• Peter Macfarlane

Communing with Nature, Part II: FAQs

Are you curious about ecologically-centered communities? Part II of 'Communing with Nature' answers frequently asked questions about the decision to live communally.

When I tell people I am going to live in a yurt, people have a lot of questions. I want to share some of their common questions and concerns and my responses:

“Won’t you be cold in the winter?”

Indigenous peoples inhabited the land with the same harsh winters for thousands of years before European settlers arrived. They developed elegant solutions to source heat that don’t involve gas furnaces and foam insulation. If you have ever been in a tipi in the winter, you know that a small fire in the center can keep it plenty toasty inside. A yurt is similar in structure. The small size requires minimal heat to maintain a cozy temperature and the circular shape and domed roof allow for excellent air circulation.

That being said, I agree that twilight awakenings in the winter to stoke a fire would be unpleasant. Instead, I am building a rocket stove with a flue system capable of heating one tonne of thermal mass. A small, very hot fire heats a clay mass, which in turn retains and emits the heat slowly.

I also purchased twice the standard thickness of fur insulation for a yurt, just to be sure.

“How will you keep working at Little Symphony and as a yoga teacher?”

If anything, my work at Little Symphony will become even more accessible. With nature in my backyard, I have open access to a wide assortment of wildlife and sounds. Look forward to the soothing sounds of prairie birds, insects, and frogs in future albums!

We are lucky to have access to solar power and satellite internet so I can stay connected with my team. I also expect that living on the land will improve my focus, as I learn how to stop abusing my attention and time.

Continuing to teach yoga will require some adjustment, made easier by the changes set in motion by the current pandemic. As public spaces shut down more people turned to online resources to access education, fitness, therapy, and professional development.

In fact, at the moment I’m taking my second yoga teacher training online and it has been an incredible experience to see the depth of connection that is possible through a screen. The internet has a connective potential waiting to be accessed as we repair our relationship with technology.

“How will you shower?”

If I’m being honest, I’d rather not!

I understand that sanitation is important - Dave has informed me that if I never wash, I will be more prone to skin infections, such as Staph. aureus, which can lead to health complications. Besides, the accumulation of dirt on skin and clothes is uncomfortable.

However, some research suggests we may not need to shower as often as some think. My washing habits include a small water basin and washcloth. The basin is filled with rainwater collected through a drainage system that keeps the ground dry and keeps me stocked up on clean water at the same time!

“What does your family think?”

My parents are happy I’ve decided to live near them in Alberta rather than in South America, which was a previous possibility. They are also excited and supportive. My dad gets great joy out of hands-on work and loves the vicarious thrill from our construction projects. My mom grew up on a farm and loves the idea of me connecting with nature, tending animals, and growing my own food.

“What about _____ which you can’t provide for yourself?”

While the land does provide us with food, heating, building materials and medicine, indeed, some things are simply not accessible directly from the land. For example, we use items (e.g. a quad, power tools, etc.) that run on generators that we cannot produce fuel for. And while the land can provide us with certain medicinal gifts, we lack the knowledge and capacity to handle certain ailments without professional help.

I am accepting of the fact that living a self-sufficient life off-grid takes a level of dedication that I have yet to undertake. I’m grateful for the opportunities to take a trip into the city for basic supplies and perhaps a little indulgence (like chocolate). For me, moving out to the land is beneficial for distancing from certain harmful realities present in modern life. But it doesn’t have to be marked by an outright renunciation of everything ‘unnatural’ or new. Our group is working on finding a strong and sustainable balance between nature and development.

“Just promise you won’t drink any Kool-Aid!”

Communes can get a bad reputation. Our community may be considered 'cult-y' by others, as we all practice and teach the same style of yoga - Sattva Yoga. Cults develop around devotion to a central figure. In my practice, though I know incredible teachers and leaders, I am devoted to myself first.

As our community grows, it will evolve in ways we cannot anticipate. However, we are all mindful and self-aware people with similar goals and interests. We are eager to experience and navigate the social and political challenges that will surely arise in our communal living situation, as they have for many groups before us.

For us, decisions are made together and consequences are experienced in real-time, allowing for an intimate relationship between the challenge and the solution.

“Is there a benefit to making all these compromises?”

There is so much to gain, and it is different for everybody.

My largest benefit is in the space that opens up. The freedom to do what I want, when I want, without a variety of distractions and detriments clogging the path. Already as a result of this freedom, I’ve stopped creating expectations of what may happen. I take it all in as it happens, the good with the bad. My freedom isn’t infinite; but the responsibilities I do have involve communing with nature and with others on the land, which means an opportunity to learn. It is an ideal environment to focus on all which I deem most important in my life.

Other noticeable benefits so far include

  • A strong and healthy body from physical exertion and fresh food;

  • A stimulated mind from problem-solving and planning;

  • A happy spirit from good-company; and

  • An abundance of vitamin D.

I showcased a lot of skepticism with my selection of questions, but I’d like to assure everybody reading that I have received so much love and support in what I am doing as well.

I’ve also received a lot of genuine interest, which excites me. I think it’s no secret that things are shifting globally and this has created large scale instability. My hope in this and future writings is to outline one possible path towards individual stability. My hope for all is that we are able to ground ourselves amid the chaos and maintain a space to feel at peace.

Thank you for taking the time to read. Please leave a comment if you have a request for something you’d like me to write about the land in my next post. Please contact me if you are interested in self-started communities, natural building, or have any other questions about this adventure of mine! I’m interested in connecting with like-minded individuals and sharing our experiences and knowledge.

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© 2020 by little symphony