Megan Griswold is a woman of extremes. Take her yurt in Kelly, which has been the author’s primary residence for the past seven years.
Simple yurts have been used by nomadic cultures for thousands of years and can be constructed and deconstructed in a matter of minutes. Many Jacksonites may be transitory, but not necessarily nomadic (unless you count the pop-up community that takes over Curtis Canyon each summer).
The yurt park in Kelly is more or less permanent, but has become an affordable haven for the valley’s workers and artists.
But then there’s Griswold’s yurt.
Sparkling white, with accents of buffalo shag rugs and 800 pounds of Carrara marble, Griswold’s yurt is straight out of the pages of Architectural Digest — literally. It’s been featured in Architectural Digest.
“I built a yurt because I wanted to do an experiment on how to still have something be affordable but high style,” she said.
Dutch doors and large windows flood the yurt with light. There’s a porcelain stove, a lofted sleeping area and a solar-powered motored basket for her dog to get to the loft. Oh, and there are clothes. Lots of clothes, as well as a impressive designer high heel collection.
Practical? No. Traditional? Definitely not. Beautiful, peaceful and creativity-sparking? Yes, yes and yes.
Megan Griswold has been and is a lot of things. Most recently, she became — officially — a full-time writer. Last month, she published her first book “The Book of Help: A Memoir of Remedies,” a comical, sensitive and honest reflection on Griswold’s lifelong search for “it.”
“What is the ‘it,’ you ask? That remedy, that discipline, that modality, that thing it ain’t cool to admit you’ve done at the Ivy League mixer,” Griswold writes in her book.
Since receiving her first mantra at age 7, Griswold has logged 15,000-plus hours trying to improve the self and the relationship with the self. Over the course of 40 years and six continents, Griswold has tried every self-help, self-care, psychic, psychedelic, religious, educational, astrological, medicinal, fad diet, treatment, practice — what have you — that’s out there.
Is she still searching for “it”? Of course.
Griswold is a self-proclaimed cynic (hence, why not one thing has “stuck”), but she’s also incredibly curious and open, especially when it comes to matters of the self. She grew up in a New Age-y household in Southern California and started attending self-improvement workshops and retreats when she was in her pre-teens.
There were upsides and downsides to being so self-reflective.
“On the one hand, it was pretty cool because my parents really talked to me like I was an adult in some ways,” she said. “On the other hand, there was so much intellectualizing of our experience all time,” rather than just experiencing or doing.
Since adulthood she has become a doer. She has traveled the world, climbed mountains, worked for NPR, was a graduate student at Yale, became an acupuncturist, has an interior design business, as well as one for Airbnb.
And now the book.
All of Griswold’s education — both traditional and alternative — primed her for what would be an earth-shattering moment in her life: her husband’s arrest. That’s where she starts off in “The Book of Help.” After a gripping beginning scene of Griswold picking her husband up from jail, Griswold jumps back and forth between the salient, hilarious, embarrassing, demoralizing and significant moments that have helped shape her life: like a wilderness education course in Patagonia, where she met her husband, an About Sex seminar at age 15, a time she stalked an ex from a bush.
“I wanted to tell two different stories, one about challenges in relationships, and I didn’t want it to sound like a Lifetime movie of the week kind of story,” she said. “So I started thinking about hooking in this larger story, which was a commentary around how you digest healing, growth and spirituality.”
Griswold has no intention of being a spiritual teacher, however. There is no dogma. No preaching. No chant-this-tune-then-touch-your-toes type of promises. It’s an honest reflection about a woman who has spent a lifetime trying, and one who has a hilarious sense of humor that brings a lightness and humility to even the lowest moments in her life.
“I like the idea, ‘If you talk about your brother, it helps someone else talk about theirs,’” she said.
Griswold’s honesty and humor have helped “The Book of Help” climb the best-seller lists at Amazon and The New York Times. It’s also a book that’s been a decade in progress.
In the wake of her husband’s arrest, Griswold started writing stories to her friend who was losing her sight to help pass the time and lighten the mood. Eventually, the stories turned into a one-woman performance “Fix It: A Comedy About Love, Self-Help and the Recovery from Both” that premiered in Boulder, Colorado, in 2006 before moving to New York the following year. It was there she met a literary agent who took the idea seriously.
“I’ve always been a talker and a storyteller,” she said.
Now that the book is published, Griswold is diving into an intensive book tour. On March 5 she made a stop in Jackson for a book reading and presentation with one of her mentors, Pam Houston, author of “Cowboys are My Weakness.” Houston also recently published a memoir, “Deep Creek: Finding Hope in High Country,” about how owning a ranch in southern Colorado has deepened her relationship with herself.
Both books are available at Valley Bookstore, Jackson Hole Book Trader and Healthy Being Cafe and Juicery.