South American Correspondent

I have some very exciting news about the content on Nick Haus: I am soon to be joined by one of my oldest buddies, Greg, who will chronicle the renovation of his historic adobe house in a beautiful mountain town outside of Bogota, Colombia.

I have long dreamt of shaping Nick Haus into a home renovation blog, but unfortunately that is hard to do without a home! Luckily, I was able to spend a few weeks with Greg this spring, and together we drew up plans for the renovation of the large house that he and his wife bought in their town's historic center. It's a beautiful, very simple adobe structure that was built piece by piece over time -- it has a lovely almost neoclassical facade, made entirely of formed mud:

(the idea of classical works in mud perversely reminds me of the Place de la Concorde in Paris, which at one point in it's tumultuous history had a neoclassical statue of Venus sculpted in terra cotta at its center, wittily termed by critics "Venus in Mud." Another Venus in Mud:

It's best to ignore everything in that video save the first clip.)

Oh, tangents. I have a great talent for losing my point. Getting back to Greg, I've known him as long as I've known anyone ... our parents were friends when we were born, and Greg and I grew up in tandem. Our families are so close that we share a country house (the Red House), where Greg and I ran around together in the woods and built things and made potions and gardened:

Greg grew up and studied agricultural engineering, and has lived, worked and studied all over the world: Spain, France, Benin, Haiti, and now Colombia with his wife. He has his own blog, Agrarian Ideas for a Developing World, which takes on complex, serious matters and talks about them in an informed way. Even more impressive, he often translates his articles into Spanish, French, and Creole. (He is far too modest to mention any of these facts, but luckily can't do much about me bringing them up).

Greg lives a considered life, and the house he is renovating for his family (bambina coming in December) will be no exception: in addition to acknowledging the historical importance of the property, Greg's renovation will bring together a host of green features, and "will incorporate garden and livestock space so [he and his family] can eliminate more pesticides from [their] food." Not to mention that it will be beautiful. There are two courtyards, and you can see mountains from both the front and back of the house:

Excited yet? I am. You will not be disappointed.


I would live in any of these forever:

The colors remind me of why I have eyes. Notice how each of them has a blue ceiling ...


Wasn't no harm in him. You'd give him a flower, he'd keep it forever.

The devil just sittin' there laughing. He's glad when people does that. Then he sends them to the snakehouse. He just sits there and laughs and watch while you're sitting there all tied up and snakes are eating your eyes up. The snakes go down your throat and eat all your systems up.
I think the devil was on the farm.

The sun looks ghostly when there's a mist on the river and everything's quiet. I never knowed it before. And you could see people on the shore but it was far off and you couldn't see what they were doing . They were probably calling for help or something or they were trying to bury somebody or something. We seen the trees that the leaves are shaking and it looks like shadows of guys that are coming at you and stuff. We heard owls squawking away hooting away. We didn't know where we were going and what we were going to do. I'd never been on a boat before. That was the first time.

Some sights that I saw was really spooky that it gave me goosebumps. I felt like cold hands touching the back of my neck and, and it could be the dead coming for me or something. I remember this guy his name was Blackjack, he died. He only had one leg and he died. And I think that was Blackjack making those noises.

This girl, she didn't know where she was goin' or what she was gonna do. She didn't have no money or nothin'. Maybe she'd meet up with a character. I was hoping things would work out for her. She was a good friend of mine.

Linda Manz in 'Days of Heaven' -- this post was stolen entire from the excellent Blind Pony Books.


the Apple Experience

" How different it would have been if education had not meddled with her rustic nature! Her education had never dissuaded her from her convictions, but certainly it had ruined the looks of her mind -- painted the poor thing up until it looked like a mean, hypocritical, promiscuous malcontent, a craven and apologetic fancy woman. Thus she continued secretly to believe (but never to confess) that the apple Eve had eaten tasted exactly like those she had eaten when she was a child visiting her Great-uncle Graham's farm, and that Newton's observation was no news in spite of all the hue and cry. Half the apples she had eaten had fallen out of the tree, whose branches she had shaken for this very purpose, and the Apple Experience included both the descent of the fruit and the consumption of it, and Eve and Newton and Emma understood one another perfectly in this particular of reality."

from "Children Are Bored on Sunday,"
by Jean Stafford


Is there anything more perfect than an orchard at dusk?

And beyond the orchard is a field sea grasses, all sloping down to ...

the sea:

Dear reader, would you believe that all of this splendor has been abandoned, and for many, many years, as long as anyone on the island can remember?

I found it on a twilight walk, a short was from where we were staying. Drunken Steven in front of our house:

Unlike most of my hair-brained schemes, Steven encourages my real estate lust in NB, and I half think our first house will be a second home there.

But oh, the orchards!

I May Be Happiest at a County Fair

... care of the Union County Fair in Maine:


To the Lighthouse

Lest you wonder what I was doing in Canada. Portrait by Steven.


Maison Calder, Part Deux

You may recall this room, in a less vibrant incarnation here, in Maison Calder, Part 1. Thankfully, this picture is more comprehensive, and I think more representative of the color:

I find the following room so enchanting, not so much for anything other than that it seems to be composed of CMU (concrete masonry unit) walls, a cheap brick floor (which I've never understood how people properly clean) and a whitewashed foundation wall. I seriously wonder if it's in the same house, as CMU is a more common materials in the USA, but what a transformation of humble materials:

Now I have to admit a prejudice to you, dear reader: I generally abhor diagonals used almost anywhere, but particularly in architectural plan and furniture arrangement. They strike me as contrived, almost no matter what you do. A jauntily angles bed, sofa, armoire ... ugh. But! Here, Calder has placed his dining table to collide with a diagonal wall of (sliding?) glass, and oh, what perfection. Sitting within, it looks like you're flying off into the greenery without, and I can't think of anywhere I'd rather sit. I also like the radio on the table, but wonder if the artless deshabille of the chairs is how they were usually kept:

Pretty kitchen. Who needs fancy appliances? Like the unremarked transition from wood to tile flooring:

Pretty studio. Love the textured wall, like something from a Roman ruin:

Pretty biedemeier (or empire? what do we think?), coupled with fresh modernity. And note the unfinished floors, so au courant and simultaneously old fashioned:

For me, this is all about the beam and the fireplace. Yum:

And this looks like my bedroom in Rome! I miss it so. It had the same combination of insane ceiling height, glancing light and colorful textiles (in my case, the result of a month spent in Morroco, though I'd love to know where Calder collected his):

Found here, excerpted from Calder at Home: The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder by Pedro Guerreo.


An Ode to the Untame Beasts of the World

Please be wild and terrify us, forever. We need your mystery, a constant reminder that we are not invincible. I love that you exist beyond the boundaries, in the spaces beyond my peripheral vision.

I lived in Manhattan for a time, starting in 2001. I heard what I though was a car backfiring, and later, the buildings all of us had never noticed before burning and falling. It was indescribably horrible; West 8th, where I lived, became a spontaneous shrine and search center, with sawhorses that stretched for what seemed like miles, all covered in posters advertising lost loved ones.

The city was transformed, not just by the ash that fell for days -- suddenly we were all, as a city, reminded of how tenuous our connection to this world is. I had never felt so vulnerable. It caused me to reassess everything in my life, move home and ultimately come here to study to become what I had always wanted to be. But that memory, that reminder of how little time we have here, fades, as does that commitment to living as we should: with the knowledge that it will all slip away.

This is why I treasure wild animals, and the sea, and perilous heights, and anything else in life that is not inherently violent, but which reminds us, or me, of my smallness and vulnerability, and the preciousness of who I know, where I am, and the importance of taking advantage of all the goodness life has to offer.


Having Done All Things, Stand Fast

About a month ago, Steven and I drove down to see his grandmother Joyce in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and partake of the village fair, called the Nutmeg Festival. This festival has been held at St. Stephen's every summer since 1906, and they are very proud of their White Elephant, and I must say I can see why. You should go. It would be silly to enumerate the things I picked up as they are so numerous, though I will mention the Collete Omnibus I picked up in the book room and lengthy rope of blond human hair accidentally brought home in an antique box. Yikes.

Later we headed to Joyce's place to rest after our conquest and talk of books. This is the writing corner of Joyce's well appointed library, with little apple orchard outside (one tree):

She lent me a well-loved and worn copy of Silas Marner, by George Eliot, who is one of Joyce's great heroes. I can see this, as they are both quite unconventional. Here is Joyce lighting the candles before the excellent dinner she served us:

Isn't the runner a lovely mossy green? She didn't have a runner per se to use, so she just laid out her favorite cashmere scarf, which I think looks quite lovely. Good job, Joyce. I applaud your unconventional and wholly satisfying table setting! Cashmere is a nice touch on the table.

I'll leave you with these sage words from a dedication plaque in St. Stephens (which I find much more useful than that stupid "Keep Calm, Carry On" poster that has weirdly gained prominence in the last few years):


I'm Back, With a Vengence! & Cobra Verde.

So, New Brunswick was just extraordinary. More on that to follow. But I found these pictures I saved ages ago from one of my favorite Werner Herzog movies, Cobra Verde, and their drama and my contrition over my silence seemed a perfect combination.

I've also been thinking about Cobra Verde because last time I watched it was in Colombia with my friend Greg, who happens to be in the USA but half the country away. Coincidentally, Villa de Leyva, a very beautiful but hot town very near where Greg lives, was the setting for one of the best scenes in the film, where Cobra Verde befriends a fearless dwarf. The town has an immense shadeless square, a torturous expanse of sun and sandstone. It's thought a romantic place, but we found it sort of horrid though beautiful. I guess I just don't like sun.

Speaking of romantic, I really think Herzog is a Romantic:

These remind me of nothing so much as a Delacroix, or a GĂ©ricault:

As scattered as I am, somehow everything tends to come together. Ferry crossings over the Bay of Fundy recall tossed ships, and the Romantics who love them.

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