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On this week’s Peace of History:
We shine our spotlight on a curious building at the Voluntown Peace Trust: the Yurt. This particular building was gifted by Jane and Kit Johnson, long time members of the VPT community. We are eager to share this unique gift with others already in our community as well as with those who are simply curious about what we do.
Standing a couple feet off the ground, the design of this 16 foot diameter circular structure is inspired by the traditional dwellings of nomadic peoples of the Eurasian Steppe. Traditional yurts are usually made from skins or felt arranged over a precisely constructed wood or bamboo latticework frame. Sharing some similarities with the indigenous North American tipi, traditional yurts were made to be light but sturdy, and designed so that the inhabitants could collapse them, carry them away, and then set them up again at a new location quickly and easily. Ranging in size from several feet to one hundred feet in diameter, yurts are used for a variety of purposes, from community gathering halls to homes.
The concept of yurts was first imported to the West in the 1960s-1970s, and they have been adapted to the change in environment and in purpose. Generally designed as more permanent buildings than their Eurasian cousins, Western yurts are often made from hi-tech architectural fabrics, waterproof tarpaulin, insulation material, and sometimes metal frames. In North America, yurts are most often found on camping sites and on private homesteads. The Yurt at the Voluntown Peace Trust was in the Johnson's back yard in Stonington before being gifted to us. Kit built an insolated wooden floor that is made of 6 wedges for mobility. Kit and Jane installed their own insulation (see the silver colored ceiling and hung cloth on the walls to make it feel more cozy.) Their son Ben lived in the Yurt for a time. Here are some of Ben’s own words describing his experience living in the Yurt.
"As someone staying in there by myself, I found it to be an incredibly calming place to be. Unlike a house, it wasn't totally disconnected from the elements. When it rained--the top of the yurt was like a giant drum. When the train went by a mile away, you heard it. When the peeper frogs were out...when the buoys in the sound gave their slow, lonely honk. When a breeze would pass through or a bumble bee would buzz by. When you are in the yurt, you are in something that amplifies its own environment. There's something very powerful about that.
[...] If you are staying in the yurt, you should remember that much more than a house it is like our own spirits. You have to take an active role in caring for it, and in caring for yourself in it. There will always be something to do--a log to put on the fire; a bug to shoo back outside; a window to close or open. But in doing those small things you will find great comfort, quiet, peace, great oneness with the world and with yourself."
Attached is an interior panoramic of our Yurt, in which you can see the wood latticework frame, the futon and pull out couch, and a few wall hanginging left as gifts by past guests. To learn more about our Yurt, including more about Ben Johnson’s first-hand experience living in the Yurt, please visit our Rentals page on our website: http://www.voluntownpeacetrust.org/yurt.html
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