To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Big Moves

Did you think I'd bought the farm, kicked the bucket, keeled over, whatever euphemism you care to attach to leaving life behind?  Not.  In actuality, I have been on an amazing odyssey from hither to yon and back again, and today, with a little Memorial Day Weekend time on my hands, I sat down to tell you all about it...only to discover I had already started to blog it some time back, then apparently forgot to post it.  Aughhhh!  I think I was waiting for photos, and when I didn't have time to prepare them I checked out of the blog and never made it back. A bit symbolic of my suddenly changed life. 

An astonishing number of things have happened since January, but I think I'll just start with this old post and try to fill in the rest of the story in a following post or two. Maybe someday I'll get caught up. I'm pretty sure the draft below was written sometime in late February.  Here goes:

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Near Macal Bank lodge
Some gigantic things have been happening in my life since I last wrote, and they're ongoing even as I write.

I went to Belize again in December to stay again at Macaw Bank Jungle Lodge. I first went there two years ago, and ever since I had been poring over maps of Belize and reading forums  posted by people who live in that area, and wondering how I could make it work to go live there because, to be perfectly frank, I sincerely dislike cold weather.  But I love it here in Oregon in the summer, and I love all my friends and neighbors, and it didn't want to make an ill-considered leap into the unknown.


So I arranged for a realtor and builder from Better In Belize, an
The permaculture garden at Better in Belize
eco-community just a few miles from the lodge, to come pick me up for a visit. Here's how they describe it on their webpage:  "Better In Belize is committed to low-impact development practices and has developed plans to enhance this exquisite, natural environment and protect the remaining intact ecosystems in perpetuity."   Now, that sounds like just my cuppa tea!


And when I visited, I was charmed. The area is very similar to the jungle I'd been exploring downstream— same river, parrots, iguanas and oropendulas (my favorite bird at the moment— listen to it here . Imagine waking up to THAT!). There was the same incredible lush green growth all around, positively balmy and moist air (all my wrinkles went away and I looked ten years younger!) and the people living there were very welcoming.  I absolutely loved it, even though it rained the entire time I was there. 
Building under a tarp in the rainy season

On the way back to my lodge I talked with the builder, Jorge, who was accompanying me on my tour, about what I might build.  He suggested that I go for an earth-bag home with a metal roof and tank to collect rainwater for household use, a solar array, and composting toilet, plus a propane refrigerator and water heater, because this settlement is entirely off the grid. All for much less that it would cost in Oregon.
Jungle vegetation is rampant

And the community is serious about the environment: For starters, if you cut down a tree on your property, you have to plant five native seedlings either there or elsewhere in the community. There are other strict rules in the covenant, designed to keep the settlement environmentally friendly and green. So green, in fact, that you can pass right by someone's house and barely notice it because it must be behind a 10' natural vegetative barrier. Love it!

And to make a long story short, I am in the process of buying about half an acre within sight (well, almost) of an unexcavated Mayan ruin, which is right in the center of the community.  I can hardly wait to get to my new plot of rain forest and start my house. 
Riverbank tapir tracks

If you've never heard of earth bag houses before you're not alone.  Here is a link to find out more about them—they're cool.  Literally.  Especially in the tropics.  The walls are 18" thick, which is the ideal width to foil sunshine all day but keep the house cool inside, then radiate warmth into the house at night.  Since my new home will be in the Maya Mountains, where it can be a bit chilly at night, that will be absolutely perfect. Mine will not have a beehive shape but regular vertical walls topped by the metal roof for rainwater catchment. 

I'm hoping to spend some time sketching every day like I did on my Oregon
An owl butterfly subject
hillside a couple of years ago. If I do, my journal may look like this, only with tropical subjects: thorny palms, frogs and iguanas, cacao nuts, pineapples (from the permaculture gardens there), toucans and oropendulas, etc.A teaching center is planned for there, as well, which I would like to be involved with.  Sounds perfect for me.  



  • The learning annex may include tropical rainforest preservation; sustainable land management; enhancing wildlife cover and nesting areas; developing trails and study areas; learning and preserving through the landscape of a rainforest; raising awareness and understanding of the interconnected nature of the rainforest and the world; energy and water conservation; propagating native plants; use of plants for food, drink and herbal medicine; and fair trade agricultural initiatives.
 
fresh produce in a roadside market
And, so, my friends, as you can see, big changes for me. I've leapt off the "path well-traveled" and struck off through the jungle! Stay tuned!

[and now, back to the present, May 25:  Big changes indeed, and much more than I mentioned in this post, because they hadn't happened yet.  I'll try to post more this week. Actually, I might tell you about my short foray into Brazil at Christmas, just before I went to Belize.] 


4 comments:

Iris said...

I think that's awesome! I do think it's a little sad that people have to expatriate in order to live mindfully about the environment, though, but kudos to those who can pull it off!

Diane said...

Not sure why my previous post is not here. But I am so excited for you!! I did miss you and hoped it was for a good reason and I see it was. What a way to live "your one wild and precious life!"

Irene Brady said...

Thanks for stopping by, both of you. Yes this whole thing is a huge adventure. But I've found that just one step at a time gets me there. And most of those steps are actually pretty easy. Like washing a whole sinkful of dishes — daunting to contemplate, but not hard to do once you get started ;o}

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