My tipi is my Holy Ground, my sacred space. It was a refuge for me during the biggest storm I ever endured in my life. It represents safety in a harsh world. It welcomes me to solitude and isolation where I sit in the presence of my maker, where I am seen as I am without labels and descriptive adjectives.
My tipi survived three years of hot dry sun, torrential rains, heavy snowstorms, and relentless violent winds. She gave me warmth and light in the dead of dark winters; she gave me cool shade during hot summer days. With her solid round base against the earth and her tips pointing to the infinite sky, she was a vessel, like a megaphone, for the voice of the Holy Spirit to shower my being.
The winds of our final storm last winter, however, finally brought her to her knees. The skeleton of her frame remained tall and sturdy, but the canvas of her body succumbed to the beating winds. Dry and brittle from the enduring elements of nature, the canvas ripped, first at the back, then at every stake and pole. She opened up in strips like the layers in the petals of a rose.
My heart ripped along with her, but was swept up in awe as she performed a glorious dance of energy in the dimmed light of the late winter sun.
When she stopped dancing on one still day, we carefully removed her dress and took down the poles to keep them from collapse. We stood the poles in the branches of the maple tree at the back of the property. Spring came and we sold a couple of junk cars so I could buy another canvas. The new one arrived in late June, but we were busy with closing a business, so we didn’t get her re-erected.
In late July, a sunflower sprouted out of the alter. Its stalk got wider as it grew taller and taller every day. I thought that my joy was equaled only by Jack when he was surprised by the speed and size of his beanstalk. It grew to be more than 6 feet in height and over a foot in diameter. The sunflower seemed to be the voice of the sacred ground saying “wait to cover me again; let me enjoy this long-lost sensation of raw exposure to the summer sun.”
By late August, the sunflower finally bent her head as if bowing in prayer with the fading music at the close of worship. When I tugged as the base of her stalk, she released her grip on the earth with ease of abandon. She welcomed her death, signifying approval for me to commence preparation of the dirt for the new tipi.
Last weekend I cleared the ground of summer weeds and then filled the deep cracks of the dried earth with soft white sand. I shoveled ashes out of the fire pit and placed them into dips in the ground to level off the floor. My son, Isaiah, scooped up the edges of the alter where it had spread out and sloped from the weight of rains and winds. He built the alter back up to the glory of its firm, rising platform and lined it again with curved cement bricks.
Together we lined the floor with layers of large, flat cardboard, then covered that with sheets of bubble wrap. We tacked it down to the ground with skinny nails. Next we took the strips from the old tipi and laid it over the bubble wrap. We circled from the outer edge in towards the alter and fire pit, overlapping one strip over the other.
Finally, we stretched the green outdoor carpet from my office in our now defunct recycling business over the whole area and held it in place with the river rocks that will eventually be used to line the fire pit. Next, I will have to cut out a figure 8-shaped hole in the center to expose the fire pit and the alter.
I want my tipi to stand again! I long for the shelter of my Holy Ground! Only the image of her majestic stature against the vast sky and elusive horizon fuels my patience. I am not strong enough to stand her alone. I need the strength of my husband to complete the task, but matching his time with min, his energy with mine, seems to require a miracle.
I have endured the summer without her because as I honored the resting of her frame, the nakedness of the ground, and the presence of the sunflower, I enjoyed my morning solitude at the city park.
The mornings are getting darker and colder now, though, and before long, I will no longer be able to write beneath the branches of the public sanctuary. This concerns me, but the preparation of the tipi floor represents evidence of hope for me that one of these cold dark mornings, I will be settled again in my own Holy place, covered, protected, and warmed – nuzzled into the embrace of my maker.