Our first yurt building workshop is done. For two years we were looking forward to it, and now we’re looking back on it. Two wooden levels raised in two weeks.
The first level walls and roof will be raised in another workshop in October. As if the structure were not quirky enough, it is created in such an unexpected way – finishing the top first and working down to the bottom as each roof comes out from the wall of the level above it. It’s fitting, because while in the end this workshop resulted in what it set out to do (get those second and third levels up), it did so in many unanticipated ways.
I find I don’t have words for most of it, just feeling. What it was like to circle with these people, many of whom I had barely (or not at all) met before they showed up here with hammer in hand. At first it was all logistics – where to set up tents, where to go to the bathroom, where to wash up, where and when to eat. But over the hours something happened. Of course the yurt started going up (and then back down from third to second levels). But also we all quickly settled in together and created the closest thing to a village that I have ever experienced. I don’t know how or exactly when it happened, but maybe it was something about living, eating, and working together on a common goal, inspired by a common mentor. Something about having so many people in and out of my kitchen, getting to know it as well as I and all settling into nourishing rhythms together, having conversations I will hold within myself for a long time to come. Something about forgetting that we were not just a village while making the food, pumping the water, swooping the compost. Forgetting until I’d walk out of the kitchen and see the latest jump forward – posts going up like Stonehenge, a floor where hours earlier was only air, a crown being fit together on top.
While the gloriously clear weather couldn’t have been more ideal, and the workshop flowed along harmoniously for the most part, it wasn’t all perfect. Is anything? In the first few nights I had nightmares of alien invasions and parasite infections… There were broken bones, purple bruises, hammered thumbs, heartaches, sleepless nights, tears of overwhelm, misunderstandings, logistical problems, ovens accidentally turned off…
Personally I had to overcome frustration that I wasn’t as involved in the actual building as I had envisioned. The non-building logistics took up much more time than I ever anticipated. As soon as we were done with cleanup from one meal, it was time to start on the next, or refill the water, or bring out the compost, or take a moment with a child. Mike, leading his first solo run yurt workshop, was a master choreographer, always thinking several steps ahead and able to give me tasks if I suddenly found an hour here or there, giving me a chance to connect and learn from different folks each time – beveling the post edges, marking where pieces would connect, swinging up the scaffolding to bring up more floor boards, hammering together lintels, drilling and nailing together the third floor tongue-and-groove, sorting wood, marking the roof line edge. One wise yurt workshop leader said everyone should have a hand in building their own home. And one wise kitchen mate reminded me that the building wouldn’t be possible if the food didn’t keep coming. I eventually came to be thankful for this role of having a hand in the building and my heart in the food.
All in all it felt right to all be together, to go to sleep in our fabric yurt at night held by a ring of those camping in our woods. It seemed natural to have Roameo, the camping cat, show up on our doorstep to come in. It felt good to have a four-month-old baby near, to have elders to hear from, to have teachers sharing sheath and tool-sharpening and broom-making skills in spare moments, to be around the enthusiastic and never-ending energy of teenagers, to watch the younger children build and rebuild rafts and sawdust forts and frog homes and giant zucchini boats.
There are so many moments, more than seems possible to have fit inside two weeks…
Over 60 people helped in the building or made the building possible by helping with food, helping with play, or lending canopies, lights, scaffolding, tools, coffee pots, dishes, etc. And that involvement has changed those relationships, both new and old, in ways that I still can’t quite explain but very deeply feel, a depth of shared purpose and understanding. It has left me grounded and wishing this kind of experience for everyone. And it has given me an even greater appreciation for what Bill Coperthwaite was doing. How much more his yurt workshops were than just teaching the building or sharing his message of simple living.
I knew this workshop was going to be something spectacular when the great blue heron soared in just after we finished our opening circle on the first morning. But I really didn’t understand what that meant. Do I even now? I felt it as the workshop went along, and was overwhelmed by it when we did our closing circle within this now-standing start of a wooden yurt. The word “gratitude’ had gone over and over in my mind during those days, had poured into the food we put together, because all of these people were coming together and manifesting our dream. But in that closing circle I heard gratitude pouring right back – these were not just workers following instructions, they were people who became part of a community, working and learning and feeling together. Gratitude for the lessons, the relationships, the experience, the process.
After the last of the group left on Sunday it was just Josh and I sitting at the outside tables that so recently had been filled, thinking over those two weeks. And who should arrive but the great blue heron, landing on the remnants of the children’s rafts.
It’s quiet here now, we’re still tired, and we have much to do before October. I like to go over to the tarp-covered yurt and climb the ladder into what is already so substantially created there. I lie down about where we will sleep someday, looking up to the ceiling and thinking of the blessings that our yurt building community wrote there between the ceiling and roof layers. One of the many, many invisible parts that make this place so much more. I wonder if it will ever stop feeling like crawling right inside my own wildest dream.