Radical Simplicity

New Year's Day, Sunday, 1st January 2006

Radical Simplicity'My main focus all along,' writes Dan Price in his latest book, Radical Simplicity, ' has been to somehow dodge all those lassoes being thrown by that darn cowboy called life . . . I'm trying to ignore all the societal pressures that try to define who I'm supposed to be or what is deemed successful. I'd like to just honor our sacred earth by becoming so small, so quiet, and so unsubstantial that the environment I inhabit feels barely a whisper of my miniscule existence . . . In this way nature is free to express itself fully while I try to comprehend and appreciate its vast universal rhythms . . . '

Dan Price drawingThis has been the perfect book to read at the start of a new year; it's inspired me to get out to experience and to draw nature in a direct way again (not that I needed much of a push there), and it has set me rethinking some the accepted values and goals which we allow to rule our lives.

Thoughtful and funny, perceptive and practical, Radical Simplicity is a delightfully subversive approach to the great American dream of freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Shelter in the Seventies

Artwork from Shelter 6
Drawing by Bob Easton from an article on Wrecking and Salvage from Shelter 6,
Shelter Publications, 1973.

Dan recalls the Shelter books, published in the 1970s, were an early inspiration. I've just taken my copy of Shelter 6 from the shelf and found, amongst the eclectic mix of photographs, drawings and plans of hand-made buildings from around the world, a handful of examples of clear, quirky artwork by Bob Easton, Joaquin de la Luz and others in the folksy idiom that I associate with Price.

I was an art student in those heady days of Shelter, Domebook, the Whole Earth Catalog and A Blueprint for Survival. We'd have a safer, more sustainable world if those ideas had been wholeheartedly taken on board. At the time, I got as far as considering a vague scheme to construct a small geodesic dome greenhouse to grow tomatoes in our back garden but it never got started, partly because I couldn't puzzle out how I'd make all those 72° joints. Meanwhile Dan, who was then still at school, had already starting experimenting with various shelters built from a range of natural materials on the wooded mountain behind his house.

A Walk in the Woods

crack willowhoney fungusA half-hour's walk up Coxley Valley takes you through several different kinds of woodland but first there's a big housing development to go by - there goes another meadow, *sigh* - and the stump of the stream-side Ash, felled by the developers at the top of the steep bank. The stump is sprouting Honey Fungus but fresh shoots are springing up from its edges.

oak and birchesThere are Crack Willows (left) by the stream as you walk on past the old quarry then, on the drier ridge beyond the dam, Sessile Oak is dominant. On rolling slopes below Netherton cemetery there are extensive birch woods with the odd isolated old sweet chestnut tree standing amongst them; a curious survivor from - to judge by their gnarled character - plantings made more than a century ago.

The View from South Lane

section of valley woodlandconesI take the old bridleway out of the woods at their south east corner to enjoy the contrast of striding along a small country lane, South Lane, Netherton, with views through the hedgerow trees across the lower Calder Valley towards the Vale of York. The freshly painted orange and cream tower-blocks of Wakefield give an off-the-shelf look to Wakefield, five or six miles away, while the distant cooling towers of Ferrybridge and Drax steam away in the distance.

The pine cones, right, are part of my mum's Christmas decorations. Next Page

Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk