Solitude. To be alone but not lonely to me would be comforting. It sounds like a hard thing to do but lately I am craving it. There are people that are able to attain a sense of peace within themselves without the need of counseling or outside influences. I wish young people will look more into themselves instead of chasing rainbows through drugs or alcohol or the need for an insane party in order to be happy. Happiness comes from within. Do we really need other people? Some people don’t need anything.
Sometimes being alone with only your thoughts can give you inspiration. There is a guy who has found unbelievable inspiration in the high desert of Northern New Mexico. It is a pretty remote place far away from most people and from most distractions. It is here where he has created amazing things that I am sure you have never seen in your life. He is creating something from this generation that will live on for generations to come. It is not found in some electronic device that this generation is known for creating. It is a throwback to the caveman days but perfected with generations of knowledge to make it quite updated and current.
Enough of my poor clues. If you listen closely there you will hear something more than just the wind. You will hear the thumping sound of a single pick ax hitting a wall. The ax belongs to one person. Ra Paulette is the man swinging the ax. For the past 25 years with only his dog for comfort he has been scraping and shaping New Mexico’s sandstone into man made caves of exquisite art and functionality. These are not dingy dark caverns but bright airy underground palaces that cascade up to opening holes that let fresh air and sunlight in.
The problem with solitude confuses most people and they are quick to label you a loner or crazy. They also call you obsessed if you work on anything for 25 years. I prefer to call those people experts in the field. Would you call children obsessed because they like to play? No. Those of us who have the courage to find something they love to do instead of just to have a job, are drawn to that activity and want to do it all the time. Those kind of people become the most productive people on earth. Those are the inventors and the artists. The idiot businessmen who need a team of supporters following them wherever they go discussing whatever they say, accomplish little in life.
Mr. Paulette calls his caves Wilderness Shrines. They are massive in scale and poetic in their design. He sees his work as an environmental project. Amazingly, in his solitude he is doing this work to open up people’s feelings. His work is breathtaking and humbling. After seeing what he has done, you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing in life. One of his palaces is called The Tree of Human Kindness. It begins from a small opening to reveal a spacious well lit, airy palace inside. Something you would never expect inside a mountain. It took him close to 900 hours to carve out.
He sees himself as a sort of magician who creates what he calls the cave effect. It has a lot to do with opposites. The cave underground with light streaming in. The intimacy of being in a cave but yet with columns that some of them are 30 or 40 feet high. He has no degree in sculpting, is not a structural engineer and he is not an architect. He is simply a man who found his passion in his solitude. His wonder and excitement is in the process of making the palaces. Once finished, he is ready to move on. He don’t need no stinking boss to tell him to work longer or harder or faster. Would we all be more ambitious if we were left alone?
He has found his ambition by digging about a dozen caves. Most were commissioned by nearby residents who wanted a piece of livable art. There was just a hillside before one man with his ax and his dog arrived at the scene. The hillside is along the Rio Grand River so his palaces are equipped with electricity and water. There is hardwood floors and indoor waterfalls cascading down the rock sculpted walls. He is some handyman around his houses. It took him two years to dig and he charged his client’s 12 dollars per hour in labor costs, so he certainly didn’t do this kind of work for the money. He did it for the pleasure of his solitude. He is having the time of his life and having the sense of accomplishment in his life since his structures will last for generations to come. What have we got to show for our lives but memories of firings from jobs or relationship problems or financial problems? It is difficult to get through life without a problem with something or someone.
Amazingly, Ra Paulette’s designs have gone largely unnoticed until recently. A documentary filmmaker spent 3 years following now 67 year old Paulette as he worked. The result was CaveDigger which is a very unique film that has been nominated for an Academy Award this year. Suddenly he is a caveman with a following. Two of his caves are currently for sale along with 200 acres around them for about 2 Million dollars. Paulette will not see any of that money, it will all go to the seller. He doesn’t need a lot of money. You can’t take money with you to your grave. He needs his solitude and peace of mind. I envy this man.