Mark Warren is a naturalist, composer, novelist, and director of Medicine Bow, a "primitive school of earthlore." In the summer of 1989, a streak of lightning scorched his house and everything inside, so he moved into a tipi. He tells his story in Two Winters in a Tipi, to be published by Lyons Press in May.
The barn you lived in was struck by lightning. You lost all your work.
When I went back and saw my house, there was one pile of rubble that was still glowing bright red. That’s where my piano was. On top of it were all my music compositions and my novel. That was my first novel. I had hundreds of music compositions. There were no copies.
That must have been devastating.
That's exactly the word. But you also feel freedom at the same time that you feel victimized.
And you decided your next home would be a tipi?
I remember when the first big ice storm came to north Georgia. Trees turned to crystal. They were all bowing and creating a convergence above me. I remember thinking what a beautiful shelter this is, all these trees leaning toward me. I wanted to have my own version of trees leaning together above me.
Late in the book, a raccoon wanders into your tipi and dies by the fire.
I had a few encounters with what was probably that same raccoon. I would roam the forest with my bow and shoot at shadows, leaves, inanimate objects, and I encountered him and spoke to him for awhile. A week later, he came through the door. I thought he might have had distemper or rabies. But there was something very melancholy about his behavior, and it was so cold outside. I picked him up and brought him closer to the fire. The next morning he was dead. It turned out he had come there to die.