A chronicle of Mike and Julia's adventures creating a home on the Missouri range...

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Designing a village

Mike inspecting the mushroom logs

      It has been raining for weeks now. We went from a winter drought to a spring deluge in short order, and now we are waiting for breaks in the rainfall to leap into action outside and start seeds in the garden, get trees planted, and work on projects. Yet, the dreary weather has been good for two things—the fruiting of our mushroom logs, and sitting around a table with our neighbors to discuss the future direction of our community.

      The future of our community on Frontier Lane has felt like such a massive conversation to attempt to have. Everyone who has moved here has a lot invested in regrouping around a unified vision, post-exodus of the founding couple of our community and several other families who will be dearly missed. The ten of us who are interested in remaining have been excited to discuss ideas about moving forward. But still, there are so many huge moving parts to the equation of a community. What type of community structure will allow us all to thrive together, outside of the mainstream culture, and build upon what everyone has been working so hard to create already? Should we be focusing on economics, perhaps a shared income source? Should we focus on physical structures, like a shared building that could be created to meet everyone’s needs? Or should we think about systems—cooperatives perhaps, for homeschooling children, sharing vehicles, maybe even meals, or for sharing livestock and animal care? Should we be using a tractor or a team of horses? How should internet and electricity fit in? Private property vs. shared property? Should there be an alternative currency? And how many more people do we hope to have join so that there will be just the right number of people without being too many to function relationally altogether? And so on…

    It is a lot to think about, I know, and honestly, given how often intentional communities fall apart, maybe it is a little idealistic even to be trying. But it is also exciting to imagine the possibilities. A blank canvas far larger than the size of a single homestead—a village, a new culture even, a model of sustainability. What we have been discovering so far is that life feels much more fulfilling when it is shared daily with a community of other people. I suspect humans are hardwired for a kind of tribal life that isn’t exactly encouraged in our modern, developed world. (Interestingly, the Amish community is organized by tribes or church communities—fifteen to twenty families in relative proximity to each other make up each church group, and if they grow larger than that, they split into two churches and keep growing.) On the flip side, it has felt overwhelming to Mike and I in the past to try and live in communities where all meals, chores and buildings are shared and there is very little autonomous space or time allocated to be individuals. Striking the right balance feels important. We are therefore giving this process our full effort, hopes, and dreams.

Salvaged building materials taking over the driveway

      I realize that this process requires risking a lot too. We have had to consider what it would be like if we failed as a community and were the last homesteaders on Frontier Lane—not likely, but possible. Still, taking steps forward in uncertain situations is our only chance of realizing the future we want to create: that truly has been the lesson we learned several years ago when Mike and I were faced with an entirely different upheaval possibility. We received a letter in the mail letting us know a high voltage transmission line was slated for essentially our backyard. Truth be told, I think I spent a week curled in fetal position, paralyzed with foreboding, after that letter showed up. After crying on the shoulder of our wise, fierce, elderly neighbor Glinda, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “these things have a way of happening if you keep your head stuck in the sand. It’s time to start organizing”. As reluctant as I was to heed her nudge toward resistance (fetal position is very comfortable, thank you!), we did start organizing as neighbors to confront the proposed line. We connected with more and more people who were also looking for a way to defend their land, and despite the David-vs.-Goliath odds against us, almost three years later (and a heck of a lot of work), this past week an appellate court judge sided with our group against the energy company… No local permission, no line. Hallelujah! Glinda has since passed away after a long fight with cancer, but I suspect she knew how it would all come to pass.

     Buoyed by the good news about the ruling and possibilities of a community to come, we are launching optimistically into spring. Seedlings are emerging, frogs are striking up their chorus, baby red tail hawks are making their little gull cries from the forest—the world is made new again. We are as busy as ever launching into projects, adding more balls to an already full juggling act. We have been salvaging materials off of an old house in town for future projects, working on our kitchen cabinetry, putting on a porch roof, starting a garden shed, and getting our garden going, no small task. Clearly, we aren’t getting anywhere fast with any of these projects, but somehow we manage to slowly keep accomplishing things, along with the usual suspects—dishes, laundry and naps (mostly Caris). On that note actually, I should wind this down and join her since I am getting over a cold (another joy of living in community—shared illnesses!) Happy spring!