Urban settler

Urban settler

Jared Anderson takes a minimalist approach with tipi living in LA

By Christopher Nyerges 07/16/2009

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When artist Jared Anderson was a child, his father would take him hunting and hiking in the Colorado wilderness. At night they would sleep around a fire and wake to elk chattering. “Those were my life-defining moments, my foundation in the cycles of nature,” says Anderson, who is now living in a tipi in LA, near Dodger Stadium.

This isn’t the first time Anderson has done this. Back in Colorado, he lived in a tipi at night and worked as a tour guide by day, driving people around in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. He also worked at a restaurant, where he ate many of his meals.

But Anderson said that his time in the tipi was not difficult. Rather, it was enjoyable and peaceful, with no electricity, running water or indoor toilet.

Then, two and a half years ago, Anderson moved into an artist’s studio in downtown Los Angeles, located in an old printing warehouse in a highly industrial area. “It was a bit too gritty and I wanted to live closer to the earth,” Anderson said.

He moved slightly north of downtown, just across the freeway from Dodger Stadium, to the hills of Lincoln Heights. “I liked the place because it was so close to everything and yet I could still go running in the hills,” said Anderson.

“I then found a guy on Craigslist who was selling a tipi. I offered to trade one of my art pieces for his tipi, and we made the trade. … So now I had a tipi, but no poles. And to buy the poles would have cost me about $1,200,” said Anderson. “So I found long timber bamboo poles, which were a local resource, and I used them.”

Anderson began with a pounded earth floor for the base of his tipi, which is situated on a flat section of long ridge line in a hilly neighborhood. He had a little fire in his tipi, though he has removed that. He used an oil lamp for lighting. He put in rugs, a wooden deck just outside and a chiminea, a ceramic stove from Mexico.

“Well, the rugs got wet in the winter, but they are OK in the summer,” he said with a laugh. “When I moved into this tipi, I regarded it as my living art project, which I call The Urban Settlement,” explained Anderson, who has been documenting his year and a half in the tipi and eventually plans to write a book about his experiences.

The biggest challenge Anderson faced was the vulnerability of being in a tipi in the big city, which is why he took the unusual step of building a door to the structure so he could lock it up while away.

But he’s never had a problem with vandalism. “My approach is that people will be curious about the tipi. After all, you can see it from anywhere down in the neighborhood. So I always invited the neighbors to come up for a view and invited them in to see. They were very curious and I was showing how minimal one could live. This turned out to be a very empowering aspect of the project.”

Above all, “This is a sanctuary where I have always felt inspired for my own spiritual and artistic endeavors. This is remarkably distant from the chaos of Los Angeles, and yet I am still so accessible to it all,“ he said. “The social aspect of this has been great. I invite friends to sit and talk around the fire and share experiences while watching the city from above. Sometimes we have music. This has been such a remarkable blessing to live in such a diverse metropolis like LA, and still be in nature. I often wake up to a rabbit running about. And sometimes I hear coyotes off in the hills.”

Anderson’s advice to those who want to be closer to nature is that we need to rethink ideas of owning “stuff.”

“We were taught in this society that we must have ownership of so much. But this has just caused clutter in our lives and this is a reflection of our spiritual clutter. Just give your unnecessary stuff away,” Anderson said. “I am not telling people to live in a tipi forever. I am saying that I can live minimally and still smile. Life is chaotic only if we allow it to be. And you don’t want to be so attached to objects that those objects begin to define you.

“Check yourself,” he said. “What drives you? When do you feel the most alive? Those are the things you should do.”
For more, check Anderson’s Web site at jareddavidpaul.com

Christopher Nyerges is the editor of Wilderness Way magazine, the author of "How to Survive Anywhere," and an occasional blogger of current events. He can be contacted via this paper or ChristopherNyerges.com.

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