dream houses

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A multitude of tiny peeling wooden and cinderblock houses lie between larger, lived-in homes in the desert near here. These once belonged to homesteaders, and are mainly framed in 2 by 4s, with sticky tarry roofs, water tanks and fraying electrical wire connections.  I drive down sandy roads to these half standing homestead cabins everyday these days, because I have decided to buy one with a couple of my friends, to start building something ourselves, picking up where the homesteaders left off.

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Many of the cabins scattering the desert are structurally sound in their raw beams; slap on some ply wood walls, a reclaimed door, windows from the dump and the skeleton becomes a home. These strutures represent a time of scarcity, of austerity when homesteaders built the smallest possible structure (12 ft by 6 ft) required by the government to stake a claim to the land (5 acres of heaven). One room, with a small propane stove, a matress on the floor, a tin cup, and a journal. This reality is intriguing for a girl who grew up in a 3 bedroom suburban home with a staircase; what makes a home a home? (The corners, the light)

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What remains of human life are piles of things that move around in a home during use; stuffed bunnies and depression era blue glasses, forks, piles of books that are curling and rotting and yellow. I confront a certain smell, maybe containing remnants of the familiar smell that was once home, but this mixes with decay, with dis-use...tossed and mangled all over the floor- a special purple shell carved with "Hawaii", some worksheets about manifest destiny, letters from prison sometimes. What is left in the desert is left in the desert; there is no public sanitation department that deals with excess waste in abandoned houses (there are a few private waste disposal companies in the high desert).

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Objects face us in our dream of building something with our hands, in these frames, the lives of others and the half-house feeling, imagining where a bed would have gone, what the doorknob looked like. People left because they couldn't handle the climate, because of money, because the myth was lovelier than the reality, leaving the structures abandoned for 50 plus years, until a family member decided to sell. Like the lansdcape itself, these houses allow space to imagine our possible domesticities, we just have to sort through the layers of other lives still hanging around inside. 

Comments
Gogo
September 22, 2012 - 9:55am

Katie,
I hope you find your dream home. I love your pioneer spirit. What a great adventure. Best, Gogo