Ancient memories- On the steppes of Outer Mongolia: the yurt - an enclosure of the nomadic Slavic people ensuring safety, warmth, companionship.
The music: Caucasian Sketches by Ivanov-Ippolitov Rrom the Steppes of Central Asia Scythian warriors shooting backwards from on horseback rancid yak butter curdled camel's milk.
More recent memories for sharing: how and why the yurt was built. It happened in 1994, when a monetary gift from my favorite aunt, Tante Lucienne, came to me totally unexpected. The amount of the gift was tantamount to an inheritance. Shaken with the possibility that she had passed on , that notion was dispelled as I read the accompanying letter stating that her two children, my first and only cousins, Gerda and Christopher, had decided that they would in this manner dispose of their mother's estate while she was still alive for the purpose of reducing inheritance tax. It was a reasonable and legal way to deal with this issue. For me it was a shake up in the box of my present reality. I had recently changed status from 'married' to 'divorced', and was thus thrown into the waters of self-sufficiency at this chapter of my life. Ever since we had lived out here on Old West (1969), having moved to Victoria from Ontario as a result of the provincial forestry laboratory being relocated to different parts of Canada, thoughts of another building than the home on the property had often been in my thinking. young family moved West in a caravan of two Forestry Department green vans, Christopher a three month old baby, Ianine only seven.
My former husband and I had investigated geodesic domes, alternate buildings such as yurts for living in, solar-heated structures, cob houses and the like. The house on the property was a bare bones, wartime standard sort of a building. The huge wood/coal furnace in the basement required endless hours of wood chopping, stacking and stoking. The water out of the tap was beer brown coming as it was from a shallow well. It felt very temporary, even shabby after having lived in the old fieldstone farmhouses, often three stories high, built by the early Quakers in Pennsylvania where I grew up. It was not a matter of replicating that style or quality, but of establishing something that had character, history, beauty all at the same time. That seemed the underlying direction for something as quotodienne as 'roof over your head' need. With the gift from my aunt the door had opened for putting roots to wings. I found the Pacific Yurt Company in Eugene, Oregon that provided a kit for such a building. The next was to decide on a suitable site. The pond was the first choice, a waterfront location. There were other possibilities such as the hillside on the right as one approaches the pond, but that would require cantilevering and extra costs. Production began the day the bulldozer scratched into hillside just below the present location (just below the Medicine Wheel.)The next was to find a builder who was open to taking on this novel structure.
I finally found one who was free to begin immediately. He had Buddhist leanings, appreciated the land and altogether felt solid and right for the undertaking. The hillside got cleared of brush, saplings were removed from the edge of the pond, the slope that formed by the pond was filled in, reshaping and extending the 'platform of land for possible future activities such as dancing. The surprise came when the bulldozer encountered solid rock, what was thought to have been an earth mound. This far and no farther. So came the second phase, locating another spot that would be auspicious, non-intrusive, congenial. A visitor from England, a neighbor as it turned out of June Watts. (That story to continue under Circle Dancing, in the April issue). Alice Friend was visiting her parents here in Victoria. They were the founders of the Victoria Art Institute. Alice, a visionary, poet, and resident of the Findhorn community in Scotland. Here she was giving New Direction workshops, a process of re-directing emotional patterning, one of which she convened in the living room of the main house. It was she who helped me ascertain the rightness of the present location. As a pipe-carrier, she offered to hold a special ceremony, just the two of us on Bridget's Rocks when the mossy glen was full of wild flowers, to affirm the present location. That being cleared, I proceeded to order a bulldozer again, this time my neighbor's son Malcolm Harmon, who was just starting out on his own business and had gotten his new machine. It was a smaller one this time, inasmuch as one needed only to level the ground a bit and remove enough to fit the 35' yurt in. All was going smoothly, the soil removed taken to fill in parts where the old beer water well was. Then suddenly again, the bulldozer scratched into rock that appeared to be a solid in-depth mass. We measured the space that had been cleared and found to our great joy and relief was the correct space in terms of footage required to place the foundation for the yurt. Phase Three: The foundation. Finding the right builder who would be compatible in personality and philosophy with the project. I found it in Will Heeney. He was interested in Buddhist philosophy, appreciated the beauties of nature, was competent in his craft, and all round sensible and responsible in his approach to the event at hand. The foundation got laid with the help of Benoit, who had just arrived from Montreal and was looking for work. In practical terms what they accomplished was squaring of the circle, as you will see by the photos.
Initially it was the structure for Sacred Circle Dancing. What the yurt has become is a meeting place for expressing one's deepest beliefs, exploring new dimensions of one's being, celebrating through ceremony the diversity of spiritual expressions, sometimes formal, other times spontaneous and of the moment.
Continuing with the construction of the yurt, the weekend may be best described as a Pacific Northwest Amish barn-raising event. If you have seen the movie Witness with Harrison Ford, you get the picture of how the community pitches in for the final push. We women assist with smaller tasks of hammering, riveting, go-foring and finally attending to lunch and tea and coffee breaks.
The foundation having been set, next came the insulation and the plywood flooring. The lattice came in strips and needed to be riveted and varnished. It was then placed between the door jambs and secured. Storm wire is positioned on the very top of the lattice (see the V shape) and tightened to keep the proper stress level for holding it all in place. Next and most precarious of all the stages was the placing of the ribs and ring to eventually hold the bubble in place. Anton and Dave on the scaffolding hold the ring, while Shunya, Benoit, John and Randy equidistance themselves to hold the main ribs. Will Heeney on the ladder and Roger Sanford give extra support midpoint. Once all this was secured, other ribs were fastened into the slots on the bubble ring.