It's our last night before I start the trail again tomorrow. I'm lying in bed with Rosa and we're staring at the ceiling. It's painted with moons and stars that glow in the dark. We know the plaster walls are painted in psychedelic swirls of blue and yellow, A frieze of painted wave forms girdles the room just below the ceiling. We're in Crazy-land.
I used to dislike this place but now I see it differently. The trail has changed me.
Crazy-land is Rosa's family property on the North Shore. It has two houses on it and is protected by concrete walls. Rosa's younger sister Eila lives on the top floor of one house with her daughter, Saraya. The bottom floor is occupied by an Ethiopian refugee and her family. Henrietta the chicken roosts where she likes. Rosa's dad Ben, lives in the other house,
There is not a single straight line anywhere.
You never see straight lines in nature, either.
It is a cold water house because Ben showers at the gym to save money. He's frugal because he grew up on the poorest street in Depression-era Liverpool. Being evacuated from German bombs to the Welsh countryside was the best thing that ever happened to him. Perhaps that childhood experience of displacement continues to foster his long-term support of the "Save the Children" fund.
On the trail, you get used to life without hot water, to moving your home, to making your own luck and helping others.
He built Crazy-land pretty much out of chicken wire and plaster, using a machine he travelled to Germany for. The machine now sits outside the front door. Ben adored it and loved spewing plaster over the chicken wire, He was like a farmer with a manure-spreader spraying a field with cow poo. Actually, Crazy-land looks exactly like a Moroccan palace sprayed with manure. It has gloppy turrets, minarets, window frames. This house oozed before solidifying.
It's an incredible sight and probably worth paying for. From time to time, Ben talks about opening his house to an admiring public but I don't think he could take other people defiling it. To him, it's the Holy Grail of houses. Ben doesn't care what other people think of him or his house.
You don't need other people's approval on the trail, either.
He started this project in his "funny forties" during the hip, cool and groovy 1970s. Ben being Ben, he had to make these years more dramatic than most people would. He took to encounter groups, drugs, and "Hey, let's be hippie dropouts!" communities. A trickle of seekers became a torrent when an entire community moved in. For a few years, the members processed, got clear and got stoned. Then, they got creative. Release your inner artist, baby! They painted the walls, ceilings, windows, even the paving stones in psychedelic swirls, symbols and patterns. It's pretty far out, even if the colours have faded with time.
Close a door and an "Om" symbol is on the back of it. Open a cabinet and there's an invocation written in Runic script. Lie in bed and gaze at the phosphorescent stars. You can even follow Bilbo's journey through Middle Earth from room to room in a series of murals.
Nature is infinitely creative, the colours are out of this world and stories are engraved everywhere, if you can read the signs.
Crazy-land makes me wonder about people who live in straight lines and people who live in curved ones. Those dwelling in teepees, yurts, tents, hammocks, boats, caves and hobbit holes live in curves. Wild animals nest, burrow and curl up in curves.
I like curves.
I like the wild, crazy, curvy people who live in them.
And I like the way I feel when I live with them.
This is new. it reminds of how long I have lived in straight lines.
Although I have stopped here for a week, it's taken a while to understand why I feel so at home here, when just six weeks ago, I didn't. Like the trail, Crazy-land grows on you. When you change, it changes.
That's something to take with me onto the trail tomorrow.