Floating Castles

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Work-for-stay agreements honor basic needs for shelter and food in exchange for  contributions of energy and time. At the finca this meant spending 25-60 hours a week cooking, cleaning, teaching yoga, office working, accounting, amateur religious counseling, spiritual space-holding, singing, and/or painting in exchange for 3-meals a day, saunas, lake jumps, ceremonies, singing, yoga, chosen community, and room for two.

Our room happened to be a converted pleasure craft – a house boat.

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The house boat’s humble facade belied the internal character of the space… cozy wall panels of plywood held proud graffiti-style inspirational phrases scrawled haphazardly in crayon or colored pencil. Two short shelves on either side of the bow created a temporary aisle and a surface for our altar. Under the shelves were two mysterious gaps leading to the internal hull of the ship -an abyss availalble only to the farm cats and probably some of our socks. A long and even row of nails made a make-do closet.

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Half the boat was dedicated to a full bed where one could gaze out the windows, seeing the farm dock and two looming volcanos. The volcanoes waited, shrouded in darkness, arising resplendent each sunrise from the mist rolling across the glassy morning waters of Lake Atitlan. Other than the view, the interior of the boat was as plain as a nun^s habit, which was maybe apropriate given the context.

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We learned how to balance our entries into the boat by positioning ourselves on opposite sides, so as one person see-sawed the boat starboard the other entered down a steep ramp on the other side. We took comfort learning these quirks, even as the water of the lake dropped several inches each week, and our little door sunk lower and lower until we were doing a kind of limbo down the narrow plank entrance.
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Each morning we awoke to a light grey sky behind the dark blue volcanos, and each evening the waves of Atitlan would lull us to sleep once again.

While loving the space, I awoke some mornings feeling heavy, like dreams had been dark, weird and cloudy. I began to blame the visual environment. Eventually we took a hard look at the makeshift collage right next to the bed, and wondered if we could use that precious wall real estate for our own creative expression, at least while we were here. Something that would feel familiar, inspiring or something that could remind us less of other people{s time here, but more a reminder of the ever-present.
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After a few days scheming, we decided to continue the houseboat tradition of using magazine clippings and found objects to create art representing not only our sacred journies, but  the mythic and mystical that belongs to all of us through sacred geometries.
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We spent many hours finding and clipping circles from a collection of old Yoga Magazine and Self and National Geographics. We made wheatpaste in a big pot in the kitchen on the gas burner, and NKO drew circle after circle on all the wood panels. Arranging the circles chromatically, we pasted up sacred geometries which NKO then embellished further with paint and his research into chakras, platonic solids, and sacred numbers.

We finished the piece over the last few days at the farm, NKO doing the lions share of the work once the circle cutting was complete. The last few nights in the houseboat were restful and my dreams were vivid, deep and present.
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We left behind a more elaborate piece than we had intended, but on our shuttle away from the farm, our friend Kali commented on the mural, letting us know that people who stare and a sacred geometric symbol or mandala before bed claim to have better success at interpreting dreams and lucid dreaming. Success!

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