This is the sixth in a series of interviews done by Sumner (ex-East Wind member) of former and current members. Here are the others: Macie, Warren, Zan, Jim Adams, and Joston. Cayli was a member of the East Wind community for seven years and talks about appreciations and challenges of community life.
It’s been a difficult more than a year, but perhaps it’s changing now.
The Foundation for Intentional Communities is conducting some research to find out how intentional communities are responding to the Covid pandemic at this time. If you live in a community, they’d love you to fill this out.
Music is often an important part of communal living. Although, I don’t think that Sumner ever says it, at least one of the folks in this band is an East Wind member and I know that, at the time, another was part of the Oran Mor community. Are you up for a road tour?
A little over a week ago, I was on the panel about Urban Communities. Someone I knew from the co-op household scene in the Boston area made a comment that implied that I wanted to turn all the co-ops into income-sharing communities. I think that she was exaggerating for effect, but it was true that she had gone to a talk I had sponsored on how co-ops could become communes. However, I want to be clear, I like co-op houses and I don’t want them to all turn into income-sharing communities.
In fact, I think that all forms of communities are great: communes, co-ops, ecovillages, hybrid models (like Ganas), spiritual communities, even co-housing (which I regard as a toe-in-the-water for many folks who would be otherwise scared of any form of community living). What’s more important is that I don’t think that everyone should live in community. Ironically, two of the folks that I built my first income-sharing community with in the 1990s now live by themselves. I don’t think that everyone is suited for communal living, and the longer that I do it, the more I think that’s true. I envision (and see myself working for) a world with many forms of community–and also, people living by themselves, with partners, with random strangers (if that appeals to them), in nuclear families, in extended families, etc. Diversity is wonderful and I think that the end goal for me is, as I have written here, creating more possibilities. I want to see a world with, not only more communities, but more co-operative and worker-owned and run businesses, and small businesses, family businesses, and cottage industries, and municipally run businesses, and alternative forms of agriculture, energy, and even government. We need many, many alternatives.
So, why am I so focused on communes in this blog? Because I think that communal living is one of the more radical ways to see how change is possible. The Foundation for Intentional Community already covers the wide spectrum of the communities movement. If you want to know more, you should check out their website, which I have already written about in this blog.
My goal here is not that everyone should live in a commune, but that most people should know that they exist, and they actually work, and anyone who is excited about them should be able to try one out and live in a commune if they like. But they can’t do that if they don’t realize that it’s possible. I want to see a world with many alternatives, and have communal living be one.
from the Spring, 2021, Leaves of Twin Oaks newsletter
Photo (clockwise from top left): Acorn, Cambia, LEF, Little Flower (Catholic Worker logo).
If variety is the spice of life, then life is good for community living in Louisa. In addition to Twin Oaks, there are several other intentional communities in the county.
How did these all arise? In early 1967, a supporter of the ideas of Twin Oaks donated the land we now live on—that is why we are located here. In the early 90s, we helped found Acorn, as a way of providing a communal living option for the 25 people on our Waiting List. In 2010, two ex-members founded Living Energy Farm, a fossil-fuel-free farm and community. And within the last 5 years, Cambia has sprung up nearby as well. We’re also connected with Little Flower, a Catholic Worker community that offers radical hospitality and does various anti-poverty, anti-military and anti-oppression activism. All of these communities are within 10 miles of us, and it makes for a great “community of communities”.
The advantages of this inter-connected network are many. Most of the other communities chose to settle here due to proximity to Twin Oaks, in order to take advantage of the social and skill-sharing abilities due to that closeness.
We collectively engage in various cooperative activities, including both work and play. If one community needs a skilled person such as a conflict resolution facilitator, or someone with experience repairing a broken well-pump, they need only look as far as the next community over. In this way we provide mutual aid. We share the work of Acorn’s Southern Exposure Seed Exchange business. We have developed a Labour Exchange Program amongst all the communities. It can be fun to spend time working at another community and sometimes very helpful to take a break from one’s home community, for example following a relationship break-up or similar community stress.
This broader network also provides a larger social pool and increased options for inter-community friendships and relationships. One family was “bi-community” for a few years and eventually settled into the one community that they decided fit them both best. On major community holidays, we provide communal shuttles and send people back-and-forth, so we can celebrate with each other without each person having to take their own vehicle.
And when it comes to membership, each community has its own unique commune “flavor.” If a given visitor interested in communal living isn’t quite the right fit for one community, there are several similar-but-just-different-enough options nearby. It’s also not uncommon for members to move back and forth between communities either as dual-members, or, if they realize they are better suited to another commune, to make a more permanent move over to that one, while still maintaining their existing friendships and connections.
We know that diversity is strength and we are grateful for these diverse communities that share this piece of earth with us.
Twin Oaks: An income-sharing, egalitarian ecovillage of 100 people supporting themselves on 500 acres.
Acorn: A consensus-based community sharing income generated from the sale of heirloom seeds.
Cambia: Focused on co-creating a culture of social sustainability and harmony that nourishes us as well as the earth.
Living Energy Farm: (LEF) A zero-fossil-fuel education center developing sustainable technologies that are accessible to all, regardless of income.
Little Flower: A Catholic Worker homestead that practices hospitality and does resistance work around issues of militarism and social injustice.