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When a house is a home – my dream house - Mexico, Nova Scotia, New Mexico

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photos and story by John Lamkin

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To travel or to stay in one place? As a travel writer I must travel, but there still exists the need to stay put—to be in a home base, a place called 'home.' I write on the road to a limited degree, but I need to sit my tucus down for a time somewhere to be serious about writing. It helps if the 'home' is a place I call mine. This story is about some of those homes.

Sitting here watching the sunrise on the lagoon—Laguna Bacalar--I recall the time we arrived by canoe at the little cove here and decided that this would be an excellent spot to build a house. It was covered with scrub growth, weeds, some trees, coconut palms and the jungle was trying to reclaim it. Now, looking from the terraza of the house, it looks manicured, with lawns, flowers, intentional landscaping and the jungle held at bay. We had the house built by a Mexican architect friend with the unlikely name, Shiva. It's small, sets back about twenty meters from the water and has views of the Laguna from every room except the large bathroom which has its own indoor garden. It took awhile to manifest after the canoe ride, some looking at other places in Mexico, but it happened. It helped that it was on part of the land we already owned.

It seems there comes a time in a man's life when he has the strong urge to build, maybe something for 'posterity'--to make his mark on the land. I found locations for two other homes in somewhat the same manner as the Laguna house. The first was what they called a 'camp' in Nova Scotia. Back in California, where I came from, it would be called a cabin. I bought the 149 acres sight unseen. I had always dreamed of having a place, tucked away in the woods, surrounded by tall trees. After traveling to Nova Scotia and a long, adventurous canoe ride up the Barrington River, I located my land. Walking around it, I decided “tucked away in the woods” would be rather dark and not for me, so it ended up on a knoll of tundra-type vegetation, overlooking the woods on all sides, the river below and the river branch behind (at least the small hillock that rose behind the branch). I hauled materials in the six miles from town by ox cart and built the 'camp' without power tools. When I left Nova Scotia, I sold it to a neurosurgeon from Maine that wanted to escape the “rat race.”

The next cabin location I found in New Mexico, outside of Taos—across the Rio Grande. With a map in hand and friend that knew the land, I walked around, came to a high, sagebrush covered knoll with a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. To the east was the crack in the ground that was the Rio Grande Gorge and beyond that Taos, Taos Indian Pueblo and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. “This is it!” I said. I checked the map, went to the court house and found the owner of the piece who lived in nearby Ranchos de Taos and bought it—1/4 acre. I still have the land and the 'cabin' that I built little-by-little over twenty some odd years. It's beautiful now, surrounded by trees and greenery—still has that 360 degree view. The house, Casa Juan Galan, has its own web page.

At this age will I still search out new locations for my dream house and start again?


The answer to the question “At this age will I still search out new locations for my dream house and start again” is YES, at least there is still the need to have a place I call home, I call mine. A place to rest, to write and to be. Next time “at this age” I won't build it with my own two hands, but, yes, I will with my mind and heart.

I will build upon the labor of Moo—the ox, upon the last dream of the tranquil lagoon, upon the memory of the sagebrush on the mesa.

It doesn't end, does it?

Mexico Tourism

Nova Scotia Tourism

New Mexico Tourism


More of John Lamkin's work can be seen at his website. Look for his photographs in a new book being released in early 2014.


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