Many moons ago, in my wanderings, I found myself alone during a wild storm in Cornwall. I was looking after a house and some land on which were several roundhouses, built in respect of the Bronze Age inhabitants on the site in a previous era. There was a powercut and as the storm worsened, I went to check everything was all right. There alone, except for the cat which had followed me, I stood amongst the houses marvelling at the sense of timelessness. It was such experiences, of which I have had a few, that had added colour and sense when I was writing Sesonsfin. Doing research for the book, I read that one of the reasons for building houses in circular shapes was that they're more able to withstand extreme weather. Whether this is true or not, I don't know, but can verify that one tends to feel very snug and secure within round houses both modern and ancient.
In Feng Shui, round shapes are indicative of the Metal element. Once when leading a workshop in Mallorca, I described how the flow of an Earth ch'i environment - such as a flat desert - would nourish a Metal-shaped building, encouraging the accumulation of wealth. At this, an artist attending the workshop exclaimed, 'That's exactly what Dali did! He said he wanted to make money, went into the desert and built round houses in which to live.' The wealth from Metal though is as much spiritual as material, being an inward moving ch'i. Thus, circular places are conducive to learning, meditation and healing. The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford would be one example, or the beautiful atrium in the British Museum as pictured here.
Now I find myself staying in a modern round house thanks to the kindness of friends, providing a welcome hiatus from walkabout.
With excellent insulation, passive solar heating and solar thermal where the woodburner also heats the water, it is like a modern equivalent of the environmenally appropriate Bronze Age roundhouse. Ironically, it is not a lack of light and heat that is an issue in the middle of November, but an excess of these so that I'm having to shed layers every time the sun emerges, and struggle with seeing the computer screen even as I write these words. (I'm going to keep my eye out for a shoji, a Japanese screen.) Also, hilariously, I have BBC Asian Radio on in the background and the presenter is asking listeners how they're dealing with this 'cold, wet, miserable, horrible morning'. I have no idea what he's talking about! I'm actually wishing the rain clouds would last longer. In Feng Shui terms, he is referring to an excessively yin scenario, whereas where I am is the more healthy 2/3 yang, 1/3 yin as desired in living spaces.
It is particularly the psychological aspect of living here I find interesting. This is something I haven't noticed before, how angular our mundane movements are in square houses and workspaces. That is suddenly starting to feel unnatural. Here, with a commonplace action such as having to get up from the couch whilst watching TV to fetch something from the kitchen, I have to move in a curve both there and back. This brings a grace and softness to every moment, every movement, and a new awareness arises.
It brings to mind how the Grouse in the popular Medicine Cards symbolises the spiral movement, especially when moving through different levels of the building. To quote from the cards, 'Analyze the way you move through your world. How do you picture yourself in the act of locomotion? What kind of reaction do you create with the energy you send into the universe?... Is your movement compatible with your greatest desires and goals?' Again, the circular movement, evocative also of Sufi whirling, is emphasising the need to go within.
The journey to bed upstairs feels very much like a spiral journey, literally and metaphorically to another level. With the windows looking out over sea and sky, this is reminiscent of how Islamic architecture uses the dome shape to symbolise Heaven. It can make for restless nights, you pretty much enter and become part of the storm, but that too is beautiful, everything is a meditation, and there is always that wonderful gentle calm afterwards.
AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight