There are certain moments in life you remember like it was yesterday. For me, it's in the middle of the forest, in my dad’s unfinished entertainment room, pacing back and forth in my full on sweats get-up I was so used to sporting, the memory still so vivid.
I hung up the landline after confirming my place in the Design/Build class at the well-respected Yestermorrow School in Waitsfield, Vermont. Alone and elated, I yelled, jumped and ran around the house releasing all of my excited energy. Adrenaline surging, I felt super-human, and super alive.
My initial intent was to attend a newly offered “Tiny House” Design/Build class they began offering, but it was filled. I was disappointed, but felt there was a reason why I was the lucky one to close the loop to form the “2015 Design/Build” team. For a little history, the “Design/Build” class is the foundation class that started the school, and it would be the 25th consecutive year our head professor, John Ringel. would be teaching it - if that isn’t a testament of love, passion and dedication to the school and what they do, I don’t know what is.
Of all my trips, I was most agog for my two weeks in Vermont! Highly acclaimed “Design/Build” School, road trip and sightseeing, camping, excuse me “glamping” (glamour camping), engaging with other like-minded individuals from all over the country, I had a number of things to anticipate.
"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing” - Aristotle
So much learning; about myself, my craft, my classmates and professors, staff and other students around campus, these are the experiences no one could ever anticipate. Leaving, reflecting on everything that transpired in those two weeks and how it shaped us; yes, the scenery was spectacular, don’t get me wrong, and the school facilities, couldn’t be happier.
It’s the people you meet, interact with, learn from and with, get to know, some better than others of course, but it’s in the understanding of personalities and appreciating each one for what they bring to the group to make it uniquely us is what life is all about. We all left Yestermorrow different than when we came, and it’s easy to see why professors can’t seem to let go of the opportunity to teach year after year, leaving their life and loved ones, traveling far and wide to be part of this experience. Anyone who has spent time there will tell you that there is something more. And words can't describe it. In fact, I'm sure it can only be felt.
I'm reminded of a book excerpt I’d like to share:
Quarterlife Crisis - Alexandra Robbins & Abby Wilner
“The only way you can figure out who you really are is through the adventures of life and the people you meet. If you silence your passions, you could miss out on a great discovery. There are no mistakes in these decisions. Your life is what you make of it and from these experiences you learn who you really are.”
The interactions, the lessons we all took away, celebrating our victories and supporting each other through our struggles, late night studio sessions, kitchen antics, fireside and picnic table chats, music, singing, taking a dip in the nude family-owned watering hole across the street from the school were all daily happenings. In-depth conversations, debates, opinions, cultures, learning in a classroom setting with so much knowledge surrounding is everything I could ever wished for and more.
I can’t forget about the hands-on, site-construction work and studio sessions, learning tools and tricks of the trade, brainstorming, drafting, and finally creating a scale model of my tiny house; let me tell you, there was no other place I’d rather be. Field trips to local homes, exploring some of the most amazing spaces and lifestyles I’ve ever been in - this two weeks was the pinnacle - the ideal recipe to motivate and inspire me to continue this journey to ultimately live free and experience life feeling like this every day is my ultimate vision I plan on bringing to fruition.
Go Big or Go Home
As per the Elena way, I was fully prepared for this trip. With no job, I took the “camping” option versus the "dorms", and opted to only participate in the lunches that were made fresh in the kitchen by our amazing, eclectic chef, a true pleasure. So this meant I was responsible for providing my own breakfast and dinner, which translates into me hauling a 50 pound Australian made “OZ Tent” and two weeks worth of food, water, clothes and supplies for myself to survive on.
Early Bird Gets the Worm
With only three platform sites available (the rest was a free-for-all in the forest, literally), at first come, first serve, I knew I had to be there early to claim the best spot. Who was I kidding, with all the stuff I was lugging in, I was going to need the extra setup time.
Long story short, I marked my territory. This was no easy task, as I recall. Sweating bullets, I brought as many luxuries I could manage. With such an intense class schedule and away from the everyday comforts of home, I knew I wanted to be as comfortable as possible and ensure I got the best sleep I could, or the experience could potentially leave a drastically different impression. I was camping, excuse me, "glamping" (glamour camping) in the middle of Vermont, and I was proud of my setup.
Getting Down to Business
To give you a little taste of what life was like - a grueling class schedule that started in the classroom at 9:30 (don’t forget I was up having to make myself breakfast, which included my famous shake), lunch at 12, followed by everyone heading out to the work-site where we all built the designated project. Our class built a shed for one of the professors of our class, on her property, which isn’t far from the school. Every afternoon we would go on-site and learn by getting hands-on. Everything from understanding the different types of nails to use, the different saws available, safety practices, measuring, considerations, and terminology were a few of the topics that were touched on in this portion of the class.
Learning how to read and create architectural drawings, producing a scale model of my tiny house and gaining experience through my professors and peers excited me most. Learning about “poché” and sitting behind a drafting table with my bag of essentials, mind racing with all my ideas I’ve been dying to get down on paper, properly. I love learning and being in a classroom setting - I immersed myself, and those happy feelings surfaced. To be in the moment, with little to no connection to the outside world, among people who share and value the same things you do is such a privilege to be a part of, and to contribute to.
I was able to meet with the professor of the Tiny House class, which made me feel like I got the best of both worlds. Having him available for me to ask questions and discuss aspects of my project I was getting hung up on was huge, and I appreciated him for making himself available for us and offering his knowledge and resources to those who needed it.
At the end of the class, everyone presented the work we all put such long hours into, through a series of exercises and assignments we had completed throughout the class. Those last few nights, I can remember everyone staying late and getting into their own zone, myself included. Stopping for beer and wine on our way back from the work-site started to become more of a nightly occurrence, which added to the fun. The last night, a few of us were there until after midnight - the adrenaline of completing as much of my vision as possible was the goal; it was what we were there for, so I would have stayed all night if I had to. In those special circumstances, you abort everything about your normal routine, and adapt to the new lifestyle, knowing it’s only temporary.
Think with your hands... Yestermorrow Design/Build School
Yestermorrow has all kinds of classes to help expand your knowledge and provide priceless hands-on experience. The community there is special, and exploring it was a privilege. If you, or anyone you know are interested in this unique experience, I can’t recommend it enough - check them out here!
All Good Things Must Come to an End
The final graduation ceremony was something I’ll never forget. The friendships and bonds created during those two weeks, no one will soon forget.
I would only get a few weeks back at home base before my conquering my final class. Heading back to Asheville, learning about woodworking and cabinetry from Gregory Paolini, one of the best in the country (according to my Dad). Working side-by-side with some veteran carpenters, I knew I would be the odd woman out. But it was like I had five Dad’s there watching out for me, most having a daughter of their own.
This would complete my trifecta of experiences and education to better prepare me for designing and building my future home. And since my last trip to Asheville went well with my mom, I decided to incorporate her into this one. A bit more of a commitment, I would be having to commute from her house in South Carolina to Asheville, about an hour and a half drive, but it was worth it to continue to try and repair and build on our mother/daughter relationship since last trip. It's unfortunate the trip took an unexpected turn and ended poorly.
Lessons are around every corner, stay tuned.
Bonus Pictures // Yestermorrow Design/Build School // August 3 - 18 2014
I had so many great pictures from the trip, I can't help but showcase them. Enjoy!