What Building a Tepee Taught Me about Useless Dead Spaces in My Heart

I have a small backyard and even though it is small, I want it to be a magical gathering place for my grandchildren so I created small “play-niche-areas” such as the sandbox area and a small playhouse/fort.

Recently I realized I had a “sitting area” for my grandchildren but….. they never used it during their various imagination games. As I do not want to have unused or dead spaces in my yard, I decided to replace the chairs and table with something more interesting—a small tepee.

There are countless ideas on Pinterest. I settled on making a tepee using metal garden stake poles and a painter’s drop cloth. The pictures from the Pinterest sites made it look so easy.


First, I needed 8 foot poles for the tepee frame. I could not find 8 foot poles so I duct taped two 6 foot poles together to get the needed 8 feet. I pushed the pointy ends into the ground; gathered the other ends at the top; and tied them together with twine. So far so good.

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Next, I had to cut a semi-circle out of the drop cloth which meant laying it on the grass in my front yard.  (I do have to make one editorial comment. One Pinterest Mother said you should wash the drop cloth and then iron it before cutting it out—it would make it softer and get rid of the wrinkles. That woman has way too much time on her hands. Get rid of the wrinkles? For crying out loud, it’s a tepee!)

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I tried draping the semi-circle shaped material around the metal tepee poles and realized it was too big so……..I dragged the material back to the front yard to re-cut it. Once done, I happened to look down and aughghggh—there was a bloodstain on the material.

How can this be? Pocahontas has not gone into battle yet and she has already drawn blood?

I realized when I was crawling around on the ground trying to cut out the semi-circle I had rammed my knee on a rock that was under the material which explained the red spots.

As I was pondering what to do about the battle stains, the skies began to change and it appeared a storm was coming—sure enough, it started raining.

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I quickly gathered up the tepee material and was trying to drape it around the tent poles when a bolt of lightning flashed across the skies and I decided standing in the rain holding 8 metal poles was probably not a good idea, so I dropped the material and ran inside.

When I read instructions on Pinterest, they never seem to mention things like duct tape or watching out for lightning bolts and so forth. I must be reading the wrong Pinterest sites.

Once the storm was done, I ventured outside and was able to drape the material around the poles. The really good news—the rain washed out the battle-blood stains…without my having to use a Tide pen.

But the next question was…..how do I get the bottom of the tepee to stay in one place? It seems that a lot of Pinterest fans left out that one small detail but I finally found instructions written by a crafty mom who used clothespins to keep the bottom of her tepee attached to the poles.

I am sure Pocahontas did not use clothespins, but I am here to report—it worked just fine.

As I was running around my yard trying to create a magical place out of a useless dead space, I could not help but reflect on how we all carry useless dead spaces inside of us…. and I say this from very personal experience.

You see, I am someone who strongly dislikes being rejected. I also resent lack of expressions of gratitude and have been known to be upset with family or friends—for something they said or, at times, for something they did not say. Those hurt feelings can lead to anger and if not addressed, can create bitterness or resentment. Once those emotions become a part of my heart, I have a tendency to wall that person out of my life—to create a useless dead space that I walk past emotionally.

In today’s political world, I see walls and dead spaces growing at an alarming rate. We no longer can discuss issues in a civil manner or agree to disagree. No matter what side you are on—Republican, Democrat, pro-news, anti-news, pro this and anti-that….. there seems to be little tolerance for beliefs that are different from the ones you have.

I am seeing friendships die and hateful words being said between people who should love and respect each other. Sometimes the comments are bold and loud but sometimes the comments are said quietly under a person’s breath—and you sense their disapproval and judging attitude.

These attitudes can create long term harm—and can fill your heart with useless dead spaces.

The heart is too important to let such wasted space live inside you.

When Jesus was on the cross, he was surrounded by people who had let him down; had rejected him; had abandoned him….. and yet his response was to say he forgave them and more importantly, he was willing to die for them.

He expressed love and grace in a way that humbles me to my core.

And therein is the real challenge—how to express love and grace to others—no matter what.

So, what about you, dear reader? Have you walled somebody out?  Or, perhaps you are just beginning to build the walls? A foundation made from hurt feelings and small resentments has been poured—the concrete is still wet but it is beginning to harden.

Are you willing to build your own tepee—to actively and consciously remove dead spaces created by angers and resentments—to replace those spaces with forgiveness and love? Not an easy task, of course….and the $60-million-dollar question—will it be worth the effort?

I know, for me, that the struggle to build my tepee—to create opportunities for love and joy—literally and figuratively—has been worth the effort.

I wish the same for you.


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