In 2015, a Tibetan Buddhist “lama“ planted a special object known as a “treasure vase” here at High Acres Farm, in the center of our land.
The practice is said to have originated back in the eighth century, with the tantric master, Padmasambhava — and involves a small ceramic vessel filled with crystals, gems, shells, relics, and other sacred objects, to which monks and nuns say prayers and mantras over time. Once a treasure vase is ready, it can be deployed as a powerful healing force into a particular place — said to bring wisdom, abundance, protection, and many other blessings to the area where it is planted.
The planting of the treasure vase here occurred just as this series of rituals was beginning. Now, six years later, with the series approaching completion, it felt important to anchor the new and transformed energies of High Acres Farm with a consciously created (and not merely inherited) “energy grid” of our own.
My great-grandmother, Electra Havemeyer Webb, was a prominent collector of early American Folk Art — and helped to establish High Acres Farm.
In 1947, she established a local museum to share her eccentric collections with the public. Her Shelburne Museum itself is a collection of buildings — twenty-five of which were moved to Shelburne from around the State of Vermont, each building housing a collection of a particular kind of item, all impeccably organized.
Electra was especially attracted to early American quilts, whose handmade beauty she felt embodied a quintessentially “American” aesthetic. She was among the first to exhibit these handmade bedcoverings as works of art in a museum setting.
Inspired by Electra’s collection of quilts (each quilt a “whole” made of many “fragments”), I began to explore the geometry of interlocking triangles — going beyond the familiar Star of Bethlehem found in so many textiles, into more complex Islamic mosaics and Hindu yantras such as the Sri Yantra, with its central bindu point, which is said to anchor the “cosmic totality.”
I eventually designed a geometry using nine equilateral triangles — forming a star-shaped pattern with eighteen outer vertices and nine inner vertices (twenty-seven in all), leaving a central nonagon (or enneagram) as a nine-sided void or empty space within.
This new geometry offered a kind of halfway point between eastern and western aesthetics — nodding to the complexities of mandalas, mosaics, and yantras, while also anchored in the tradition of Americana, with its staid equilateral triangles — while yet also resonating with my own longstanding interest in the number 27.
Using satellite imagery and GPS, this geometry was then carefully overlaid on the High Acres Farm landscape, encompassing around forty acres of land — so that the twenty-seven vertices fall on precise latitude and longitude locations, and the resulting edges run across certain key places where rituals and other important events have occurred. The empty nonagon in the middle encircles the various buildings (barn, stables, office, shed) where we imagine that future cultural and educational activities will largely be rooted.
The geometry not only creates a kind of “Magic Circle” for High Acres Farm, but also, through its star-shaped structure, radiates outward into the surrounding area, connecting with other key locations on Earth, casting invisible blessings beyond the bounds of this place — and through reciprocity, receiving blessings in return.
To bring this “Electric Webb” pattern to life, a set of twenty-seven mirrored “lightning transformers” are fabricated with a group of local craftsmen over the summer of 2021 — based on a simple design sketch that I supplied.
We begin with twenty-seven glass mirrors — each seven inches square.
Each mirror is laser-engraved with a map of the overall star-shaped “Electric Webb” network, with a single node circled, indicating that mirror’s relative location in the network — as well as a single evocative word, unique to each location.
Each laser-engraved mirror is then encased in a sturdy steel frame, cut to size with a water jet cutter. Each frame is welded to a matching steel pole, with a set of custom eyehole screws welded to the pole at nine-inch intervals, and a threaded 5/8" steel “boss” welded to the center back of each frame.
The resulting frames and poles are then sandblasted and powder-coated with special black paint, then baked in an oven — to protect against rust over time.
Finally, bare copper points are lathed into a specific bullet-like shape using a programmable CNC lathe.
The resulting eased copper points will function as “Air Terminals,” otherwise known as Lightning Rods — to power the “Electric Webb” energy grid.
Back at High Acres Farm, the various fabricated components are laid out on the maple slab table that held the glass ingredients in Phase Change.
Eight-gauge bare copper wire from Green Mountain Electric Supply is cut to size and threaded through the eyehole screws running up the back of each pole.
The laser-engraved mirrors are sandwiched in the steel frames and fastened into place with Torx 27 bolts, tightened with a pair of steel wrenches and a Torx bit.
The bare copper wire is fished through a hole in the back of the frame, wrapped tightly twice around the frame’s perimeter, and pulled back through that hole with a little extra slack.
The copper points are screwed into the bosses welded to the back of each frame, and the loose copper wire is fastened to the points with brass acorn clamps — completing the conductive circuit.
The resulting instruments function as “lightning transformers” — attracting lightning during summer storms, and transmuting the raw power of the electricity through the words engraved on each mirror, which add those particular qualities to the energy as it passes from the sky, through the transformer, and into the Earth.
With all twenty-seven lightning transformers assembled, it is time to install them in the ground at High Acres Farm.
I begin by gathering several buckets of lake water.
Before taking each transformer into the landscape, I dip its copper point into the glass cup from Phase Change, now filled with rainwater from a summer storm — as a way of acquainting the points with the sky, and as a way of uniting, as in the Parsifal myth, the “chalice” and the “spear.”
For each transformer, I fill a small cotton pouch with three significant objects: a chunk of Cheshire Quartzite (i.e. Silica) from Apprenticeship, a clear glass marble from Process of Elimination, and a linestone from Linestone — the elements of transformation endemic to this project and place.
During installation, these three elements are planted at the bottom of each two-foot hole that is dug to hold the base of each transformer.
To activate the Quikcrete that anchors each pole, the gathered lake water is poured from the buckets into the ground — uniting the lake with the land (and later, through lightning, the sky).
One by one, the lightning transformers are installed at each precise location.
To install the final transformer, I return to the frame that was shattered six years before in Equidistant to make space for the many changes that unfolded thereafter.
The final transformer is “Peace” — planted on the lawn just to the west of the old Main House, where the wooden altar once stood in Give Up the Ghost.
At the center point of the network, I bury a handful of soil from Walter De Maria’s “New York Earth Room“ — as a way of connecting the power grid of lightning transformers with De Maria’s “The Lightning Field,“ a major inspiration.
To initiate the network of lightning transformers, my mother’s Smith-Corona Electra 110 electric typewriter is placed in the hayloft of the High Acres Farm barn — flanked by two 1920s gold doré candelabras from Tiffany Studios.
The typewriter is the same machine that typed the various quotes seen in the previous films. Certain keys are carefully considered:
With lightning bugs flashing outside, the machine is switched on, and a raging lightning storm overtakes the landscape.
As the storm subsides, the twenty-seven transformers are left in its powerful wake.
Towards the end of the film, from a bird’s eye view of High Acres Farm, the network’s geometry is fully revealed — a kind of energetic “quilt” woven through the fabric of the landscape, an invisible mandala made of intentions.
Because each node in the network is a lightning transformer, and because all twenty-seven mirrors face inwards to a common center point, when any one transformer is struck, the event is instantly reflected to the rest of the network — flashing all the other nodes at once with a sudden burst of light that charges the land with the twenty-seven particular qualities etched on the mirrors:
Adventure, Awe, Beauty, Blessings, Communion, Connection, Creativity, Dreams, Fertility, Flow, Grace, Gratitude, Imagination, Inspiration, Joy, Kindness, Love, Magic, Mystery, Passion, Peace, Possibility, Power, Protection, Vitality, Wildness, Wisdom
The mirrors not only reflect one another, but also bounce their energy out beyond the bounds of High Acres Farm — radiating those same twenty-seven qualities into the surrounding landscape, reaching out into the larger world.
As the film concludes, the music subsides, and only the “Schumann Resonance” remains — droning the underlying tone of the Earth.
As Carl Jung writes in Man and His Symbols:
The mandala serves a conservative purpose — namely, to restore a previously existing order. But it also serves the creative purpose of giving expression and form to something that does not yet exist, something new and unique. The process is that of the ascending spiral, which grows upward while simultaneously returning again and again to the same point.
Nine equilateral triangles overlap to create eighteen outer and nine inner vertices (twenty-seven in all), leaving a nine-sided empty space within.
Original music by
Quilt images courtesy of
Lightning transformers by
- Rennline Manufacturing, Milton, VT
- Vermont Coatings, Colchester, VT
Laser engraving by
- ExactBuilt, Underhill, VT
Copper materials by
- Gordon Electric Supply, Mokena, IL
- Green Mountain Electric Supply, Colchester, VT
Power grid animation