For some time I've been considering communal living. I have tried so many living arrangements - roommates, marriages, single motherhood, living with my parents and grandparents (as a child of course), with boyfriends, with boyfriends and roommates....that's pretty much all the modern ways to live and none satisfactory in that each situation was an endeavor to just get by.
I mean, some had better perks than others. Dwelling in a gorgeous old world flat in one of the prettiest towns in Germany, as the dependent of a former boyfriend was choice. It was a damn shame he turned out to be a sociopath, because the situation was otherwise perfect.
Raising my family in a faltering marriage had many up moments between the searing emotional pain of spousal rejection - I mean kids are amazing, and there are few things more satisfying or amusing (or exhausting) than helping them grow.
I've had fun with roommates as well; but as rents rocket past actual wages and you have to pay as much or more now to live with the quirks and peccadilloes of another person (or persons) as you used to have to pay for the luxury of private space (or a mortgage!), just to keep a roof over your head - it goads a person to consider all the options.
Add to that the global demand that we all start consuming less - starting yesterday - OR ELSE! - and communal living, or living in a commune (gasp) starts to sound better and better.
So I went looking for them. At first they were surprisingly not easy to google. I forget the first phrases I tried but whatever they were, they failed to produce anything like a comprehensive list - more along the lines of scholarly essays and lectures on the pros and cons of communal living in the 60s and 70s no less.
Finally, after coming back to it a few times, and after asking around a lot - I entered the correct phrasing into the google bar and up popped www.ic.org. The "IC" stands for "Intentional Communities." and it's an amazing list of both existing communes and aspiring groups.
There's even a detailed search feature that lets the user pick and choose incredibly specific criteria, i.e. the percentage of children allowed, various financial structures and rules of government, in addition to settings (urban, rural, suburban?).
I spent several hours in the site looking at places (and prospective places) from as close as the town I'm living in to as far away as Portland, OR. After some trial and error with the search feature, I happened on D Acres in Dorchester, New Hampshire - only two hours from where I live now.
D Acres is a working organic farm that serves also as a teaching facility both to the town and visiting interns from around the globe. They teach not only sustainable farming techniques, but carpentry, organic vegetarian cooking and if I'm reading them correctly animal husbandry - or maybe that's a workshop - of which they have an ongoing variety for townies and tourists alike, including: yoga, writing, painting etc. I particularly appreciated the disclaimer (after my own heart) that "No one will be turned away from a workshop for inability to pay."
The main house is straw bale and there are several outbuildings that serve as summer quarters for the rotation of seasonal farm workers. They also have camping space, or cheap space in dorms or on floors around the property.
Additionally, they hold a series of regular gatherings meant to foster community and perhaps bring in a little money for the homestead. They continually strive for ways to keep the workers working at the farm rather than having to subsidize by commuting elsewhere. For instance, they sell vegetables and baked goods at two weekly all-season farmer's markets. I believe they also sell fine restored and new furniture.
So lucky me, they need a KM (Kitchen Manager). Of course I wrote them impulsively without thought to my current situations, including a lease until September, along with my partner and two cats. I fired off a sassy letter listing the many reasons I'd be perfect for the job while humbly confessing a few of my quirks to keep it real.
I have no idea how they'll react. It appears I come across like a jump in an icy swim-hole* to some people and it's always interesting to discover whether their perspective is from a hot day or a warm bed.
My partner was a bit shocked at first, but he's aware of my big dreams and he as much as agreed to stay on at the apartment while I scoped it out - I believe they have a 6 week trial period and I'm not sure I would accept without that so I don't have to torch my life with no return in case it turns out to be a wash.
Meanwhile, I've been day dreaming about caring for their brooding hens, and learning to make pottery, and honing my bread baking skills. I imagine a freezer-full of organic New England berries to make mid-winter blueberry-mollasses gingerbread and the morning's oatmeal in that huge gorgeous kitchen. Not to mention baking in their outdoor cob oven in summertime as I toss a mix of cultivated and wild greens in my extra-large maple-wood salad bowl. And I just know they have the root cellar of my dreams....
I'll admit, it seems a bit too good to be true and it's a giant step that I only hope is in the right direction. As usual I'm ready to jump in feet first before I've even heard back from them. It's just that if the reality is half as good as my fantasy, I may have finally found what I want to be when I grow up.
*imagine the clumsy swim-hole offering you a homemade cookie and a hug on your way out.
"Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia." --Kurt Vonnegut