Warrumbungle blog: rebuilding at Wheoh after bushfire: 'shelter and stillness' 12th - 22nd August 2013

Stillness is elusive. It would be nice to report some kind of zen-like spiritual stillness but I'm referring to the rare moments when the smoke from my fire goes straight up; when it's not the weather that's making me look for shelter.

It's probably self-evident, but I've been thinking that the shelter provided by a building is a form of constructed stillness. Apart from the Sturt IV (my tent) there has not been much between me and the winter weather than my clothes. The weather is never still. Its shifts are my shifts. No doubt there's already a theory that the chair is really the foundation of architectural thinking. On the margins of recall is a Buddist saying that the closer you are to the ground - the more comfortable you are. But regrettably, I'm neither spiritually nor physically nimble enough to accept that this is true.

I do love my (Hastveda/Djupvik) cane chair from Ikea. Its orientation and location is constantly changing according to the direction of the wind, smoke, warmth, light and ground level. It's my home when I'm not up and about. Lost in the fire was a prototype chair I made for the National Trust. It occurs to me that I should make a chair from one of the dead wattle trees - just to keep things pure.

This week has been a week of journeys, first to Mudgee to pick up a small shed that I used to cover my machines when I made furniture in the 1980s. It took me all day to dismantle and load it onto the groaning Hilux along with some railway sleepers and other heavy timbers, but I was revived by dinner at Mort Hall and the luxurious bed in the 'other house'.

On Sunday another trip - en-route the scintilating Sunday senior's dinner at Ilford House, then off to attend the Sydney north shore funeral of the remarkable Peter Pockley (ABC science communicator). There's certainly pride in having a relative responsible for extinguishing the Olympic flame. Not to waste the trip, I also picked up my GT26 Sawmill up the road in Hornsby. Over the mountains I also picked up another Rayburn slow combustion stove in Wentworth Falls from the charming Peter and Jackie Spolk. Having borrowed Den's trailer (no lights), Peter very kindly shepherded me over to John and Veechi's where godson Finbar gave a piano recital and again I was treated to night in a bed.

Nice to get back. In spite of a cold south wind, the home space itself engendered a kind of stillness. My challenge today was to unload the 380kg saw mill. Fortunately last week I'd spent a day repairing the chain block that had been hanging off the shed in Mudgee since 1988. The mechanism had rusted but it was nothing that a little oil and movement couldn't fix. Chain blocks are useful things. One pulley is controlled by another (in both directions - up and down) where there is a continuous loop of chain. Not only can this one lift 2 tonnes but it allows fine adjustments for lining up bolt holes.

Nearby was a tree with a decent sized branch from which to hang the chain block. After backing the Hilux under it I was able to lift the saw mill head free before driving clear. It took all day but I was able to assemble everything to the extent that it looks as though it will all work. Next step is to make some level ground and put up a roof to protect it from the weather. Shelter for the saw - shelter for tools.

Somewhat related to stillness is the need for a grit-proof threshold. Grit from the sandy soil gets into everything - even my bed. The struggle to keep grit out involves thinking about transitions/thresholds and the grit trapping wonders of matting. Short of weaving some matting out of the native grasses, Denis Allard (Ilford House) put me onto the latest Bunnings offer of Vietnamese grass mats for $1.00. Bought four of them at the Mudgee Bunnings on the way through. They work beautifully. Global consumerism certainly offers ready made solutions to simple problems.

Red sky this evening - shepherds delight. It's actually a still night with a full moon rising. Icy cold beneath this sheltering sky but I can sit close to the warm fire without having to retreat from smoke - how wonderful!