This whole hillside was once a family farm and  the road sign still bears the family name, Heddle. Pearl Buck once wrote “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. “ In this particular circumstance, “yesterday” found us. His name is Fred Heddle.

He is a  sweetly stooped, blue eyed, and wrinkled old man who had raised farm animals, children and dreams on this hillside. He’s in his nineties now, and living in an old folks home in town.

It was a sunny August afternoon, we were surveying the footprint of the house site when our dog , Inca , barked. Old farmer Heddle, accompanied by his nephew, clambered over the bank of our pond. He wore a light cotton shirt with a straw hat perched over bright eyes.  ”Are you building a round house here?” He asked “Like that one over by the lake, the one with 26 sides?” (No one else has ever noticed, or at least commented on, the exact number of facets of the red Mandala beside the lake)

So, we talked about round houses. About using less materials to create more living space. About the natural thermal dynamics of a round shape. About the inherent strength of the structure in high winds, heavy snow and earthquakes. And, about the greater accuracy and less waste of building it in the shop and trucking it out to the building site. He asked curious,  ’farmer practical’ , very intelligent questions and nodded his head in approval about the whole thing.

Then,  Mr. Heddle shared about being born in the blue house down the road. He talked about  how his father and grandfather chose this piece of land because they were looking for abundant sun and water. “Soil you can make.” He described playing up on the hillside with his brothers. “Long before T.V.. We would disappear up there in the morning and be gone all day.” He looked up at the hills with eyes deep in memory. “We knew those woods like the back of our hands. Up there , there are caves, climbing trees, bear and deer.”

He turned back to look at me with a welcoming glow. I basked in his alert mind, his description of his life, interest in our project, his interest in the breed of our dog, the roundness of our house and , it seemed , our very existence and presence on “his” land.

Old farmer Heddle’s knee was arthritic. “Walking is easier for me.” It got stiff standing too long, though the ground was uneven with loose rock in places and I worried that he might fall. He reminded me of an overgrown ancient elf, a joybody in a creaky shell peering avidly at everything around him.

He spoke clearly and fondly about the hay field on our land. About the orchards and the best places to get firewood. As he spoke, I felt warm and saw his memory images of kids swimming in the old Kettle Hole, boys trudging after recalcitrant cows and autumn-fat black bears perched in the big old cherry trees.

My heart sang, really. I felt welcomed and connected to the history of both this land and to the people who had lived here before.

It was like a benevolent old angel had appeared from behind the berm just especially on that beautiful August day in order to gift us with a blessing. And the blessing was a celestial go-ahead to put our roots deep into this ground, this family farm, Old Man Heddle’s home.

Now, our home.


The perfect spot on planet earth for this house