Raw Vagabonding: Energy in Escalante

Water is becoming a recurring (and dominant) theme on this trip. After loading up all our containers with fresh spring water naturally filtered through 2000 feet of Navajo Sandstone in Zion, we headed to Moab, Utah. Driving through The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument landscape, we had an opportunity to see some of the most breathtaking landscape in the country. One the way, we stopped in Escalante at Georgie's Corner Cafe for lunch because the creative eccentric touches (A waterwheel and pink flamingos? Yes, please!) on the outside seemed to tell us we'd encounter some colorful humanity.

I love places that have a sort of homey feel to them, where the essence of the owners is colorfully expressed everywhere. Georgie didn't disappoint. Everything in her place is freshly made to order and well worth the wait. She's got a fair amount of veggie options and a few salads, as well as some of the best iced tea I've ever had. She was even able to direct us to Keven Peterson, the maker of the waterwheel we were so entranced by. He came by and she persuaded him to show us his studio, so off we went.

Keven is a perfect example of how form & function can work together. Keven has a background in chemical engineering. When he was in his early 20s, his primary intention was to generate power by running a generator off the hub of the wheel, not to make art. He worked with copper because of its diamagnetic properties and begun creating hydrowheels. In time, he started thinking about the aesthetic issues, and his work evolved into the beautiful works of art you can see below. Half a dozen of the big hydrowheels (see top photo against side of wall) could use the torque of the water from the Escalante River to generate enough power to run the whole town, with the exception of the sawmill. I envision the hydrowheels being placed at intervals along the river someday, and transforming the waterfront area into an energetic sculpture garden that would not only generate power, but also provide a beautiful place for people to gather. I look forward to the day when my intentional community has moved past the early stages and we can afford to work on a healing garden and incorporate some of Keven's work in it. We plan to be full of the grid, so having an extra power source would be a plus and I bet he could figure out a way to create some genius device that incorporates irrigation somehow. I'd love to see his work in retreat centers and gardens across the globe. The sound of them is entrancing.

As the conversation moved towards art and sound, Keven told us his dream installation would combine the flexibility of buffalo bones, old-time cylinder records (the kind with nicks in them that rotate), and a wall of drums run by a hydrowheel. Once the drums were initially set to motion, they would automatically make music powered by the force of water. Keven makes beautiful handmade Native American drums too. After hearing about our encounters in Escalante, our friend Cameron decided to pass through and meet with Keven so he could learn how to make one. This is one of my favorite things about meeting people when you travel - the exchange of information creates immediate connections amongst people and strengthens the bonds of humanity. Here'a a few images of some work in progress pieces at Keven's studio on West Main Street in Escalante...

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