Tipis. Of all the dwellings on Barbara’s list, I would have to get tipis. I’d like to relate to them, I really would, but I have a very hard time doing so, despite the fact that I actually own one. It began life as a fun way to camp on vacant land while a house was under construction, but it has dwindled to an unused space filled with old chairs, wasps and mice. This is not a great metaphor, if I choose to see getting tipis as a metaphor, and since all things are metaphors, so must my tipi be.
I looked online for symbolism and meaning. There’s a legend of how one tribe “got” the tipi, and there’s another website that talks of the meaning of the 15 poles of the tipi, and even though it is the Gathering of Nations website, it reads to me as suspect, as a made up set of meanings written in a flashy website for non-native people to imbibe so they think they are gaining understanding of native culture. I tend to run from those things. I’ve never believed I’m the reincarnation of Pocohontas or Sitting Bull, or even Custer, nor do I think I understand what it is to be Native American, plural or singular in any way. To me, Native Americans are as mysterious and unknowable to me as the Masons – born into or chosen, these are lives permeated by an identity reinforced with a bunch of secret ceremonies I would love to witness as a secret anthropologist. But, if ever I was invited, I’d be there as an observer, much as I was at the vision-quest-sweat-lodge ceremony for a friend many years ago (which took place in a tipi). I’m glad I went, but though I’ve been invited since, I just don’t feel right pretending to be something I’m not.
So I was trying to avoid the whole topic of tipis, rushing through the above half-essay, eager to see what #6 was (my next pick on the list), eager to move on from the whole idea of tipis to something else. And so #6 was…yurt. I relate more to yogurts than yurts. Tipis! Yurts! Yurts! Tipis! The universe is clearly, clearly trying to communicate with me. I didn’t get the incredibly cool items on the list, the apartment in Paris or the nifty airstream trailer, both of which immediately got story lines going in my head. So, I am stuck with tipis and yurts since I can’t take someone else’s pick – that is, I can’t be an unwelcome guest in someone else’s dwelling, usurp someone else’s message from the universe, which of course all things picked out of a hat or chosen blindly from a deck or a list are.
Dwellings that I as an architect sniff at, turn my nose up at, sigh and murmur woo-woo under my breath about. Too often places for people who want to be something they are not. I once had a builder-friend ask me if I would please help out some clients of his who could not make up their minds about how to arrange their yurt (they were not Mongolian), who wanted to make the yurt do things it could not by its very nature do, like be a three bedroom, two bath house. Oh, and once I was asked to stamp a set of drawings for a yurt because the state wanted an architect to tell them that a form that has been used for thousands of years would, in fact, stand up.
Yurts and tipis to me are the forlorn hopes of the concept of dwelling, at least when used too much by people wanting to be something, anything they are not, looking for an injection of spiritual wasabi into their white bread lives.
And now I’m ranting, which I do when I am impatient, which I do when I wonder if other people know something I don’t, which I do when I feel superior for no good reason whatsoever.
If I can forget about the metaphor of trying to be something you are not (I am not)- and I’m not sure I should, since the universe has thrown me the double tipi-yurt card, and you can bet I won’t forget it, but if I can forget about all that for just the rest of this essay, what do I take away from the lesson to be found in the notion, the metaphor, the parable, the symbol of the yurt/tipi connection?
Tipis and Yurts are the portable dwellings of aboriginal, primal peoples: people who lived in their community, related to their world, who wandered.
Ahhh. One by one now.
People who live in community: Here’s a sure challenge to me, the introvert, the person who loves to stay up into the night because no one calls, no one wants anything, and it is quiet.
People who attempt to relate to the world around them, who live in the world around them. Ooh, another challenge – me, who took up hiking when I first moved here, who reveled in finally coming to love the outdoors, of connecting with the outside, in a way a born-and-bred city kid never knew or thought she would ever come to know, who pounded on the steering wheel when driving into NM the first time, when I went past the painted rock of Ghost Ranch, not knowing that it was the same place I’d seen in the film of Georgia O’keefe’s life that flipped some inner magnetic compass in my soul and pointed me here. Me, who now avoids walks, practically hibernates in the winter, and only goes to the office in my own backyard. I need to get out more. I need to connect more with what inspired me about here in the first place.
People who wander: now there you go.
At this moment in my life, birthday just past, I am between tribes, between tipis. This is what I will think on most, I will stew and wonder and wonder if I am right to wander between tipis, if I will make a commitment to turn my life in another direction, to make myself a new tipi. If I will even have the courage and commitment to the creative side of myself to actually do it – or if I will cravenly slink back to the tipi I know and sit down as the fire burns out. For now though, I shall choose to see the tipi yurt message from the universe as both a circle, meaning both a never-ending path and the embracing circle of life. It means I am wrong – I am not so much wandering between tipis, as wandering within a circle bigger than I know even surrounds me, that still embraces me reminding me that wherever you go, there you are – you take your home place, your heart, wherever you wander.