Geri Chavis review of the unfinished hut

Reading “The Unfinished Hut” left me with a sense of peace, satisfaction, and reflectiveness. I quietly sipped its free associational, authentic collage-like, at times, haiku-like, celebration of hutting, a new and welcome term in my vocabulary. Gerry Loose‘s description of “a hut” as “symbiotic and organic” reflects the content and style of this book.

I delighted in its numerous examples of respectful re-purposing characterized not only by ingenuity and practicality, but also by a deep appreciation for community and historical connectedness. I very much enjoyed the emphatic double-negative of the line, “the spirit of recycling has never not been known at Carbeth.” Underlying this “spirit” is a strong sense of integrity that leaves little room for wastefulness or envy over materialistic excess. As I read this book, it was easy to imagine the re-usable cast-offs from all sorts of places, from theatre stages to railway tracks, old mansions with faulty windows, and “long gone shipyards.”

This book gently holds its contrasts in open cupped hands. It is about simplifying our lives, but it complexly interweaves a sense of history along with a healthy merging of eastern and western culture in which the spiritual and natural riches of Scotland and Japan become as one. Gerry’s book also comfortably blends celebration of friendship with joy in solitude and juxtaposes delightful moon-viewing journeys with “being still” in the “joy of not traveling.” Gardening and carpentry skill are blended with long loving looks at natural creatures surrounding the hut. Woodpeckers, blackbirds and mice are as welcome as contemplations of the moon in all its seasonal manifestations. Nowhere is the quiet reverence for the natural world more evident than in the author’s recounting of how he delayed taking down an “overgrown, threadbare” cypress tree to make room for a lean-to glasshouse. His choice to wait is clear when the tree becomes the nesting place for blackbirds and their eggs: “Until they are hatched, and the chicks fledged, I can do nothing.” And his ethos is nowhere more evident than when he notes, “The glasshouse would be very useful now, but the blackbird’s eggs and chicks outside the hut-kitchen window at eye level are rare and precious things, cheering me on while brewing the morning tea in a way that even the imagined growth of tomatoes would never achieve.”

One of the strongest messages I take away from this book is the close alignment of the reclycling way of life with the deeply-held belief that “patience provides” what is needed. A second particularly meaningful message for me is the total acceptance of the “unfinished” state, so well-captured in this book’s title and subtitle: The Unfinished Hut: An Unfinished Journal.