Today we took a trip down the mountain on the northwest side of the island – the sacred area where the Maroon’s resisted slavery on the island, living off the land protected by the rugged terrain for over a century.

spider web and spider

We hiked out on the cliffs to swim in a large tide pool as the rough surf pounded on the sharp coral and rocky barrier, sending spray down on our heads every short while.  There were some enormous swells with waves easily reaching 6 to 8 feet as they rolled onto the rock beach.  There is so much force coming onto that beach that it has turned all those sharp rocks into smoothly polished and rounded semi-precious gemstones.  The shiny round rocks cracked together in a soothing swashing sound with each wave that picked them up and moved them up onto the steep beach.

We hiked down to the beach from the remains of a sugar cane pressing windmill tower.  The stone tower was impressive and had a natural hive of Africanized bees up in the top.  The walls were beautifully crafted with a series of arches around the outside.  The stone tower has withstood countless hurricanes, and is 4 feet thick and has stood on the top of that windy cliff for nearly 400 years.  It was strange to stand inside it, with the circle of bright blue sky up above our heads, thinking of all the human hands that had suffered there in the past.  We  spoke quietly to keep the bees calm, and discussed sacred geometry.   Then we searched for evidence of patterns, the dendritic patterns of leaves and branches, networks in spider webs and fan coral skeletons, spirals in the shells now inhabited by hermit crabs as we hiked down to the beach.  We had discussed how certain patterns and ratios are sacred in many human cultures, they are patterns that repeat themselves in the natural world, are easy to observe in nature, and are described by math formula, and that resonate with our human eye in design because we see it everywhere all the time.   It creates harmony and balance that intuitively makes sense to us because of it’s familiarity.  It is the cusp of our comprehension, the sphere of the sacred.

Then this evening we watched a TED speach by  Ron Eglash, a professor who studied the fractal patterns of African architecture.  This totally blew my mind.  You should watch it, it is amazing.

He got a fulbright to study fractals in African architecture that he’d ovserved across the continent in aerial photos.  Through his journey, he eventually traced back the fractal designs to sand divination practices still used today that generated random numbers and were directly linked in history to today’s binary code used to create computers and which was brought to Europe as geomancy and later turned into modern day Algebra.  It is this knowledge system from our African ancestors that went on to create the computers that were later used to visually describe the fractals that already existed in African architecture.  It is an example of sacred geometric patterns that have been used for who knows how long, but for some many reasons, maybe the simplest being that they just look beautiful.

I think of all the schooling that I’ve had, all the courses I’ve taken, everything I’ve learned in my professional life in the US in the environmental and science fields up to now, they’ve all been lacking because they never included these concepts of humans and our sacred sense of geometry.  It’s really where the experience of beauty comes from in our hearts I think.  and it’s a wonderfully fun place to design from.  It brings joy and celebration into our lives.  I definitely want to understand it better, it seems like my whole life is tilted out of balance because I’ve been lacking balance in these aspects of life.  Even though I’ve always been drawn to beautiful things.  I haven’t understood why or how to bring those manifestations consciously into my own living scape/space when I’ve noticed it was lacking.

In the morning after a delicious breakfast of an herb flavored egg quiche, a fresh mango smoothie, and pumpkin rice pudding, we went out and build a 1 cubic meter compost pile that we will watch heat up and decompose over the remaining 6 days of the course.  It was made up of equal parts rabbit/donkey manure/fish guts, straw and sawdust, and chopped green grass.  We added some termite mounds to innoculate it with extra microbial life.  We lightly watered in each layer as we built the pile up.  We will monitor the temperature of the pile with a long thermometer to watch how hot it gets and to know when it needs more oxygen to keep the microbes eating and reproducing at their fastest.

This evening we discussed the concept of the scale/spectrum of permanence, basically seeing that there are very permanent aspects to a property, like it’s climate, the land form and the existing water.  And other things that you can change easily on the other end of the spectrum, like aesthetics, the zones of use, soils, micro climate, buildings and Infrastructure.  That led us to some skill building practice in interviewing clients about their needs and starting our design project that we will work on for the rest of the course.

Our lunch, although a bit late after our trucks got a bit stuck trying to come back up the steep mountain road which got greesy during the thunderstorm, and which had a giant ravine through the middle of it, was equally delicious as all that we’ve had so far.  A wonderfully fresh green salad with all kinds of tropical greens I’ve never seen before, and fresh light flavors that were as refreshing to the palatte as the cool ocean breezes are in the air.  We had some warm home made wheat bread with fresh butter, mmmm.  The butter tasted so good and melted just perfectly against the warm flaky slices.  Goat stew and a stir fry of trombonecina squash with luffa onions and garlic.  Each meal I want to eat less, but I can’t help but pile my plate with all this beautiful and tasty, vibrantly alive food that has come fresh out of the amazing gardens just a few feet away from the open air kitchen/classroom/office that has become our community center already.  Dinner is cooking now behind me, it has been dark now for a couple of hours at 7:15 pm, the air is damp tonight, and cool.  My shirt and hair are still wet from our swim in the sea earlier today. I will put on a sweat shirt later when I hike back out to my tent in the bamboo grove, and will probably sleep inside my sleeping bag tonight cause I got cold in the middle of the night last night when I was just sleeping in shorts and my silk bag.  I am happy being here.  Maybe I will stay.  Thoughts of my home back up in the cold northeast are fading already.  I have been calling home at night, but I already feel that distant self of mine receding into the back of my memory.  It’s so nice to be surrounded by really amazing and interesting people, having meals with them, talking, learning, visioning a more bountiful future on all levels.  I feel happier on a number of levels than I have in awhile back home.brain coral skeleton on mountainside