The Dome Home and my Near Defeat

By Becca Morrow

It was at Gratifly, an arts fest in South Carolina, that I saw my next project. A man had built a dome that required one rule: All speech within its confines would be free of judgment and accepted without negativity. How brilliant! The entire structure looked simple enough: a geodesic dome skeleton made out of PVC and covered in tapestries. On noting my enthusiasm he directed me to a website where I could enter the desired diameter of the dome and it would calculate the measurements for me. After pitching the idea to the Interfaith Center, I set about constructing it.

At first, I hoped to team up with a club or other school organization to build the dome as I thought it would provide free publicity, being an interactive structure on the Green, UNF’s big lawn. After drawing up an outline and sending out close to 30 emails and getting zero replies, I suddenly understood that my ideas aren’t as exciting to everyone else as they are to me. One of the beauties of diversity? It could be argued. No matter, the dome would be left up to me. I messaged a good friend of mine and he drew up an outline of required materials and proposed plans. After setting a date I ran to Lowes and left under budget with my car overloaded with materials.

Turns out it is really hard to construct large projects from the porch of your little student apartment with no work bench. The process of sawing and clamping started taking much longer than expected and when 200 feet of PVC pipe is cut into 65 pieces varying between 2 and 2 1/2 feet in length became strewn across the living room and porch, I found it becomes really easy to become overwhelmed by the visual. On the upside, the pile of half used construction materials doubled as an obstacle course and daily workout regime.

But luck! The following weekend was a family gathering where I would have full access to handy uncles and a tool bench to pump out the last bit of construction. I had all of the pieces cut, now all that was left was flattening both ends of the pipe and drilling holes. Upon arrival, I secured my spot at the vice and began clamping away. Turns out, flattening 65 pieces of schedule 40 PVC at both ends requires Schwarzenegger level hand muscles. 2 hours later and I had finished a little over a third.
-Insert frustrated curse to anything that would listen-

I was well behind schedule with a throbbing hand and a bruised ego. Fortunately family has the habit of saving the day. As soon as my uncle caught a glimpse at what I was trying to do, he introduced me to amazing invention of the cave man: fire! My chore turned from a 5 hour ordeal into a 90 minute one. I returned home confident only left with the task of drilling holes in the ends and assembling the entire structure.

After drilling , I decided to start assembling before every piece had its hole into the end—they didn’t fit right.
The only logical thing I could come up with was to drive to Orlando to utilize my mother’s tool bench and my brother’s tools. So I packed up everything, forced a smile until it felt real, and drove down.
I woke up at 6am to start working. I finished the rest of the pieces and changed up my method of attaching the pieces to one another until they fit correctly. The assembly began and was finished by noon.

I stepped back and looked at my finished project and realized I had built a dog house.
It turns a seven foot diameter isn’t all that big. After staring at my jungle gym for smurfs in disbelief I decided to try again. I changed the diameter to 14 feet, bought new PVC (this time reaching my budget) and started sawing away with new vigor. I had successfully clamped and cut all of the pieces by 8pm that evening and started assembling. It was in that moment I began to believe in demons.

The math hadn’t been carried out correctly and I was left with lopsided pieces that would not in any way shape or form resemble any sort of reliable structure. I remembered the lessons learned during all of those meditation and yoga classes, books I’ve read on self-centering, and wanted to drop kick them all. Had it been possible to take the abstract and turn it into the physical, I would have curb stomped all of those ideas into the next century.

After making my mother remember why she sent me to another city for college, I went to bed in order to wake up early enough to drive back to Jacksonville to make my 9:30am class which subsequently got cancelled upon my arrival. I’m not a superstitious person and only agree to a secular form of karma, but it was that day that I refrained from my usual logic to adopt a form of a more fated outlook on life. There was no way luck didn’t exist, greater emphasis on bad luck.

The dome became a beacon of my shortcomings—after all I had switched my major from biology because calculus liked to remind me on a daily basis that it can defeat my brain in any sort of intellectual smack down. The construction materials on my porch just kept staring at me, almost taunting me. So when I finally finished my last class of the day, I went back to Orlando, bought more supplies, and got to work. The entire next day I spent triple checking calculations, measuring four times, and carefully handling the PVC.

Piece by piece the dome came together. The 6 pentagons that make up the entire dome were coming out evenly: I didn’t even care at that point that my annoyingly adorable dog kept dropping his tennis ball directly in my path every 5 minutes to entice me to a game of fetch.

Upon its erection, my Capri Sun (which one is never too old for) tasted sweeter and the tiny cuts and bruises on my hands became significantly less bothersome. The dome home was alive!
When the day finally came when I got to share my achievement with the students at UNF I understood the meaning of the phrase “proud momma bird”. I’d like to thank the Interfaith Center for giving me this opportunity to put the lessons I learned (or thought I learned) about self-mastery into effect and the chance to get to know myself a little better. The victory over my self-doubt and frustration became one of the brighter highlights of the fall semester.

Stay Tuned for a post on how the Safe Space Dome event actually went!

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