The Way of the Nomad

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a book that I've wanted for a LONG time...."Yurts: Living in the Round" by Becky Kemery. I have been pouring over it...learning about the history of this amazing structure and also falling in love again with the wisdom of ancient cultures. You don't have to be a nomad to recognize the beauty of the nomadic life...there is much to be learned from people who are truly living.

There is a section in the book that I've been thinking a lot about lately. I wanted to share it with you because it describes my thoughts about simplicity so perfectly:

The Central Asian nomads live with deep-rooted simplicity. Nomads carry with them what they need. Each person, for example, brings his or her own cup, bowl, and utensils when traveling. Waste is unthinkable; once something has served its usefulness in one area, it is put to use as something else. Every possession is chosen with care an ideally serves multiple function. With few possessions, there is the opportunity to bring artistry to every element of daily life. And because everything has its place in the circle of nomadic life (a placement prescribed by the very fabric of the culture), the setting of daily life is greatly simplified. One can walk in to any ger (yurt) and know where most items are stored and what part of the ger and know what part of the ger is used for which functions. This level of simplicity liberates energy for art, laughter, family, and tribe.

A final gift of the nomads is their intimate sense of connectedness. The circle is the symbol of interconnectedness, and the yurt makes this very real by creating a space for the family to live together in one large room, all the generations, interacting and creating a sense of tribe and family. Likewise, the veil between inside and outside is much thinner in a yurt; one knows when the wind blows or the temperature drops. the earth is truly underfoot, the night sky is visible through the smoke hole, and a sheep bleating in the middle of the night wakes up the herder. It is from this intimate sense of connection with all things around them that nomads living in balance in such a way that Mother Nature is never harmed.

I have bolded my favorite part...I think that every one of us wants to "bring artistry to every element of daily life". Imagine yourself waking up tomorrow morning. You walk into the kitchen...and as you pour the crystal clear water into the kettle, you listen carefully to the sound of the water splashing on the bottom. After preparing your coffee or tea, you reach for your mug which hangs on a colorfulfully painted peg on the wall. Each person in your family has their own mug that they use for drinking. You chose your particular mug for the beauty of the design and for how perfectly it fits into your hand as you enjoy a steamy hot drink. You pour your creamer in and stand amazed at the lovely patterns it makes as it blends into the liquid. With each sip, you are reminded of how beautiful life is. Are you laughing at me yet? Ok, does seem a bit crazy. would your life change if this was your reality? If you were able to see beauty in the mundane?

Think about how different your kitchen would be if each person in your family lived with a nomadic mindset and only had what they needed? One plate, one bowl, one mug/cup, a set of silverware. *GASP! What about company?!* I didn't say you had to get rid of your excess place settings...just put them away. In a cupboard above the fridge...or in the basement. If you have older children, they can be responsible for their setting (cleaning, putting away, etc.). If their bowl is dirty, they don't take out another, they just quickly wash the bowl and use it again.

If you want to really have fun...go to the thrift store and let the children pick out their very favorite plate/bowl/cup. It would probably cost about $2 per person...but it would give each person a sense of ownership. Some of my very favorite dishes came from thrift stores! If you are someone that has to have matching everything, this obviously wouldn't work for you :) I know from personal experience, that once I downsized my kitchen "stuff" by about 75%, life became very happy. Look at the things you use every day, and keep them. Everything else goes away (at least out of sight). I could have a fully functional kitchen with one large chef's knife and a few bowls. And remember... "this level of simplicity liberates energy for art, laughter, family, and tribe". Because who wants to do dishes all day? Be liberated!

The second part of this quote speaks about living in close quarters...specifically one large "great room", and how it magically brings people together. Now that we have come "off the road" and out of the RV for a few months, we are noticing how hard it is to connect as a family. We really have to work at having time together...uninterrupted by TV, activities, and spacious homes. We REALLY like living in a small space because it's so easy to bond together and to truly live. It's been a great learning experience ... I don't think we will ever go back to a big house. Too much space to get away from your family! After awhile, you start to think you actually NEED that space.

Another book that I am planning on getting from the library...A Handmade Life by Bill Coperthwaite (maker/mastermind behind the tapered wall wooden yurt). A little about Bill...

William Coperthwaite is a teacher, builder, designer, and writer who for many years has explored the possibilities of true simplicity on a homestead on the north coast of Maine. In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and Helen and Scott Nearing, Coperthwaite has fashioned a livelihood of integrity and completeness-buying almost nothing, providing for his own needs, and serving as a guide and companion to hundreds of apprentices drawn to his unique way of being. (

For those of you in Maine, you should venture to "Dickinson's Reach" on the northeast coast sometime to visit his homestead. I wish I would have known about it while we were up there this fall! Here is a nice little article about him...he's a man after my own heart: ''If living is to be right, it ought to be beautiful," declares Coperthwaite. Preach it, Bill!

Can life be beautiful even with just a few possessions? Yes! This is just one of the reasons why I am in awe of the Mongolian culture (their gers/yurts in particular) and how they have taken such care in making their life beautiful. Every time I see one of their beautiful doors, my breath is taken away. I have also fallen in love with their furnishings. Pure color and form.

It's so interesting to me that we can draw insight and inspiration from a culture and lifestyle that most of mainstream America would deem as "primitive". Our country would be a different place if more families lived in such close community and focused on making life beautiful with less.

Creative Commons Photo Credit: dwarawlinson