’s bring up the world “shelter” as reference to what many people would call home. When I think of shelter, as a non-native English speaker, I relate to memories of movies, natural disasters, times of war and political issues that have built my semantic field of the world itself, which would be in the scope of being in danger, seeking for temporary places to sleep, temporary houses/buildings that would help people/animals recover, heal wounds and all that sorts of it.

No wonder we used to move all around in nomadic times. Our home was never a designated and fixed spot back then. We were living in shelters, just like bears seek their caves when needed, cats seek the shade of a tree to sleep under and caterpillars build their cocoons when deep rest is required. Humans need shelter too: after hours of hunting in the concrete jungles of the cities, we go back into our caves, our cocoons to restore everything needed for the next day. Therefore, houses and buildings are a mere place to do what ants do when it rains: step out of the exterior world and wait till it is time to hunt again.

When was it that we lost track of our own nature and the nature of all things? We have built so much and destroyed even more in the name of what?

Reconnecting the words around what home really is has been a process truly involved with Natural building and simple living. Building something, let alone a house, from scratch, seeking resources in Mother Nature and her creative energy is double of a challenge as you no longer build simple walls, but become part of them and allow this greater energy of birth to breathe through you. Piece by piece, the walls around the house gain the most organic shape that flows with the energy of hands, but not just hands: love and connection all included. It is finding comfort, at the end of the day, in the support of everyone involved in such a process. Better yet, it is allowing Mother Nature to once more shelter us from the impermanence of our existence. If She is our mother, she is our own home and this is the greater lesson from natural building: there is no shelter safer than the arms of the Mother, the warmth of her love and the communal embrace of our brothers and sisters. Look at a tree, gaze at the horizon, pet a cat, listen to a bird, breathe the air around you and be, simply be everything you are. There it is, home. It is in us, around us, it is everywhere. In every being there lies the true love of creation, the most comfortable and nourishing embrace: the power of Mother Nature, Mother Earth. She is the one providing us all we need. Our strength to hunt does not come from markets, it comes from her.

As to the house at L.E.A.H.: it is almost done and it is a mix of eco-mud bricks, eco-plastic bricks, rice husk, mud, water, some bamboo structures plus old material from a previous house that was on the site. Trying to be less harmful to the environment around as the conditions allow, the place has grown in so many directions that what really comes to mind is what Vivian once shared during a hot afternoon of hard work: the intention is for the house to be as organic as it can be – shapes, design, material and everything. And this mirrors perfectly the events lived there: it has been two years since the whole thing started and things flow accordingly to the people who come and to the lessons they need to learn by their time being here. It has become more than just learning how to build a mud house and doing it; it is an opportunity to observe our minds, our patterns and little by little rebuild our own inner shelter for healing and recuperation, choosing materials that will really reflect our own fluid, chaotic and organic nature. It is finding our nature back, going back to the source.

Such work requires patience and awareness as we play with the laws of physics, chemistry, architecture and, of course, life. Creativity plays one of the biggest roles as our bodies swing according to the rhythm of new challenges, therefore, the days are never the same and once your hands get dirty with mud, you never go back to who you were; at the same time, you reconnect to what once was lost, the true self of oneness and the feeling of wholeness experienced as the wind flies in and out, as the mud gets squishy and the papayas naturally ripen at the garden.

Natural building is an opened door to rewiring our perceptions as to what home truly is, since it teaches us that it is indeed everywhere as long as it is in and with our Mother. It is an opportunity to transcend the endless cycle of disconnection in the modern and capitalist society. It is seeking only for what we truly need and being grateful for every single drop of water that comes in the rainy days, washing the hard walls down and every single particle of soil that protects us come night time. It is building the being and, simultaneously, being the building.

Written by Graziale Burmann, co-creator at the Garden of L.E.A.H..


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