Moments: Leaving the Yurt Before Sunrise

It’s 4:00 AM in early 1999. I should be asleep now but for some reason I can’t sleep any longer. For a while I just lie there trying to will myself back to sleep knowing that my six month old son could wake up at any minute and our day will start whether we like it or not and that would be the sum total of the sleep I would get for the day.

It’s not happening, though. I’m awake. I light an oil lamp and try to read a bit and then an idea occurs to me: I would walk up the big hill we can see outside of our window to see the sunrise. The hill is a big part of why we chose the site for the yurt when we walked all over the 40 acre plot of our friend’s land.

I took this photo the day we chose the building site
The three of us on the day we chose the site with the mountain in the background

Quietly as I can I start to pack a small backpack with a bottle of water and a snack. I’m not quiet enough, though, as Sage wakes up.

“What’s happening? What are you doing?” she asks.

I tell her and even though it isn’t even 4:30 AM yet she’s on board with the idea.  I add a few more snacks to the backpack. Sage gets dressed and I take the baby sling off the hook it hangs on near the door and pop Daegan in to it.


There are many things that make life easier for me when we are living in the yurt but the sling is possibly one of the most important. Daegan spends much of his time there. If I am going to the spring to fetch water, I can put him in it and take him with me. If I’m cooking dinner, I can wear it slightly differently so he can peek around my back and see what’s happening as I chop veggies or mash beans for refried bean burritos. If I’m going to cut wood, I can bring him to where I saw a dead tree fallen, set him down in a spot with interesting rocks and leaves to investigate and saw up the wood, put a bunch of pieces in a big cloth and drag it back home behind me. And if Daegan is tired and fussy, I need only just go for a walk, sing a little, and put my hand on his forehead. Eventually I feel his weight resting fully on my hand and I know he’s asleep. Then I wander some more to explore for my own fun and relaxation before heading back to the yurt and gently putting him in bed. If I’m especially lucky, he doesn’t wake up as I do this and I can join him for a short nap – this feels like absolute decadence for an at-home parent.

Once he’s in the sling, we all head out in to the forest. There’s no moon tonight so when we first head out we need to go very slowly, going a bit from memory, but also feeling the ground carefully with my feet as I go. I’ve fallen before with the sling on – it’s not a disaster but always involves my rolling in such a way that my shoulder and back take most of the brunt of the fall with Daegan landing on top of me, laughing.

Today, for some reason, two of our eight cats: Habanero and Anita are following along. I’m not sure why they’re coming along as they’ve never been interested in following me before when I would go out to get wood.

We come to our first obstacle, a creek. It’s not terribly high but we have to step carefully to avoid having wet shoes for the rest of the trip.


d playing
On our first trip top the creek, Daegan enjoyed investigating it up close.

Then it’s back up another hill and to a barbed wire fence. Here is where our friend’s property ends. As we approach the fence we notice the sky is now lightening.  I hand Daegan to Sage over the barbed wire fence, and then pass between the two strands myself. Then back in to the sling he goes.

The forest ends at the property line and we’re at a field that the neighbour uses to grow hay. We can now see the mountain ahead as a shadow against a lighter sky.  As we walk further in to the field, we notice the cats are not following. I know they’re not aware of property boundaries and are so small that even the bottom row of barbed wire doesn’t worry them. But they’re staying where they are.  I wonder if they’re worried about some of the hawks that live nearby coming for them while they’re unprotected in an open field.  After we get about 50 feet in to the field, they register their displeasure by meowing repeatedly.

Up the hill we go, until we get to the top. We find a rock to sit on. It’s a bit cool and damp and we can see fog collecting in some of the valleys below. And then it happens. First a sliver the size of a fingernail and soon after the full size sun cresting the horizon. Though it is silent, save for the noise of a few birds, Sage and I both hear beautiful classical music in our minds.

We wait for a while, watching until it is bright enough to see the entire valley and then stand up and retrace our steps.

We didn’t bring a camera that day but here is the view from another day


As we approach the property line and the forest we can hear the cats. They are still meowing. They are not pleased to have been left here but they still wanted someone to walk them back home.

We reach the creek and it’s now bright enough to see – and I can see that there are a few ramps – wild leeks – growing on a grassy spot next to the creek. They are tiny, smaller even than scallions, but chopped up and mixed with the fresh eggs we bartered with a nearby commune to get, they make an excellent breakfast.

And once we are all fed, all three of us seem to remember at the same time what time we woke up. And together we take a rare nap, and dream of the forest.

Inspired by: Daily Prompt: Forest

Want more stories about our adventure leaving suburbia and moving with our baby to a yurt in the woods? Visit this page.

10 thoughts on “Moments: Leaving the Yurt Before Sunrise

  1. Daegan looks adorable in that sling. I am surprised how vividly you remember a walk from 1999. I also have fond memories of walking and exploring with my parents back in the good ol’ 90’s. There’ these Aravali hills close to Delhi where my Dad used to take me and my brother on weekends and I still cherish those memories.

    1. I just looked up some photos of the Aravali hills and they are really beautiful. Many of them showed the area as much greener than the times I’ve been. I think I’d like to see the rainy season someday.

      That walk was really memorable as it was so unusual. Usually we were so tired at that hour that none of us wanted to do more than find a way to get Daegan back to sleep. And this time we were waking *him* up! It was really beautiful at that hour also. If I took that walk today I’d, no doubt, have some photos but back then, while I had a digital camera, as you can see the quality was pretty low (it was one of the very early Apple Quicktake ones) so even if we brought it I doubt it would have done it much justice. So I have to be content with that memory…

      1. Sounds like a wonderful memory. Daegan is lucky to have such adventurous parents! I love the pictures, there’s something rustic about pictures from the 90’s, basically it reminds me of the simpler times and fun childhood days. Also, we had a Kodak camera with a 35-picture roll and you could never know how the pictures look until the roll was processed by some photo studio. Those days!

      2. Right! I still remember the thrill of finding an old roll of film you forgot to develop. Often you didn’t even know what was on it until you sent it out!

    1. I know! It was pretty crazy. When we lived in the city, feeding and caring for them was nearly a full-time job! Once we got in the woods and they spent most of their time outside the effort was much more manageable. We only needed to feed them (and avoid feeding the possums and skunks at the same time). Now we have only two but even they generate a shocking amount of hair. We must have had a ridiculous amount before – it’s hard to notice when it’s always around, though.

      1. I’m sure! We have 2 and my allergies go nuts if I miss a day of medicine. So much hair! Outside cats are easier but not wanting to feed the other animals had to be hard as well. 😀

  2. Oh my gosh, that’s so cute the cats followed you and baby Daegan in his sling is so adorable! The walk and sunrise sound so peaceful! 😍

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