Daniel Price lives in a hole in the ground.
I follow him on my bike to his dwelling of 11 years, off the main
street, down a forested
track, in a little hamlet called Joseph, way
out in the boonies of Eastern Oregon.
'Come and have a sweat lodge, around 9pm tonight, I built it myself.'
I was riding with 1200 others in Cycle
, the renowned 7-day bike
ride for folks who like
company and camping in a cheerful crowd. But
the night wore on and the idea of shlepping about
in the damp darkness
trying to find the track to his house became less and less appealing.
hit my camping pillow and Daniel faded into yesterday.
But this morning, as we headed out of Joseph, yet there he was, waiting
on the corner
to grab me as I whizzed by.
The significance of this doused me like a warm wave. Here is a man who
has the time and space in
his life to watch and wait patiently to bring
a new friend into his hobbit-like world.
In third world countries where
people value people slightly more than money, this is common.
In a white western
middle class America, to stumble across it is a delightful anomaly.
Left: Dan's WheelWiz
trike in it's garage. Right: Dan prepares to enter his 'hobbit hole'.
We arrive at a small mound of thickly intertwined sticks, resembling a
bowerbird's lair. Parked neatly inside
is Dan's WheelWiz
tricycle, given to him by the manufacturer who wanted his free spirit
to spin their wheels
and go tell it on the highways and byways.
Further along is a tiny arched door set into the side of a grassy
embankment. The door is about two
and a half foot square, and though
it's just big enough to crawl through on one's stomach, it's
solid and curiously inviting,
He pushes back a flap of flywire and turns on a light, motioning for me
to crawl in.
The kitchen side of Dan's 8-foot round
I enter the a circular space, about eight feet round as he described,
and lined with pine slats.
There's just enough height to sit
against the wall with legs straight out in front of me.
The low ceiling
is punctuated by a square skylight framing an overcast sky, and there
is plush carpet underbutt.
Going counter-clockwise around the space I see a stove, skillet,
pantry, pictures, me on a mat.
To my right - photocopier, little book
case, CD player, phone, answering machine.
Clothes hung on a stick.
Then the door again.
There are no cupboards or chests of drawers.
'Everything is at arm's length when you are sitting there. It's
human scale, says Dan.
'The idea is that you can see everything, no
fumbling for stuff - that creates stress'.
Dan is not living completely off the grid - though he's definitely off
There's underground electricity powering his lamps,
'But next year, I'm switching to propane so I can be completely off the
I'll do my photocopying in town.'
Moonlight Chronicles: Dan's livelihood
So what does he do to pay the miniscule electric bill and fill his small
frypan? He doodles.
Since 1992, Dan's reclusive days and nights
have been meticulously recorded in an ongoing series
journals called the Moonlight Chronicles, www.moonlightchronicles.com
His mission: to draw the world as he strolls, hikes and trikes through
He has a varying subscriber base of 100 or so fans across the
country, who post him $5 per issue to
live vicariously through his
minimalist life while slogging it out in the city by day, suburbia by
Each Chronicle is a compendium of drawings, writings,
observations, quotes and things you might
never notice because you
drove past them too fast, like the corners of buildings seen at a
Whatever Dan is doing today, you might read about in the
Composting outhouse complete with skull and
literary sentiments within.
'I've worked out it you can live on around
$5000 a year,' he says.
'All you need is a piece of land, and a source
of fresh water, and you can make a life.'
Yes, this is America.
Even a hobbit has to pay that electric bill.
He rents the piece of land he's living on for $100 a year.
supplements his income with a casual job maintaining the lawns of a
you can read the bureaucratic-sounding job description and
letter of offer in one of his Chronicles.
'It's a non-stressful, outdoor job,' he says.
'And one where people
around you are unlikely to do your head in with office politics...'
Dan is no vagrant hippie with his hat permanently upturned.
professional photographer who ran SHOTS, a black and white photography
he knows how to appeal to semi-corporate types to help
pay his minimal dues and fill
his skillet with nourishing organic
Dan with trike and his copy of 'The
Handsomest Man in Cuba'.
Sierra Designs gave him a tent. Patagonia gave him a jacket.
Shoes shod him for several years until there was a change of
A sad day for Dan, the boardroom meeting probably
went like this:
Who's this dude? Yeah, my kid can
draw too - can it!
WizWheels gave him a $2000K trike to explore the world and draw
what he saw by trike-cam.
He embarked on a 3-wheeled odyssey
around the perimeter of the States, but got as far as
road rage drove him to turn around and flee back to his hole.
provide him with a supply of Pigma Micron archival quality pens to
felt-tip his forays into eternity.
We continue the tour. Outside, I inspect a composting toilet in its own
decorated wild-west style with a cow's skull and
We head for the nearby stream, past some ponds which he made by digging
out channels in the former swamp, thus making a meadow out of
I always admired people who can build a house and re-shape land, How
did he know where to start'
'I just read books on it and surfed the internet for ideas,' he says.
Left: Dan and his gravity-fed
shower. Right: Propane-powered sweatlodge.
Beside the stream is gravity fed shower, heated
by an electric current.
Nearby is a tiny pebbly beach, and a little
flagstone patio sets off an easy
chair made from found objects and
sticks, and a graceful pottery vase with a single fresh bloom.
But wait, there's more.
Over there, past his jocks and socks drying on a rope between two
trees, is a sweat lodge made of shingles.
A propane burner gets the
little hothouse hotter'n jalapenos and the lodge is just big enough for
two people and a prodigal son.
Shades of Henry David Thoreau's Walden
shuffle to mind.
He buys a copy of my book The Handsomest
Man in Cuba
and reads it
When you structure your life by putting you first, you have
time to do things, like read books.
'I used to work as a photojournalist with regular crazy hours. The
problem is, people have their lives organized so they are the
Basically, the average person spends a ton of their time
working for very little money, just to survive.
I spend a very little
of my time working for enough money to not just survive, but do what I
love - draw and travel.'
For some reason I am reminded of the quote, 'You can have my heart and
soul but you can't have my body.'
Dan's heart and soul are in his Chronicles, but his body is not slumped
over a desk and
driving to and from work in the dark in a traffic jam.
His body is precisely where he wants it to be - in his cozy hobbit
hole, on his trike, doodling all the way.
A man's touch: flower in a vase beside the
Write to Dan at his hole in the ground, Moonlight Chronicles, Box 109
Joseph, Oregon, 97846.
To subscribe to Moonlight Chronicles, enclose $5 or more per
Copyright 2004 Lynette
All rights reserved