El tema central de este Blog es LA FILOSOFÍA DE LA CABAÑA y/o EL REGRESO A LA NATURALEZA o sobre la construcción de un "paradiso perduto" y encontrar un lugar en él. La experiencia de la quietud silenciosa en la contemplación y la conexión entre el corazón y la tierra. La cabaña como objeto y método de pensamiento. Una cabaña para aprender a vivir de nuevo, y como ejemplo de que otras maneras de vivir son posibles sobre la tierra.

jueves, 3 de mayo de 2012

La cabaña de Marshal South, el escritor del desierto

Marshal had become the desert prophet

Portraits of Tanya and Marshal in 1930

Marshal & Tanya South

"But the Book of Nature -- the same one that the Indian studied so successfully -- still is available free to all. And the Desert Edition of it, whose pages we on Ghost Mountain ruffle through every day by the aid of the wind and sunshine, always provides interesting items and food for thought."
-- Marshal South

One of the more interesting artifacts of California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is Yaquitepec on Ghost Mountain. According to publications, "the ruins of the South Home, where a family of nudists and writers lived in the 1930s, can be seen from the top of this short, steep trail that begins in Blair Valley, 2.7 miles from Highway S-2." 
The "South Home," actually an adobe cabin, was built by Marshal and Tanya South when they began homesteading in 1932, before the area was within the state park boundaries. From this "savage wilderness of rock," as Marshall called the summit of Ghost Mountain in eastern San Diego County, the Souths began an original experiment in desert self-sufficiency. 
They had no electricity, no artificial sources of light and only the sparest desert landscape as a source of fuel for heating and cooking. They had no neighbors within walking distance, no mail came to the door and few visitors ever made their way up the rugged and circuitous trail to their home. 
During their 14 year residence at what they called Yaquitepec, 3 children were born -- Rider, Rudyard and Victoria -- who were educated in the ways of the desert by their father, and the ways of the world by their mother. Both parents were well educated themselves and in spite of their primitive isolation, the South home contained many books, a typewriter, a camera and even a printing press. 
Marshal was a writer and artist who had published western novels, until the Great Depression had eliminated his source of income. He came to Ghost Mountain, he later wrote, "to break the mold," and allow his children the opportunity to grow up in an environment in which they would not be afraid to think for themselves. 
For more than 8 years, Marshal and Tanya were regular contributors to the estimable Desert Magazine. In a monthly column called "Desert Refuge," Marshal chronicled the family's experiment in primitive living, explaining how he, Tanya and their 3 children attempted to harmonize their lives as closely as possible with "Nature's universal code." Each column ended with Tanya's poetry and was illustrated with sketches or photos by Marshal. 
During their long sojourn on the mountain, Marshal discussed, through these monthly dispatches, the raising and education of their children, the search for water, fuel and food; the discovery of archeological sites, artifacts and petroglyphs; primitive basket making, adobe construction techniques and desert landscaping to name a few. Descriptions of desert plants and wildlife constituted a large part of these monthly columns, most famously the Desert Packrats and Desert Tortoises the children kept as pets. 
The Souths refused to denude their mountain of the few live shrubs and juniper, and so made long walks in search of the dry stalks of dead mescal to use as firewood. "Fuel gathering always adds to our desert knowledge, " Marshal wrote, "besides contributing to our well being, through healthy physical exercise. 
They also came to appreciate the varieties of uses this plant provided both Native Americans and themselves. Marshal maintained that there was no single growth on Ghost Mountain upon which his family was more dependent than the "savage, dagger-pointed Mescal and the "toothsome, pumpkin yam sweetness of the roasted mescal hearts." 
In addition to providing fuel, Mescal furnished footwear, cordage, clothing, food, drink, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, paper and soap. They also used it as brooms, paintbrushes, curtain rods, table legs and even napkin rings. They celebrated their good fortune that "here on Ghost Mountain, it is with malicious satisfaction that we hug to our bosoms the knowledge that the greedy hand of Commercialism is not likely to reach to these regions." 

By the mid-1940s, thanks to their monthly appearances in Desert Magazine, the South Family was becoming an early, desert version of the Truman Show. Many readers wrote to both the Souths and to Desert Magazine expressing their admiration, outrage, encouragement, curiosity and sometimes concern for the South children being raised in a home that had turned its back on modern civilization. 
"Most letters are from kindred souls," Marshal wrote in 1944, "who also feel the restless urge towards freedom and simplicity of living which is today tugging at the hearts of so many of the human race." 
"If it be our personal conviction that what 'Civilization' needs is not more softness and ease but more simplicity and nearness to the earth and fundamental things, then we are not alone." 
In September 1945, the U.S. Navy began using the Earthquake Valley area as a gunnery range, forcing the South family to leave their mountain homestead and seek refuge elsewhere. When they were allowed to return and resume residence in July 1946, few realized that the Ghost Mountain Experiment was already over. Before the end of the year, Marshal and Tanya South had separated. Marshal moved to nearby Agua Caliente, contributing occasional articles to Desert Magazine until, at the age of 62, a heart condition caused his death in October 1948 
In the Winter of 1947, Tanya found herself and the children in post-World-War II San Diego, where they rejoined civilization. In the spring of 1949, she reported through Desert Magazine that the children had become well-adjusted to their new circumstances and that all were doing extremely well in public school. Poet and artist Rider, then 15, was a freshman in high school and had just outgrown the Boy Scouts; 11-year-old Rudyard, the budding engineer, was captain of the baseball team and a nurse monitor; 8-year-old Victoria, then a third grader, was a chess player, rope jumper and had just learned to ride a bicycle. They were all voracious readers. 

According to Deborah Sperberg, volunteer naturalist at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park who gives a 25-minute talk on the South family, Tanya insisted on remaining private after leaving Ghost Mountain and shunned all interviews. The two younger children are said to have renounced their former life and eventually changed their names to avoid public scrutiny. 
New information on Marshal South
Bob Katz

Marshal South House (#41) — by Joe Reifer
For 17 years, from 1930 to 1947, poet, artist, and author Marshal South and his family lived on Ghost Mountain – a remote, waterless mountaintop that is today within California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Over a period of nine of those years, South chronicled his family’s controversial primitive lifestyle through popular monthly articles written for Desert Magazine.
- From the article Finding the Real Marshal South, by Diana Lindsay

Marshal doing pottery with Rider watching.

Strange Geographies: the House on Ghost Mountain
by Ransom Riggs

Deep in California’s Anza-Borrego desert wilderness — an hour from the nearest town, miles from the nearest paved road, atop the rocky crags of a mountain stippled with razor cactus — is a house. Or the remains of one, at least, built and occupied for sixteen years by a noted writer and his family, who wanted to live off the land like Native Americans. Some people think Marshal South was crazy, others consider him an inspiration; one thing everyone can agree on is that he was interesting.
People wonder why South would build a house so far from civilization, and in such an unforgiving place — that is, until they hike the steep, mile-long trail to his old home site, and discover the views he enjoyed; the thin white roads and spectral light that spills across the Blair Valley is what earned Ghost Mountain its name.


Marshal South was the pen-name of an Australian ex-pat who came to America just after the turn of the last century, and who made a career for himself writing novels about the Wild West. Finally, after writing about it for so long, South decided to live it — conducting an “experiment in primitive living” — and in 1930, he and his wife Tanya moved to the waterless ridge in the desert that became known as Ghost Mountain. Over the next 16 years they raised a family there, and became known to readers across the country through a series of articles Marshal wrote about their lives in the career for himself writing novels about the Wild West. Finally, after writing about it for so long, South decided to live it — conducting an “experiment in primitive living” — and in 1930, he and his wife Tanya moved to the waterless ridge in the desert that became known as Ghost Mountain. Over the next 16 years they raised a family there, and became known to readers across the country through a series of articles Marshal wrote about their lives in the Saturday Evening Post and Desert Magazine.

South family summer 1946

They lived as close to the land as they could, building their home from adobe they made themselves, and fashioning an ingenious system of cisterns to catch and store rainwater. Here’s what’s left of the cisterns today:



The house as it was. You can see the cistern pictured above on the left side of the frame.

Rider and Rudyard in front ofYaquitepec by the "lake".

Not much remains of the house today — over the years, the adobe structure has literally melted into the desert. The door frame and an iron bed are two of the homestead’s most obvious remnants.


In the years before the cisterns were built, the only way the Souths got water was by driving it from a faraway town in their Model A Ford, then carrying it one mile up the mountain, by hand, twelve gallons at a time. Here are the Souths bringing some corrugated roofing up the side of the mountain:

74--M & T w corrugated roofing 6-15-31

They were forced to move for a short period of time during World War II, when the Army informed the Souths that their mountain was in the path of a gunnery range. Finally, in 1946, the Souths separated and divorced — though they never talked about it publicly, friends speculated that Tanya saw no future for their children in the desolate wilderness where they lived; Marshal, who was raised in the Australian outback, saw no problem with it. The house was sealed and left to the elements, and 64 years later, little more than traces remain.
Another basin for catching water:


As with any abandoned site or ghost town, there is some trash. However, because the Souths lived off the land as much as they could — hunting rabbit, eating cactus, raising bees for honey, and grinding what grain they bought by hand — there isn’t much. I found evidence, though, that the Souths enjoyed the odd canned delicacy:


It’s a beautiful spot, but not a place that made me want to plant my flag and never leave. It’s amazing that any modern people could live so primitively — and, for a time, even thrive here.

--brought to you by mental_floss! 


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