Living in a Teepee
Living simply took on a new meaning for me this week as I read an article in The Appalachian Journal about Justin Burke, an 18 year old that is living in a tepee on 36 acres of land. He doesn't have much, and apparently doesn't need much as his lives a couple of centuries behind the rest of us.
He does have a job, working 9 hours a day, and he works hard at the tepee, tanning hides by the old fashioned methods. He eats off the land, hunting, foraging and...uh...road kill. He wears deerskin that he has tanned himself, he created his own tools for scraping the hides from deer antlers. He trades and sells his work.
Most impressive of all? He can make a fire by rubbing two sticks together.
Thoreau & Homesteading
The desire to give up the trappings of modern society is not a new one by any means. Impressive that an 18 year old would not only think about it but actually do it and succeed.
When Henry David Thoreau left the comfort and social acceptability of "modern" society and moved into a small cabin on Walden Pond, he was looked at as a crazy person. He felt, though, that by giving up things he was gaining a deeper understanding of himself, his surroundings, and his spirituality. He said, in essence, that by living so close to, and so in tune with nature his senses were reawakened and he became more alive than he had ever been.
In the 1970s "homesteading" became the term that described the desire of so many to get back to the land. To get back to their roots, to live simply. Small shacks and shanties were built on rural properties and if powered at all, were powered by ingenuity;solar and water power. Mother Earth News became the Bible of the back to nature aficionado. Over the years many of the homesteads prospered and the hippies of 1970 became the property owners and politicians of 1990. Still very involved in environmental issues but often their homesteads had morphed into luxury accommodations that little resembled the simplicity they had desired.
Is the new interest in tepees a passing thing or a renewal of desire to get back to our simple lives?
Tepee Commune in Wales
A Home Away From Home
Tepees are also popping up in suburbia as people get back to nature in the comfort of their own yards. Tepees are being built in back yards as sort of a summerhouse, or covered patio type thing.
Modern tepees are made of canvas but in the same way as tepees were made by the plains Indians with buffalo hides for centuries. People who have them say that they are quiet places to get away from the stresses and trappings of our society, even if it is only a few feet away.
The reason for the popularity of a tepee may be in it's forced simplicity. You really can't improve it, by the very nature of it there is no permanence to it. You won't find yourself being tempted to tack pictures to the walls, change wallpaper or add on a room. When you choose a tepee you are, in essence, choosing a long term camping arrangement.
You can't wire it, plumb it, or polish it, and really dusting is not an issue. The more we have the more complex our lives become. For some people, this simplicity is just the life they are looking for.