Thursday, June 21, 2012

Living In (And Outside of) A Yurt

The sound of dusk! It’s thick and I feel the moon awakening for the night. The birds are hustling to find their sleeping space. They are busy. They sing to each other along with the buzz from the bees. All is quiet now except for their music.

Living here is all I need to keep busy. I sit quietly and listen. The woodpecker finds a tree trunk he likes and he pecks. It is loud, and yet so soft. The bobbing of his head is obvious with its crimson bulkiness.

The songbirds call and occasionally the phone rings. As I answer, I am blessed with the voice of a loved friend calling to talk about her day and inquire about our progress.

Life is good! Strangely I am so content with the simplicity that these minutes offer me. I am loving being in this moment of time and being able to appreciate Nature.
Our yurt is done and the land around us is becoming more beautiful. There are vegetables growing and new flowers blooming. Growth from previous years is returning. Spring is welcoming. I get to stop and enjoy it all and marvel at the absolute joy I discover in simplicity.

Finding space to just sit is necessary. We’ve been so busy lately, working the land and creating our living space here. I crave the chance to just love the land and absorb its beauty.

Inside the yurt, our queen-sized bed with natural memory foam is covered with a flamboyant colourful Guatemalan quilt. On either side of the bed are tables with lights for reading and each of our books opened to the page from the night before.

The wood stove, usually ablaze with wood pieces from around our land, sits opposite our bed. A bright red rectangle of metal separates the stove from the floor. We painted the piece ourselves to coordinate with the bright array of colour from the quilt.

A sitting area will be nice in another area of the yurt. When we find the appropriate chairs and table, we expect to have a space to sit, and during those cold evenings, stay warm.

Living in a yurt this past week feels so warm and cosy. I am living inside and I still feel connected to the outside.  The  4 ft. dome allows for an open connection to the sky through the trees. The circular walls avoid any idea of linear direction. There is no beginning and no end. Each area in the yurt provides comfort and practicality.
Everything inside our yurt is there because it is necessary and we want it there. The front door, simple and natural, is the entranceway, and, once inside I am surrounded by it all. Even the artwork, that we brought from our homes of the past are here. All I need do is turn and everything I have is right in front of me. It is simple, and practical and whole. The circle provides for that….like a great big hug!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Building Our Yurt

We found Chris and Katie while we were in Guatemala. Considering the possibilities of building a yurt on Gabriola, most of the options involved buying a kit.  The buyer describes the type of yurt that is wanted with the specifications and additional options and the company puts it together and ships it to the specified location. Chris and Katie live on Gabriola Island and would build the yurt for us on right here. We were excited about using islanders and also about being involved in the creation and construction of our new home.

Chris and Katie are sailors. By building our yurt, the fees they would receive would make it possible for them to make plans to take off for a month or more. Though they had never built a yurt for anyone else before, they had constructed several for their use and for friends and family. They were enthusiastic about the job during our Skype meeting in February and we all made the verbal commitment to work together.

Spending the winter months in Central America and then visiting New York and Toronto before driving across the country, we arrived on Gabriola in early April. It was cold and wet. What a beautiful surprise to arrive on Whalley Road, our car overstuffed with belongings, to find a temporary 16 ft. yurt waiting for us. Our new friends had gone away for a week, but made sure we had a temporary yurt to live in while our new home was being constructed. The wood stove and the round canvas walls embraced us and warmed us immediately.

We had our first face-to-face meeting with Katie and Chris on April 9th. During that meeting, we viewed photographs and considered various options of what to include in our design. We talked seriously about how the collaborative process would be possible. We wanted to participate and be closely involved.

Paul and I had our hands on every part of our yurt’s birth. We helped clear the land to make an appropriate space. Paul helped mix and pour the concrete for the foundation. Each day we drove the short distance to Chris and Katie’s to clean the lattice work that would become the walls, and gently apply the linseed oil to protect the finish. Each roof rafter pole was also carefully oiled.

We watched in awe as Katie sewed the canvas, and as she approached the final stages we would often see her delicate head peeking out of the circle in the middle of the layers and layers of fabric sprawled around her.
Instead of screws to connect the wood lattice, Chris pounded about 300 penny rivets to secure the wood lattice pieces to each other and yet still provide the flexibility of accordion-like movement.

Once the foundation and deck structure were secure we began laying the natural fir flooring. Each piece of tongue and groove wood carefully fit together. Paul and John worked together to round the edges to accommodate the shape of the circular foundation. 380 square feet of roundness was eventually ready for the mounting of the canvas.

After 7 weeks of creating the parts, Chris and Katie came over for the big build. They worked all day Friday, and, with Shabbat dinner prepared, stopped only for a late night ceremonial dinner. We shared our Friday night practice with them and ate. The next day, Saturday, we thought they would be here early to finish, but, I guess they decided to take Shabbat seriously… the day of rest. They did come back after sunset and worked until the wee hours of the morning making sure the canvas roof, windows and doors were secure without leakage.

Once our yurt was completed, we welcomed the opportunity to apply our mezuzah to the doorpost. Our first night in the yurt was magical.There is a profound feeling living in a round home. With four windows each facing one of the 4 directions of our earth, I often find myself confused in the middle of the night. “Where am I, and which direction do I need to go?” It gives me reason to stop, and think, and decide.

The yurt is extraordinary, no doubt! We love it. We love living in it! And most of all, the experience of building it together, of getting to know and love Katie and Chris, and acknowledging that we can continue to live just a little bit off the grid and still be warm, is the best!
Thank you Katie and Chris!!!!! Happy sailing!