Felt and Impressions of Tuva*
That long ago trip to Tuva left a lasting impression on me, both literally and figuratively. Everyone else I knew was doing their junior year abroad in Paris or Florence. I was looking for something more exotic.
So when I saw the article on Tuva I thought, "This is for me!" As a fiber arts major I was fascinated with the yurts that the nomadic people of Tuva use as dwellings. In fact, the original word for "nomad" comes from the word "felt", making nomads the "felt people".** I was determined to learn the ancient techniques for felting the wool that covers the wooden frame of these portable dwellings.
Creating felt of this size turned out to be a daunting task. First there was the shearing of the sheep, using shears that had been passed down from generation to generation. Then hours spent beating the wool with long sticks. Grueling work! And the smell... oh, the fetid smell of wet wool! It was enough to make me seriously reconsider my desire to become a fiber artist. My right hand still bears the mark from where my skin split after beating the wool for hours. The lanolin from the wool helped soothe my aching hands, but that one scar remains... that lasting impression of my time in Tuva.
But when at long last we were done, we had enough felt to cover the entire dwelling! The felt was so dense that it kept out both rain and snow. What a sense of accomplishment! I've never known anything like it since.
Tuva is both desolate and enchanting. The people of this obscure region of the world are known for the unusual and unique music they create: throat singing. At first I didn't believe these sounds could possibly be created by a human being. There is no other sound like it. To hear the strains of the throat singers against the backdrop of the mountains is haunting, to say the very least.
To this day, all I have to do is close my eyes and put on my CD of the Throat Singers of Tuva and I am transported back in time. I can almost smell the felt of the yurt that was so painstakingly created by my hands. Someday I hope to return to Tuva. Someday I hope to once again sleep under the felt.
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Tuva is a real place. Ralph Leighton wrote a book about physicist Richard Feynman's attempt to travel to Tuva. (Available from Amazon.)
*Note: This post is totally fictional. I've never been to Tuva, nor am I a fiber artist, but I have heard the Throat Singers of Tuva in concert and their music is indeed haunting.
**Quote about origin of the word nomad and photos taken from yurtinfo.org.