By Jana Seitz
<“Oh give me land lots of land under starry skies above.
Don’t fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide-open country that I love.
Don’t fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evening breeze,
Listening to the murmur of the cottonwood trees.
Send me off forever, but I ask you please…
Don’t fence me in.”>
My mind roams while my body is fenced in on yet another short, cold gray day. Winter makes me sick. I’m fine with the cold, but it really does make me sick, as in I can’t breathe and I’m in bed sick. I can only conclude I’m allergic to it because I’m southern. But I have an ace up my sleeve this year, a backup plan for when the stuff hits the fan. In this, my tenth winter here, I’ve gotten wise to my wily winter ways.
I got a yurt.
The yurt is a thing of beauty in our backyard, a circular domed tent stretched over a collapsible lattice framework. It was built by a wood worker and his seamstress wife in Oregon and shipped to us for Christmas. We, as a family unit, somehow cobbled it together in the Big Freeze without killing each other. It is 12 feet in diameter and is connected to civilization by an umbilical cord running to our back porch so the babies inside can have heat, light and music. I’m not an earthy-crunchy gal. I like living on the grid, but out of the house when I’m stir crazy. On this 10-degree day, the yurt is warm enough for me to nap and read and for the kids to hang out and blast the karaoke machine. I even got to watch the supermoon pass by the hole in the rooftop, feeling every bit like a nomad on the Eastern Asian steppes of yore.
My dad has ventured to Eastern Asia twice, to Mongolia to hunt bighorn sheep, where yurts are still used in the mountains. He reports that the furnishings and splendor of the yurts in such remote regions were a testimony to the women’s industriousness and the men’s respect for their women. On one hunt, they had travelled too far into the mountain range to make it back to camp for the night. The head of the clan of this region had never met an American and insisted that Dad spend the night in his personal yurt. Dad was about to politely refuse when his guide’s expression clued him in to the social faux pas he was about to commit. He accepted graciously, had a splendid meal and a warm sleep, and was rewarded the next day.
In our land of suburban plenty, I think I could live in our yurt and off the land if I really had to. I’ve about got it figured out. I could snowshoe into the vast wilderness behind our house to the west. Apawamis, Willow Ridge, and Westchester golf courses create a large uninhabited landmass, about 500 acres, and game is plentiful.
I could fetch drinking water in Beaver Swamp Brook, boiling it first on our fire pit in the backyard. I’d wash clothes in the pond on Apawamis’ 12th hole and hang them in the yurt to dry. I could harness the power of water rushing over the dam on Willow Ridge’s 6th hole to mill wheat (note to self: plant wheat). We already have a garden, so I just need to dig a root cellar to store summer’s bounty of onions, peppers, lettuce, corn, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, radishes, and peas. I could harvest ice from the same ponds in winter to keep the cellar cool.
We are bordered to the east by Blind Brook down which I could canoe to the open waters of the Long Island Sound. There lies plenty of protein: oyster beds, clams, lobster, and fish, all mine for the harvesting. I’d stop by Rye Nature Center to pick some herbs from their garden for cooking and to kidnap a knowledgeable naturalist.
So even though I was stuck inside, hacking and wheezing, during this so-called cyclone bomb, my mind is free and wild. I am not fenced in. I can sit in my yurt and daydream. Yes, it’s so cold that the ponds are frozen and the geese have nowhere to land. Yes, it’s so windy that we’ve staked down the yurt with rebar and rope and fearfully watch her billow and flutter. Yet I rest securely in the knowledge that I could make do out there. We’d be just fine.
The cozy interior
The yurt in the author’s backyard