Free Spirit Spheres
Truth is often stranger than fiction, we see this with places on the earth that look like they could belong to a fairy tale. We are currently living out a pretty crazy reality, our near future could play out in a multitude of ways. This unknown can petrify us, but it also mobilizes us. Stanley and Loy articulate this, “we need to ask ourselves: in whose interests are we sacrificing the ancient contract with the future of our species? Why can’t we find the courage to face the facts, and throw off the dominion of the fossil fuel industry? That kind of authentic challenge would reinvigorate the human spirit” (Spiritual Ecology). I believe this unknown future, this challenged bestowed on a majority of people on the planet, is most definitely reinvigorating humanity’s spirit in a plethora of ways. A fantastic place doing just this is Free Spirit Spheres near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. Our imagination is perpetually inspired by our surrounding environment, and hence the movement towards biomimicry in technology and design. Free Spirit Spheres embodies this, as it consists of multiple sphere buildings, each one hung up between three trees using webs of rope. The sphere hangs much like a nut in a tree, it is supported by the trees but does not affect their health. When I asked owner and builder Tom Chudleigh about this, he stated that the trees are aware of their presence, and when the spheres are built, they adapt accordingly. This fits into a realization, both new and ancient, that plants have a consciousness. Spiral staircases are built around one of the supporting trees, leading to a suspension bridge attached to the sphere. Its such a magical design, yet it follows all of natures patterns from spheres to spirals.
My photo of a sphere: capturing the built shapes inspired my nature’s designs
I loved talking to Chudleigh about the philosophy of the Free Spirit Spheres, he believes in the importance of treading lightly on the forest floor. People do not disturb the forest floor because they are suspended above it, yet they are simultaneously restoring their connection with the forest. The forests of the wold are a source of wonder, adventure, wisdom, oxygen and habitat. The spheres rekindle this understanding in people, reminding guests that separateness is an illusion. All is connected, and all is alive! Chudleigh explained to me in one of the spheres that conventional buildings are made up of all separated walls, often differentiated by colour and function. The spheres only have one connected wall, with enough room for one to two people to sleep, read, hangout, snack, etc. As I moved around inside of the sphere and noticed the amount of bounce happening, I couldn’t help thinking about other activities in the sphere that could make it look pretty alive from the outside..
Which leads me to another humorous aspect of the spheres I wish I had realized for my own property. Free Spirit Spheres is dealing with its waste responsibly, the owners built multiple composting toilets, shaped to look like mushrooms! What an ingenious idea. The owner told me regular outhouses are boring, the mushroom aesthetic is more harmonious, and mushrooms grow off of organic matter that is breaking down. So, the design was pretty darn suitable. The owners also refurbished old trailers to make beautiful kitchens, showers and patios! As a good friend of mine often likes to exclaim, there is no such thing as garbage, just things in the wrong place. As an environmentalist, an unglamorous fascination with waste is always present, so I felt stoked to be in a space that cared so much about our inner and outer environment, from invigorating the human spirit to waste management.
This trip shows the widespread shift towards sustainable lodging on a globalized planet, with humanity increasingly driven by travel. We do not need to build more westernized resorts that take up a space of another culture, and sustainable lodging like the Free Spirit Spheres shows how creativity blooms under ‘limitations’, in this case, the movement towards building smaller and being more space effective. After working around the spheres with Tom, I saw a big dinosaur skeleton wearing a christmas hat. I asked him the story behind this, he simply explained “oh thats from the old owner, a biker from Hell’s Angels. He also dug a mote around this entire property”. This reminds me of a lesson, every space has its idiosyncrasies; particularities…characteristics that make a place humorous and strange. Keeping an open heart in expecting the unexpected definitely invokes these experiences in the places we immerse ourselves in. This draws me back to a point I often make, I guess because I really believe in it. Tom created the Spheres so that people would tread lighter on the forest, which reminds me of a way to articulate my point. I think we are in that time when we are trying to find balance between raising our consciousness surrounding the many challenges we must deal with, while keeping a light, but strong, heart that is able to enjoy experience and laughter which is so fundamental to making our lives worthwhile.