The idea for Sky High Shelters has been brewing since I lived in a tipi on the top of a hill studded with small pines in Cavendish, Vermont in the 1970’s. My brother John had a tipi one field over. I had an open-sided kitchen lean-to with an old wood stove for baking bread and a cable spool from the power company as a table. We would sit in directors chairs around the table, drinking perked coffee, smelling the bread in the oven, watching the day unfold. Then I would turn to my bro and ask, “So what are we going to do today?”
Outside all day
I loved being outside all day. I had a kick wheel for making pots with local clay tucked under the lean-to. Even in the tipi with a fire going I was “outside”. I could feel any change in the sky or weather through the white canvas. And the inside air never heated up – all the warmth came from the radiant heat of the fire on my body – just like the warm sun on a cold day.
When I stood on this spot on the top of the hill where the snow had melted away, and I looked at the view of the valley and mountains to the east and the deep woods to the west, I realized that as soon as I put my tipi on this beautiful spot, I was going to lose this 360 degree view. The structure would be in the way.
What if I could put the tipi up in the air and have an tent structure under it that could be open on all sides when the weather was fair. The smoke flaps on the tipi could be adjusted like a jacket collar to block the wind so the fire would draw well. Maybe the open tent structure’s fabric could adjust to block the wind or be wide- open to light breezes on a beautiful day. And that open tent space would become my kitchen and workshop. And at the end of the day my sweetheart and I could retreat into our tipi nest, sit around the small fire, talk, plan, make love and fall asleep breathing the cool evening air.
The dream deferred
But life changed. I married a woman with small boys. Lived in houses. Got a real job. Had a daughter. Got a graduate degree. Divorced. Fell in love. Got married again. Lived in an old school house. Made babies, boys this time. Got a bigger house in town. And a summer house. And a series of sailboats. And all the time I kept making drawings and models of my “Sky Tipi”. Two summers ago I asked my new friend Andy, an artist who had gone back to school to be an engineer, to work with me and we started to build the first prototype in the backyard. I started to call it my “Sky Yurt”.