What a thoughtful idea. In the 1960’s Bill Coperthwaite, now living in rural Maine, read a National Geographic article that described Mongolian yurts, portable dwellings handmade of felt and other natural materials. Inspired, he set out to design and build a yurt adapted for our North American climate using only hand tools. Bill’s design worked, and since then, he has spent a lifetime sharing his knowledge of yurt building, studying folk wisdom world-wide, living simply, and teaching others to do the same through The Yurt Foundation.
In the tradition of Helen & Scott Nearing and other homesteading practitioners of a simple lifestyle, Bill Coperthwaite’s choice to live in the Maine woods and create everything he needs to live by hand is entirely by design. His 2004 book, “A Handmade Life” (photographs by Peter Forbes), is a chronicle of the ideals Bill has made a commitment to, and these ideals still resonate. His philosophy is illustrated in this poem:
“Borrow from cultures old and new
And with our imaginations
Blend those borrowings
To Create new ways to live
That are simpler, gentler
More generous and beautiful.”
A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Alan Bair, founder and President of Pacific Yurts. Alan told me he first met Bill in Oregon in the 70’s during a yurt building workshop. He was inspired to formalize yurt design in the U.S., and started his company in an Oregon dairy barn. Today, Pacific Yurts is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of yurts for every application, including public parks, bed & breakfasts and individual home owners.
So it’s possible to start a movement and have it go viral, even without a phone, computer or website. Thanks Bill, for doing your part.
For more on Bill’s work and life, read this interview by Rod MacIver, who coordinates a beautiful website called Heron Dance, featuring original art, poetry and interviews with writers, artists and other creative thinkers.