The last few weeks in Matarranya have seen the Shrine Room shoot up from its foundations where the vajra we planted lies within a metre of concrete. Vijayasri and Isla cleared the pathway between the retreat centre and the shrine room so now you can walk the 150 metres or so along the goat track on the side of the hill and through a little crop of pine trees without stumbling on loose rocks and ducking under branches.
Through the pines you see the first views of the shrine room. It is a large rectangular building, raised a metre off the ground to protect it from damp. It has been built from scratch with red brick faced with stone or sand coloured render. Discussions about the size and placement of the windows in the shrine room occupied the ‘Aranya group’ for many a month, along with debates about where we would place the shrine. Now seeing the building with its walls built the large windows look great and where we place the shrine seems obvious. It’s hard to take in sometimes that the building will be a shrine room. When we walk around it our thoughts are in building site mode and we’re full of questions and anxieties. Do the builders really intend giving us a lintel above the door made out of a bit of old pallet? And why is one window lower than the other and just a bit crooked? We ask our questions and of course the builders have noticed and they are both just temporary things!
Apart from enormous beams crossing from wall to wall the roof is still open to the views. The ridge behind the shrine room rises to 1200 metres and even with all the banging and clattering of building noise, on one visit I watched two wild goats climb a hill a hundred metres away. It almost seems a shame to put the roof on but I think once the building is enclosed with a wooden ceiling and floor it will really start to become our shrine room.
The retreat centre work has slowed down a lot whilst different scenarios are mooted for our services. Water is fairly clear; we’ll have a large tank near the spring below the house and pump it up to another tank above the house and gravity feed it into the retreat centre. Lighting is also becoming clear and with the high ridge behind the retreat centre it’s important to place the solar panels where they’ll get maximum sun particularly for the shorter winter days. We’ve decided on a position that’s not visible from the house but we need to build a small ‘casita’ to house the solar batteries. Santi the carpenter is away making our doors and windows to fit the frames already in place. Many of the doors will be part glass to let more light into the rooms.
Our discussions turn more regularly to kitting out the retreat centre. What sort of kitchen will we have, and who will make it? How many beds do we want in this room and when do we need to put in an order to ensure we have them in place by spring? It is still a way off and much needs to be finished off in the retreat centre by then but it’s exciting to have got to this point. We are still hoping the builders will have finished their work before winter really sets in – by late November.