Tom grew up in the hills above Whittier, CA, in the home built by his father (yes, with a hammer and table saw!), overlooking Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. Tom’s days were filled with exploring those hills. Along with riding and helping care for his sisters’ horses, Tom raised tumbler pigeons and brought home and tended many wild animals. He covered many miles of rugged ground, exploring and learning as he went.

As a young teenager, he hiked and camped far back in the High Sierras with his Boy Scout troop. Good camping etiquette was firmly imprinted in these boys: Respect nature and leave no trace of your presence.

Tom’s early years, then, were marked by closeness to and love for the natural world – so much so that when he left home for college in the early 70s, it was with less regret than one might imagine, since the view to the ocean by then was lost in smog, and ever-increasing roadways had brought more cars and more congestion to the LA basin.

As for me (Marti), the newly built subdivision in which I grew up bordered quite a large area of fields and forest patches. Roaming the fields and climbing high in the trees made for many happy times; it was a rare summer day when my hands were completely clean of sticky pine sap.

Each summer I spent several weeks at a small girls’ camp in Allegany State Park. Nestled in the forest, the camp was simple and rustic. Our activities were by far mainly out-of-doors. A whiff of hemlock forest to this day sends me back to Camp Gohadogoh and my immersion in nature there.

The result of all this nature in our nurture (yes, a nod to our Beacon Springs landscape installer!) is that Tom and I have, through the years, gravitated away from city living. We bought our current house when our sons were young with an eye toward providing for them opportunities for hiking, tree-climbing, fort-building, and imagining themselves as first-explorers. Our “retirement property” in North Carolina is even more to our liking, with diversity in its plant life, and regular visits by deer, foxes, coyotes, osprey, bears and more.

The Tessmer Road property is less wild, having been farmed relatively recently, and being surrounded by active and fallow farms and a sprinkling of homes. Deer and hawks, and likely foxes and coyotes, though, are frequent callers if not residents, so there’s hope for increasing the richness of wildlife as we begin our work to increase richness in the plant life. Not only are we aiming at building a home that enhances the environment, but we also look forward to restoring to health the overused land.

One could hardly miss the recent media attention on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. The document stresses the interrelatedness of all of creation, and points out that we cannot in fact love our neighbor if we are not also loving and caring for creation. Our hearts resonate with those ideas.

Forefront in our minds right now is the materials vetting process. The goal is to avoid, as much as possible, toxic chemicals in our construction materials. What an onerous process! — and how much we hope we’re creating change, not only for the occupants of this house we’re building, but also in building and manufacturing standards, pushing for safer components and greater transparency. It’s all too easy to grab the cheapest off-the-shelf item – but the cost down the road is often far higher than we think. May this building project exemplify love of neighbor coupled with love of creation.

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