Life in a yurt

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Dinner is interrupted by strange shrieking. "Owl", states 2-year-old Leo eyes wide open, but the sound is too deep for a bird. The screams get closer. Leo's fork hits the floor, he climbs onto my lap and shoves four fingers in his mouth. "Fox", guesses Dan, and a quick search online confirms the drama as the mating call of a female fox. The walls consisting of a wooden frame and four layers of canvas and felt seem somewhat thin at times like this, at least to Leo. In the autumn, when we listened to the grunts of the wild boar feasting on our almond harvest, they felt a bit that way to me too. But I wanted to be closer to nature, a part of it, didn't I?

I have always admired nomads and felt some sort of affinity with the Sami people and the herders of Central Asia. Strong sense of community and traditions, light material burden and connection to nature have appealed to me. I find their ancient ideology, shamanism and Buddhism fascinating. But I never thought I'd be living in a nomadic house.

When we were looking for land in Catalunya, we wanted olive trees and rid of the mortgage. Our budget was small and we knew we couldn't afford both productive land and a liveable house. We needed temporary accommodation, but a caravan felt too plastic to hold appeal.

A Mongolian yurt on the other hand seemed perfectly suited to our dream of slow life. Dan, enamoured, suggested the idea of a yurt as a permanent dwelling for us. In the dry and warm climate of Catalunya it is perfectly feasible. Not in my head.

I realised that in me was a deep-seated western need for bricks and mortar, not only for physical but for financial protection and security. But in the current economic climate what sort of real security is there in a house that I owe a hundred thousand pounds for? It's not even mine, it belongs to the bank!

A yurt may not last till retirement, or for the next generation, but due to its low cost, it could be replaced every now and then. If the herders have lived in them for millennia, why is it more a tent than a home in our minds? Is it to do with our need to leave a mark, leave something behind? Does it say something about our idea of our place in the world?

For the Mongolians a yurt is a symbol of the cosmos. The kitchen, bedroom and living space are pre-determined and the round space is always negotiated clock-wise. This cyclical movement reminds the yurt dweller of his place in the cycles of nature. Perfect! Exactly the kind of house I'd like to live in!

In practice, I'm more aware of the cycles of toys from the toy box onto the floor and my mind is everything but harmonious when I gather them for the fourth time a day back into the box. The small space crumbles into chaos within minutes. In the morning I'd love to be able to escape into the kitchen to wake up on my own, but in the communal space I'm faced with raucous boy-energy from the moment I open my eyes.

28 square meters is, of course, pretty small for a family of four. But not impossible, particularly as we spend most of our time outdoors. The tall space feels open and airy. The same space turn into "rooms" depending on which direction you are looking at it and no "room" feels small.

Especially if you're laid in bed gazing at the stars through the roof window.

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