Lately I’ve been considering the future of the Eden Property and I’ve come to the conclusion that really what I’m striving for is developing a hermitage where I can work out my vocation as a solitary hermit, who lives under private vows (maybe even unprofessed or instinctive), not necessarily attached or affiliated with any order or denomination, but one who is submitted only to God’s call in prayer and solitude and meditation and living closely with nature and in the exercise of sanctification in anticipation of being revealed as a son of God.
It would be a place where I could do my studies for my Unschooled Master of Theology program, where I could live simply and purposefully and minimalistically and finish out my days in ecstasy and, be it his will, in good standing before my King.
Tonight when I got home I sketched out what I’m looking for in a hermitage. Let me show you the sketch and provide a little commentary on what I’m looking at….
A Future Hermitage
This is a single room or cell. It is underground completely or near completely on the back wall (left side), though that wall does have a vent that is always open to let out errant smoke and also to keep ventilation as optimal as possible and reduce condensation.
The structure itself would be approximately 10 ft long (bottom to top on sketch) and 7-8 ft wide (left to right on sketch). The entire roofline is a pitch from back to front (left to right) and the pitch is at the same angle and slightly below the natural terrain. This will hopefully negate or lessen the risk of tree fall from the easter or western or southern ridges. Trees that I cannot cut down in the future.
Inside the structure in the top right corner is a wood stove. I’ve played with a small camp stove which works rather well to cook on and to use for heat, but it is not air tight and does leak a lot of smoke, especially when the door is open to add more wood. The next stove I plan to purchase should eliminate this. It vents to an L shaped stovepipe into the “terraced garden.” Next to the stove is a 2x3ft window because I have it on the property and it is a quality vinyl window. It will also provide light, ventilation, and hopefully a view from the hammock. Immediately outside the window will be a “terraced garden” which will be stepped terrain with flowers and other colorful plants cultivated. This cannot be seen from the lake which is directly to the right of the sketch. The section between the top of the wall and the roof will be a triangle on the top wall which will be closed in with netting and also plastic on the outside secured by velcro for winter.
The front wall (right) will be a short wall (3-4 ft) with netting above that and attachable clear plastic on the outside for winter. There will be evergreen vegetation closely in front of this front wall to conceal the roof from the lake. The other side wall will contain the same kind of netting and also a door or main entrance. I would like to eventually add a traditional wooden door, but temporarily may use the door currently on the temp shelter, which is a frame and netting. I can attach clear plastic to the outside of the frame for winter use.
The only furniture inside the shelter will be a Amok Draumr hammock. This is the hammock currently in my emergency Go bag, but will serve as my main sleeping system and lounging system once the shelter is in place (then my emergency Go back sleeping system will be one of my traditional hammocks).
From the front door is a path that is dug out of the mountain side at the same depth as the middle deck. The walls of the path will be terraced and contain various types of vegetation or flowers or possibly potted bonsai. The top layer or the natural terrain will include evergreen shrubs and ferns and other thick vegetation so as to conceal the path from it’s immediate surrounding. The goal is to conceal the entire shelter from view, even if only a few feet away from it.
At the end of the pathway there will be a hidden gate of lattice that will have growing on it thick evergreen ivy. The view from the middle deck will be a wall of lattice with ivy that obscures the view of the shelter from anywhere on the deck. The gate will require a hidden lever to unlock it so it can open outward.
The middle deck will not be covered and will have steps at both ends, one side leading off to a trail down to the vegetable garden, and the other side to a secondary middle deck that leads to the lower deck or workshop, vegetable garden, and ultimately to the catwalk, ramp, and dock.
The vegetable garden is placed on a flat area that was constructed by the previous owner by putting in a retraining wall. It is approximately 25ft x 50ft and gets about 4-6 hours of sunlight daily in the summer. It gets little to no sun in the winter and often floods with 2-4ft of water after storms due to the rising water level of the lake.
Room for a Wood Stove
The wood stove is key to this system working, as well as the hammock system for sleeping and lounging. Staying dry and warm is crucial to being able to live at the Eden property full time. A traditional structure is not feasible due to the threat of tree fall (the large trees on the ridges are not on my property and thus cannot be cut down). Several trees on the ridges are Douglas fir and approximately 100 ft high. Several have fallen or are leaning in one direction or the other. There is no telling when they will come down or can be predicted how or in what direction they will come down. An underground shelter is the only solution (other than a floating shelter and this is too accessible to tourists and fishermen in boats).
Insulation could be added to the structures walls and roof if needed, but my hope is, given that it is mostly underground, and is heated by a wood stove that is rated to heat 800 square feet, plus the roof has will have several inches of dirt on top of it, it will stay warm and be efficiently heated without insulation.
In all respects, the heating from the stove is not for sleeping at night, since the draumr hammock can easily be insulated for winter sleeping so that my body heat will keep me warm. It is when I’m lounging during the day, working on my laptop or watching tv that I need some warmth to function comfortably.
I expect to have a lot of down time during the winter months and may prove best to “hibernate” during these cold weather times. I can get more writing and reading done and save my outside work for warmer months.
Replacing Last Year’s Recliner
Two summers ago I decided that I would need something besides a hammock and a lawn chair for the Eden Property, specifically for the daytime when I’m engaged in research and study, leisure reading and watching tv. The lawn chairs were not comfortable enough for long-term sitting while using my laptop and the hammock seemed too confining.
This led me to the final conclusion that I could try a recliner and get out of the hammock altogether. It provided the support, comfort I needed for both sleeping and for leisure as well as was compact enough to fit into my shelter and did not require a load bearing structure in the first place. The first summer this worked okay in the temp shelter. The challenge was wintering it. By the next spring, I pulled the chair out from his plastic wrap and discovered a number of things.
First, the plastic did not spare the growth of mold. But it was a bizarre kind of dusty mold that easily was brushed off. A treatment of diluted bleach and a thorough spray down of Frebreze and several hours of direct sunlight exposure to dry brought the chair back to usable condition. Within a week of sitting in a tent the faint smell disappeared entirely.
As I do with my recliner at my house in town, I have a bedsheet laid over it so the chair itself does not get dirty from sweat or oil or just dirt in general. This can be washed frequently as well, which is much easier to clean than a chair upholstery. But, after five months of using this chair and then making the final decision that a chair was too difficult to store in winter, I decided to look again at hammocks. This is when I discovered the Amok Draumr that is a perpendicular hang and flat lay, which also converts to a chair as well (though I’ve found it not to be nearly as comfortable as a slightly inclined lay, which is really how I use a recliner most of the time as well). The price of the Draumr was $400 to the door, which was the same price I was looking at for a new recliner (the one at the house is about to fall apart).
So, this fall, when it was time to take down the tent I had been living in this summer out on the flat (where the vegetable garden will eventually go), I pulled the recliner out and set it off in the corner of the flat. It has now experienced three + months of rains and is thoroughly soaked through. It was a throw-away chair that I had up in the attic for several years, and I knew going in that if it did not survive the experiment it would not be returning to town.
It will either be burned in a fire this spring or will be left somewhere in the underbrush to be taken over and broke down by nature. I imagine it will take maybe two years before it is completely gone.
But, this means that the permanent shelter that I’m building will need to be sturdy enough to hold my weight long-term since I will be sleeping in it nightly and using it as my “recliner office” during the day when conducting research, reading, and watching tv on my laptop. I would also use it in my house as well, but unfortunately, because the studs in my house were added as an after-thought years later (most of the houses in my neighborhood were build in the 1920’s or earlier and were build without studs) they are not load bearing and will not support my hammock. The alternative to this, of course, once my house recliner finally dies and is hauled to the dump, I will return to my regular hammock for sleeping and/or buy a specialty hammock stand that will hold the Draumr (my ultimate hope is I will be able to stay at the Eden Property full time before this need arises).
So, this is my update for my future hermitage shelter that I plan to build on the Eden Property. It is designed in the spirit of the hermit monks of the ancient Egyptian desert or more so the modern hermits on Mount Athos who often live in shelters made out of tarps or wood or whatever can be sourced. Eventually, I plan to have this one room cell fully enclosed, with a sturdy wooden roof that is covered first by plastic sheeting and then with 6 inches of soil with ivy consuming and concealing it from anyone who gets close. Lighting will be primarily from my battery operated string lights that I currently use in my living room at the house, my battery operated headlamp, my light on my phone, and also a windup emergency flashlight I have stored permanently at the property in case there is no power availability. There is also the wood stove that generates some light at night when the door is open. There is also a portable, solar powered lantern as well.
I doubt I will ever have running water within my hermitage, simply so I don’t have to worry about pipes freezing in winter, though this could be remedied easily by partially burying a collection tank(s) uphill, with an underground hose running into the shelter. It is unnecessary, though, given the mild temperatures throughout most of the year, and the relative ease at which I can get water from collection tanks on the middle deck and also by 5 gallon bucket from the dock.
All in all, I have my work cut out for me. Hopefully I will be able to make some real progress on the project this spring and summer and also sporadically through winter as weather permits.
Until my next update…
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Excerpt from Ashen Monk Mountain:
There was an old elm tree near the end of the lawn, with a circular picnic table and several short benches.
“This looks like a lovely spot,” Mr. Eckey said, taking a seat.
He set his briefcase on the picnic table and flipped the latches, opening the lid.
Christopher took a seat opposite him and removed his hood, folding his arms in front of him.
“I have a tablet and a pen here somewhere,” Mr. Eckey said. “I had it when I left, that is. Not sure if I can find it in this disorganized briefcase of mine…”
He chuckled at himself.
“So – ”
Christopher ran a hand over his short cropped scalp.
“I’m confused about all this. I’m not sure I understand why exactly you wanted to meet with me.”
Mr. Eckey nodded.
“How long have you been a novitiate here?”
“Going on seven months now.”
He glanced up at Christopher as he fetched his notebook and ink pen.
“How are you liking it at Saint Joseph’s?”
“It has been – ”
Christopher thought about the question for a moment.
“ – wonderful.”
“I would assume it much different than – ”
Mr. Eckey flipped the first page over, scanned handwritten notes he had on the second page.
“I received some background from the Precept’s office, as well as from Abbot Greenly. You grew up in – North Platte, Nebraska? Is that correct?”
“I’m native of the Boston area myself,” Mr. Eckey said. “Tell me a little about how you came to the decision.”
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“To become a monk. It must have been quite a journey from Nebraska.”
“Not really. I guess. I just – ”
Unwanted images flashed through his mind.
Mr. Eckey took a deep breath before speaking again.
“Mr. Ward, I don’t actually know a whole lot about this request, to be perfectly honest. As you know, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life – that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it – we are entrusted with monitoring abnormal behavior among those called to the consecrated vocation.”
He tapped his pen on the tablet.
“Tell me, what do you like about Saint Joseph’s exactly?”
“It’s the – well – I feel at home here. Like I belong. I very much enjoy the silence.”
“Yes, I know the Trappists to be quite ardent in their devotion.”
Christopher nodded in agreement as Mr. Eckey took a few notes.
“I enjoy the early mornings, the worship, the offices. The undivided devotion.”
“To God?” Mr. Eckey asked.
“Yes,” Christopher said. “Exactly.”
The stranger focused on his notes for several seconds, silently mouthing the words he wrote.
“Tell me, how does your life now differ from your previous one?”
Mr. Eckey stopped writing.
“Your military career.”
“Oh,” Christopher said, looking down. “I guess – I – I don’t know. There are lots of differences. I’m not – sure I – what is this inquiry about exactly?”
Mr. Eckey put his pen down.
“Mr. Ward,” he said. “The Vatican apparently has interest in your particular gifts and abilities for a – call it – a special appointment. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”
He shifted his weight on the hard bench.
“Normally, the Congregation does not get involved in appointments or a particular monk’s vocational choices. But, sometimes, when the need arises, special arrangements can be made.”
“Are you talking about another monastery?”
“Actually – ”
Mr. Eckey picked his pen back up.
“It’s an entirely different Order.”
Christopher leaned forward as a gust of wind billowed the long sleeves of his tunic.
“I don’t really understand,” he said. “Are you saying the Vatican wants me to move to a different monastery – to a different Order? But…I…”
Mr. Eckey waited a moment.
“Tell me, Mr. Ward, about your military training.”
“What about it?”
“Your experiences. You were a special operator, is that correct?”
Christopher shot him a quizzical look.
“How do you know that?”
“You were part of the 7th SFG? Assigned to operations in Afghanistan for the majority of your enlistment, surrendering your commission as a Captain. Is that correct? What did you like or dislike about your military career? Why was it you left?”
Christopher looked out over the cornfields in the distance.
“Sir,” he said, wringing his hands together. “I don’t really understand why you’re asking these kinds of questions. To be honest, they’re making me a little uncomfortable. I think I – ”
“Please, Brother Christopher,” Mr. Eckey said, putting up a hand. “I don’t mean to pry. As I said, this is a peculiar and rather sensitive situation, not at all normal procedure. So, I do apologize for my rather tactless approach. Let me explain a little, if I can – ”
Christopher tried to relax.
He struggled to repress the memories rising in the back of his mind, the bloody and gruesome images of dead bodies, a horrible, yet all too familiar wave of fear and dread washing over him.
A wave of putrid death enveloped and permeated everything.
He took a deep breath, tried to ignore it.
Mr. Eckey put down his pen again.
“There is a remote monastery in British Colombia. It is of a separate Order, not Cistercian, but similar. It’s rather distinctive, as I am led to believe.”
“What is the Order?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey shook his head.
“You would not be familiar with it,” he said. “There is actually only one monastery in the Order. But it has had a long, and quite fascinating history, to say the least. And, somewhat of a fantastic service.”
“So, why me, then?” Christopher asked. “I’m a novitiate. I don’t have much to offer. I’m not sure what you are asking of me.”
“The Vatican is asking a favor of you, Brother Ward. They are requesting that you take a leave of absence from Saint Joseph’s and visit this other monastery for a time.”
“I’m – I don’t – ”
“I’m honored that the Vatican has called on me,” he said. “I really do feel settled here, though. I would not wish to – ”
Mr. Eckey interrupted.
“Consider it simply a sabbatical of sorts. Without strings attached. We are interested solely in God’s working here in this matter.”
“Are you wanting me to relocate?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“How about we say the Vatican is open and interested in the Father’s call on your life. We simply wish to – test the waters – see if this would or would not be a good fit.”
“So, if I go, and it is not a good fit?”
“Your place here at Saint Joseph’s would be available to you at any time you see fit. Like I said, no strings attached.”
“I would not feel comfortable going without Abbot Greenly’s blessing,” Christopher said.
“You have it,” Mr. Eckey said, his smile widening.
Christopher said nothing.
“Think of it as a vacation. Though, if I’m hearing you correctly, you really are in no need of one. But, then again…. ”
The man shrugged.
“May I – ”
Christopher pondered his words.
“Is it possible to consider this awhile before I decide?”
“Certainly,” Mr. Eckey said. “Because of the situation, though, we would need you to go sooner than later. Is there anything upcoming that you are thinking about in particular?”
Christopher shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I would just like to sit with this for a day or two. Pray about it. How long would the visit be?”
“As long as you need to decide,” Mr. Eckey said. “Preferably a month to start. Longer is encouraged. Like I said, it is a unique situation, so tradition does not really lend itself easily. But, I would ask – ”
He put his notepad and pen back in his briefcase and closed the lid.
“Because of the sensitive nature, the Vatican has requested that you do not discuss this with anyone except me. Not the other monks here, your family, not even Abbot Greenly.”
“But, how – ”
Mr. Eckey put up a hand.
“I’m heading back to discuss the situation with Abbot Greenly before I leave the grounds. He will certainly not have an objection. Not that I can imagine, anyway.”
He fished out a business card from the inside pocket of his blazer.
“Here is my contact information,” he said, handing him the card. “You can reach me on my cell phone any time. Whenever you decide, one way or the other. There is a great need, though, so I do hope you will consider at least visiting.”
Christopher took the card, looked at it, then looked up at Mr. Eckey.
“What kind of need, exactly?”
The man just smiled.
“All in due time,” he said. “Just let us know as soon as you are able.”
Christopher looked back at the card.
“Thank you, Brother Ward, for your time. I do think I can find my way back to the abbot’s office from here.”
He briefly looked around the grounds.
“I do envy you a little,” he said. “What a majestic space you monks have created here. It’s like a slice of Eden. Really.”
He got up, shook Christopher’s hand, then left him there alone, as the stranger retraced his steps to the abbot’s office.
Christopher took a deep breath, then sighed.
The wave of putrid death still lingered as another wind gust blew across the fields, dredging up memories he would have altogether wished could have remained buried, soaking him again in the blood of the past.
He stayed there for a long time, just watching as the endless sea of cornfields waved in the winds.
Buy my book Ashen Monk Mountain to find out what this cryptic and mysterious appointment is the Vatican is asking Christopher to take on. An unheard of monastery, hidden deep in the Canadian Rockies? A secret mission and call? What in the world could be going on?
Click here and grab your copy today! Whatever you do, don’t let this fantastically epic story get away!
But, trust me when I say, you’re not going to believe the truth even when you discover it for yourself. Find out what secrets lay hidden underfoot at Ashen Monk Mountain!