Diagonally Poetically Framing
6.25.13 – Two nights ago, aching and sore, just back from a four day hike doing the 50 from Mt. Moosilauke to Hanover, I agreed to meet a fellow whom I had only spoken with over email at 10am the next day at Dan & Whit’s. His name was George Abetti and he offered to take me on a Vermont GeoBarn tour. We had connected over the whole Norwich list serv hullabaloo and my postings about volunteer work on the property lines of federally conserved land hosting the Appalachian Trail for the Dartmouth Outing Club a few days prior.
The Norwich listserv is an email bulletin board service. Once you subscribe, you email in a message to a main server which then gets forwarded to everyone else who is a subscriber of that bulletin board service. Almost all the towns around the Upper Valley have a listserv. And in spite of my village being a relatively small community, we have the most subscribers. The hullabaloo I speak of was that the moderator had unsubscribed me from the Norwich’s for what he stated was “non-compliance with the rules” and it caused quite a stir. Of course I had no idea what kind of stir and to what degree until four days later when a friend forwarded her email of the daily digest to me. The comments in the posts ranged from support for my return, to threats to leave and create a new listserv due to the injustice of my being booted, to call for a vote being taken for my return, and chastisements aimed at the listserv moderator. I did run into a fellow at the Norwich Inn who said that he quit the listserv because he “got sick of reading about” me.
George discovered me and the Norwich listserv through a mutual friend, his wife Suzanne, and decided to email me. Suzanne knew me from flood relief work I did for Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 utilizing the listservs and my work at the Main Street Museum. George left a voice mail asking for my number so as to arrange a time for a GeoBarn tour the next day. I was very tired. I’d arrived back in Norwich fresh off the Appalachian Trail just a few hours earlier after walking fourteen miles that day from Hewes Brook. I emailed my number back and asked if we could speak in the morning. My plan was to do a whole lot of nothing for the next 24 hours. Then meet with a publisher tomorrow evening in White River Junction at Than Wheelers to discuss poetry in general, the book of love poems I was putting together and interest in having published. Two minutes after hitting ‘send’, I was answering my ringing iPhone with George on the other end of the line. I was to be Dan & Whit’s to meet him. I didn’t know what to expect!
We met the next morning at 10am at Dan & Whit’s, got in his car after grabbing some snacks and then the adventure began! All the while, I must admit, I did not actually know what a GeoBarn was. When I thought of ‘geo’ I thought of the geodesic domes my friends had once inhabited out on Old Bridge Road in Norwich, off Route 5 North. George had sent me some pictures of the structures his company builds and I did not see any with a rounded dome top. And even after we departed our first stop on the tour, at a beautiful red barn-like building housing an artisinal Vodka and Gin brewing company called Silo, I was still in the dark about what makes a GeoBarn a geo barn.
I come from a family of farmers and builders, although you wouldn’t know it to look at me. My grandfather was a dairy cattle farmer before he changed over to beef cattle when the private market for milk dropped out. I grew up playing in the hay loft, collecting eggs, climbing trees, running through the woods barefoot, fishing, hiking, and camping with my cousins. We often built hay bale forts in the loft. We scrambled up that hay elevator then ran back down it so we could do it all over again. We played in that dusty sun-filtered space among the mysterious piles miscellaneous hardware and the resting places of farm equipment retired from the field. I can still recall that very important conversation Gramps and my nine year old self had, me asking him for a swing to be installed in the hayloft. And when he asked “Why?”, I insisted “Every hayloft needs a swing Grampa!” Seems my reasoning was sound. For shortly thereafter a swing magically appeared dangling from that central beam.
I have seen foundations poured, walls being framed and raised. I had a hand in the construction of the two houses my ex-husband and I once shared. The beautiful wood interior of our first stop on the tour was and is absolutely breathtaking. The floating staircase, sheer genius. These memories of my youth that so shaped my love and appreciation of barns, farms, and that simpler way of life, flowed. Yet, walking around inside the Silo Vodka building had not given me any insight. I still did not understand what a “Geobarn” was. The designation of it as such was not apparent to me. I simply could not figure it out. My deductive reasoning had drawn zero likely conclusions. En route to the next stop of the tour I finally asked George, “What makes a geo barn a GeoBarn?”
George described a unique engineering method he designed which utilizes diagonal framing instead of the traditional vertical. On his website, www.geobarns.com, more detail is given about what makes Geobarns so distinctive:
“A Roman arch flying buttress beam and bolt truss system allows for large spans and free standing buildings without any internal support, even with a second floor. This allows the client complete freedom and flexibility in choosing interior layout, since no interior bearing walls are required.”
“Alternating directions from corners and posts provide not only a symmetrical pattern throughout but also drive all racking and lateral forces back into the foundation/sill for stability and resilience.”
George said he can build a barn, a house, a garage, a studio, a workshop, and even larger spaces (he built indoor skating rink with balcony seating) at a fraction of the cost compared to what typical stick-frame housing construction costs currently demand. He can create beautiful dynamic versatile structures with this methodology making them much more affordable because he uses a lot less wood than what traditional vertical framing demands. Low cost housing done artfully, with artistry, and with practicality.
Our conversation was not solely confined to GeoBarns. George and I talked and talked and talked. We talked as if we had known each other for a hundred and one years.
Sometimes the universe moves in mysterious ways. A few weeks ago I began reading a galley copy, which is a soon to be published book, titled Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter by Howard Mansfield. I had been told eight days before this tour that I had to find a new place to live. And yesterday I went and visited a half dozen barn-shaped shelters while engaged in a conversation of such depth and breadth that my eyes tear at the memory of its intimacy and superb loveliness. The conversation, the instant connection, the knowing of this person’s being. How grateful am I for these moments in time when I meet people who are so full of wonder and life and openness to the beauty of existence in this amazing world. I so appreciate meeting George and learning about this wonderful gift he shares with the world. Creating shelter. The possibility of home, that wonderful place to feel one belongs to and is a part of. A place of being. Or as Mansfield describes, a dwelling, and a revival of a concept that some people seem to have forgotten the meaning of. And a mystery, solved!
Was all of this a coincidence? Was this planetary-like alignment fated to be? I think the answer is “Maybe.” In any case, it’s all good. I’m off to go look at two apartments tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find a shelter suitable for my soul.
A footnote: If you would you like to know more about GeoBarns and are interested in having one built email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tell you more about my experience. You may also go to GeoBarns.com and inquire directly and if you do, please mention my name and how you heard about GeoBarns to George. Thanks!