|When a deep sense of joy and gratitude
wells up in me for the good things that simplicity has brought, I wonder what it would be
like to share them in a community. Surely, I muse, there must be other people who are
trying to live like us who have discovered new attitudes and skills and who piece-by-piece
are making a new life.But I am no starry-eyed utopian after all these years in the forest. A
desire for simple living is one of the foundations for such a community, but only one. We
would need to share much on every level: psychological, intellectual and spiritual. We
would have to be a family in the spirit before we could become one in the flesh and bones
of homes and gardens.
Here's how I imagine it would be. My dream journal would read:
June 4th. We finally found the land! 80 acres of woods and fields with a tiny stream. Our new home for all 32 of us, from a 3-month-old baby to an 85year-old grandfather. There is enough room for the 7 bioshelters, a communal meeting hall and workshop. And we bought it outright.
June 10th. Yesterday we arrived on the land. A long caravan of trucks, cars and trailers raising dust on the little dirt road. Tents went up and the air filled with excitement.June 11th. This morning everyone gathered in the field. The energy was electric. A short prayer and we were off. We had been planning the construction of the community for months, and everyone knew what he was supposed to do. The wood crew had already selected the trees to be cut and the skid paths for the logs. They practically sprinted to the woods. Within 20 minutes we heard the hornet drone of their chain saws. The backhoe we had leased has its work cut out for it. In the hands of a real artist it is sculpting out the house sites. Shortly before noon the team of horses came out of the woods pulling the first load of foundation poles. Everyone gave a cheer and the treatment crew started to peel them.
June 15th. For days it has been a madhouse. The lumber crew has the portable mill set up and its whining goes on from dawn to dusk. Most of the framing is going in green, but they are setting up a solar kiln to dry the interior boards. The cooks are insisting that everyone come to lunch and dinner and sit still long enough to finish their meals. The backhoe is in demand for three jobs at once. Most of the house sites are done but the holes for the poles still have to be done. They are using it, too, for lifting some of the heavy logs and all the children keep on pestering us about how important it is to have the pond for swimming when the day's work is over.June 18th. The gardening crew has started planting the common field with wheat, soy beans and corn using early maturers because they are still not quite sure how long the season will be and they are getting a late start. Then they are going to begin laying out the orchard. None of us could believe how fast everything is going. Finally we have all the skills, equipment and man, woman and child power together in the same place.
There is a nice blend of the private and communal in the work schedule. I think our decision that each family will have title to its own piece of land and will have its own bioshelter, garden and wood lot was a good one. We have to keep the basics in our own hands. That seems the best way to respect our differences. But the communal is safe-guarded, as well. We have nestled all the bioshelters in the hills that surround the valley, but the whole valley is common land with the best growing areas, the orchard, the stream and pond and the communal center, and if anyone ever leaves they sell back to the community.
August 7th. People are actually moving in! The heavy timber framing is completed and the living quarters have been planked over. The women say a shell of a building is a lot better than those tents. The fields are green. Thank heavens for the pond. The children have been working almost as hard as we have, but they need to get away and play. Quite a noise with 15 kids splashing and yelling.
August 20th. The main framing crew has moved down to the meadow to start on the community center. They spent a couple of hours this morning revising the plans to include some beautiful beams that they had cut. The work has been flowing back and forth nicely between the communal projects and the family dwellings. I am glad we have decided to keep it that way after the main work is done. It would be a shame if we lost the spirit we have developed working together. One day a week with everybody out there working on a common project will be something to look forward to.
Sept. 20th. Harvest time is fun. The yield has been good, though the gardening crew says it hasn't had time to do anything about the soil. Everyone's snug in their homes, and a lot of energy is going into the greenhouses so we can all have winter gardens. It got a little chilly last night, and it was strange not to smell any wood smoke. The big fish tanks seem to be working well as heat storage. No problem with firewood this year, though I don't know how much we'll need. All the scrap from the logging and building has already been stacked. The community center is enclosed and some of the craftsmen have been setting up their own shops. We plan to do most of the furnishing of the homes with their work. We have a furniture maker, a weaver, a potter, and a blacksmith. There's a big commotion outside. The van has come back from town. The solar panels must have arrived!
Oct. 12th. There are actually a couple of guests roughing it in the community center. The whole visiting and membership scene has been a hard one to deal with. We finally decided to hold the line where we are. Too many people would cause us to lose the family feeling. As the work has been slacking off the get-togethers have been increasing. It's enough to do to really keep track of what everyone is doing. What we will do is try to help people get together and start their own communities. We are going to have to limit the number of guests, as well. Hate to do it, but between friends, relatives, seekers and wanderers, we could easily be outnumbered and forget what we are here for.
Oct. 20th. We completed the chapel in 8 days if we don't count site preparation and making the materials. It's going to be beautiful once the interior work is done, and the view is fantastic, perched on our highest hill and looking over the forest on the other side of the valley.
May 5th. The winter went by so quickly. I can hardly believe they are preparing the fields for planting. There have been the usual ups and downs, but the community spirit has been great. Home school has evolved. Each day all the children work on their own lessons, but they spend even more time on projects they do together. Three of them are studying French with our painter who spent years in Paris. Others have apprenticed themselves out to some of the craftspeople, and the whole group gets together for field trips. Saturday night is movie time. We have a VCR in the community center and with the pop corn and yelling, it feels like the matinees of my childhood.
Our chief gardeners and the craftspeople have gotten together and set up a booth at the weekly market. They should do well during the summer if the first few times are any indication.
May 23rd. This morning I went out at dawn and looked down on our peaceful valley. I needed some special quiet time to reflect on what we had accomplished and to think of the future. This afternoon we have the first big meeting to plan for our center that will combine orthomolecular medicine, Jungian psychology and spiritual growth. Our work is really just beginning...
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