I have to write about this. The thought was thrilling, and unequivocal, when I first saw the architecture students’ experimental shelters scattered about the Sonoran desert landscape of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. Designing and constructing a tiny home for one’s self, prioritizing indigenous materials from the landscape, sounded empowering, affordable, old fashioned and groundbreaking all at once.
I not only was compelled to write about it—I also needed to participate in both the building and the inhabiting. Most of the shelters blur the line between indoor and outdoor space, with partial walls and no doors. When I had the chance to try sleeping in an open air shelter alone, the fascinating surprise was that my actual experience was the opposite of what I had imagined. I thought it would be frightening; in fact, I felt safer than I ever have before, blessed by nature in the night desert.
The students’ call to live the experience of architecture in this way, from idea to design to (minimally invasive, “green”) construction and habitation, is completely aligned with my belief in the value of hands-on experience. It is also one of the most wonderfully creative exercises I have ever seen. Finally, these tiny structures matter, because they are a reminder that we can survive and thrive on so much less material, with so much more spirit, and that moved me perhaps most of all. The student shelters at Taliesin West are something of a more varied predecessor of the tiny house movement.
As a writer, I was seized with a living certainty by the need to incorporate the shelters in my writing. This became another star in a constellation of compelling ideas that formed themselves into a novel, with an insistence that carried me through years of early mornings and weekends toiling behind closed doors, as well as numerous fiction writing books and workshops.
Powerful inspiration can be place, situation, person, thing, idea, event…It can seem to come directly come from the churning inner world of the imagination or from the vast landscape of the outer world, but in fact it is always both, and the magic comes from the sensuous intertwining of the two. I find that the more I seed my life with outer world experiences and exposure, the more prolific and meaningful my writing ideas become, cross pollinating in ways that enrich my world, and our world.
What inspires you? I would love to hear…reply below.