Riding Out the Apocalypse

It was mid-May and by then the extent of the pandemic was apparent. Having had success in writing my post on the difficulties with starting communes, I thought I would try to write something that would attract folks. I thought about my guilt in being in such a perfect situation for this difficult time and wrote about it. It reached 685 people (more than I had ever gotten before) and got 24 comments, so I guess it “touched a nerve” as they say. Here’s what I wrote:

Here are the comments. I can’t really put them in chronological order because Facebook keeps moving the order around, but I will try to put them in an order that I think makes sense. I will start with some comments that I answered:

And one that the writer answered themself:

Then there was a back and forth between Audrey Bochantin and Cicada Musselman:

And James Buchanan’s questions about starting a community, with several folks answering:

And Aurora DeMarco’s comment on conflict as a deterrent:

There were a bunch of general, affirming comments

Finally, there is this long thread:

Riding Out the Apocalypse

Communes as Places of Refuge

by Raven Glomus

I already had the idea for this post when I received the email from the Foundation for Intentional Community.  The email was entitled, “Thinking of joining or starting a community during the pandemic?” It goes on to say, “In the weeks since the pandemic, we have seen a sharp uptick in people searching for ‘off-grid communities with openings 2020.’ Dealing with uncertainty and isolation, more and more people are planning for how they want to change their lives once it’s possible to move again. Suddenly, community and resiliency are top priorities.”

I have been telling far away friends that I live in a bubble here.  While we hear about the horrors of the coronavirus, we seldom go off of our farm and I live with eight other great people and we are all still working very hard doing the work that each of us wants to do.  In many ways, we are some of the least affected people during this pandemic.

It’s something that I would wish for everyone and, if that FIC email is any indication, there are definitely folks that are realizing that it is possible.  Unfortunately, as much as some people might love to join a commune right about now, none of the communes (including Glomus) want to see anyone at this time.  Twin Oaks and Acorn have reported folks trying to enter the property to join and they promptly chased them off. Communes don’t like unannounced visitors in the best of times, and absolutely don’t want anyone showing up now.

Sign at Twin Oaks

However, I don’t believe that this pandemic will last forever.  The communes will open up again to people willing to pursue the proper membership procedures.  Of course, some people may see communal living as less desirable once the pandemic is over. However, I think that this is very short sighted. 

With climate change increasing, with an ever more connected world, and with some very conservative folks in office who are willing to do increasingly more manipulative things to stay in office (look at the Wisconsin primary and the large number of other voter suppression and gerrymandering tactics being used), I believe that there will be more unpleasant situations ahead.  Living in a commune can’t absolutely protect you from all of them, but it can provide a buffer from some and it means whatever needs to be faced next, you will not need to face it alone.

The main house at Glomus in winter–or perhaps in a spring snow

The FIC letter suggests (and I agree) that this is an excellent time to study and search for what you want.  There are a lot of resources out there. The FIC website (ic.org) is an excellent place to begin, as is the FEC website (thefec.org).  Look through Commune Life. In the right hand corner above is a stack of three bars. Click on it and there will be a list of categories, including articles on many communities (warning: several are now defunct) as well as over forty different communal living subjects at the end under ‘What Else’.  Really read up on all the aspects of communal living. Figure out what you want. It might not be an income sharing community. If it is some other type of community, ic.org is definitely the place to begin.

The most popular post on Commune Life is something that I wrote called “How to Start a Commune,” followed by my article “Four Steps to Building a Commune” and Paxus’s “So you want to start a community”.  Lots of folks dream about starting a commune. As someone who has done just that (a couple of times) I would actually advise against it. It’s hard work and very often doesn’t last long. I strongly suggest that you find a community that appeals to you (at least somewhat) and join them, at least for a while.  After you have had a good period of communal living and you know several other folks that share your dreams, then you might want to give it a go.

Meanwhile, when the next big crisis comes along, you will be with others and won’t have to face it alone.  So, start now, searching and researching, and when the pandemic has died down and communities have reopened membership inquiries,  contact them and visit. Do it while you can. You don’t want to be caught dreaming about communal living, when the next time comes and there is no opportunity to join one.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Compersia Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda Schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman 
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Suzi Tortora
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Communes as Places of Refuge

The Gifts of Being Sick in Community

by Audrée Morin

I was freshly arrived at Twin Oaks, the community I had been hearing so much about for the last seven months. I had heard about it for the first time at Ecovillage Pathways, in June. Even though I felt like I had just left Quebec City and just started my north-east winter communities tour, I had already been on the road for two months, I had already visited more or less 12 communities, and I could smell the end of the tour coming.

The tour was finishing at its most exciting part: this was the 52-year-old community, home to 100 people who don’t need to work outside of the community, the one that founded the Federation for Egalitarian Communities, a farm in the woods where every hour of work is worth the same, the community that sprouted more or less 5 other communities in the area creating a buzzing communities hub.

I felt soooo excited to jump into my 3-week visitor program.  I would have multiple hours of explanations about how this successful long-lasting community functions (which might sound boring to some people, but for the community nerd that I am, it sounded exciting). I was ready to take part in the life of this community at 110% intensity; I was eager to work a diversity of jobs, to give back to this generous community that was welcoming me, housing and feeding me for almost nothing, and teaching me about my passion. I was all in to learn as much as possible and to get to know people.

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Between the trees is the hammock where I rested when I was sick

But… my body had a different story in mind. The week before, I had started getting a cold.  I tried to take care of myself with a bunch of teas and decoctions that my herbalist and friends taught me, which typically works great….. if I do the one thing everyone knows is necessary to heal: rest (and drink a crazy amount of water). But with the same enthusiasm and eagerness I had for Twin Oaks, I had decided to go to the song circle in Woodfolk house of song, which I had also been hearing about for months and was one of my highlight bucket list items in this region.

Big mistake! The cold mischievously turned into a bad sinus infection, which pretty much started the day I arrived at Twin Oaks. I was able to be in denial for the first days, napping for 10 minutes in between my work shifts and thinking that would be enough rest, but by the fourth day, I realized that I was probably not going to heal without complete days of rest and antibiotics. I had sinus infections every winter for the last 5 years: I knew what to expect.

I knew I would have to go to a doctor and pay for it because I had decided not to get medical insurance. I knew I would have to get those darn antibiotics and destroy my poor microbiome that I had put so much efforts (and money) in reconstructing for the last 6 months. And, the worst part…… I knew I would have to not work for 2 days.

Normally, when I have to take days off from work to heal, I feel lucky and I am happy to take them. But here, work is so meaningful: I wanted to contribute and learn. Just imagining missing my work shifts was giving me anxiety. “I won’t get to know anyone and I will be alone for the rest of my visitor period!” “People will see me as a lazy parasite who eats their food, sleeps in their bed and doesn’t work!” “I wanted to get practice gardening and making hammocks and doing tofu and working with orchards and bees! I will learn nothing if I sleep all day and don’t meet people!” and so on…

I ended up crying in multiple people’s arms that morning, as they asked me how I was doing, and I couldn’t help but answer: “afraid and discouraged”. All of them reminded me of a wonderful feature of the culture here: Twin Oaks strongly considers that when you are sick, your job is to take care of yourself and rest. Resting counts as labor (the community is based on a labor credits system), and it is what you are expected to do. The visitor guide mentions: “Please don’t try to work when you’re sick: it sends the wrong message about you (…)”.  

As obvious as it is when others are sick and I advise them to take a day of rest, this was the hardest thing to do for myself.  It took me a couple of hugs, until I finally accepted the reality, wrote a little paper note on the “today board” asking to cover my tofu shift, and started the process of finding how to see a doctor without spending a fortune.

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The Today Board

I went to the “shtetl” (everything has cool-hard-to-spell names here), a space with four couches in a communal building, and asked around if someone knew where to go. It was so heartwarming to hear half a dozen people brainstorm together, with everyone coming up with ideas: one person thinking of calling my doctor in Canada and asking to fax a prescription to the pharmacy, others trying to orient me to the United States medical system, and remembering places where people without insurance can go (the community provides full coverage health insurance).

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The Shtetl

Someone thought of a Dr. Shwartz but didn’t know if he was retired. Someone remembered that they had an appointment with him five months ago, and a third person managed to find his number on the health board. Dr. Shwartz had lived 10 years at Twin Oaks, and was known to be a high integrity doctor who doesn’t order useless tests.

I walked over to a place with a landline and made two phone calls: while my doctor in Canada said it was out of question to fax a prescription without a consultation, Dr. Shwartz agreed to see me the same day, if I was able to get there in 20 minutes. I was saved!

The internet was not working, and I didn’t know how to get there, but a nice Twin Oaker gave me the directions. I felt unsure driving to a place without having seen a map of the road on Internet first, but I did it anyway, and it worked. I found the place, without problems.

I got my appointment, the nurse was the nicest nurse I had ever seen, and the first thing the doctor told me, before talking about antibiotics, is that I should take licorice root to support my adrenal glands for my low blood pressure. He answered my concerns about my asthma medication with research-based explanations, and prescribed me another kind because, he told me, with the first kind, more people die.

Of course, I got my antibiotic prescription. The price ended up being really low (68$ for those who like quantification), and he gifted me a whole bottle of licorice root pills! What doctor gives free and natural remedies to his patients? One who has lived in community for ten years apparently.

Back at Twin Oaks, another resident offered me the use of his south facing room because he would be away for three days. His room was in a newer building with better air quality than the visitors’ building. Thanks to him and his humidifier, my lungs had a little break.

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Kaweah, the house where I stayed when I was sick

I ended up spending two days resting on his couch. No one made me feel guilty about not working, and people took news of my health when I went to lunch and dinner. I didn’t have to worry about cooking, because it is labor creditable, which means that all meals are communal (but never mandatory) and taken care of by the team assigned to cook. We just need to show up on time, and choose between the diverse options of delicious food, for the most part grown by the community itself.

With that setup, I felt safe, supported and taken care of, almost like when I was a kid and I had my mom to take care of me. It felt so good to know that I was not left alone to take care of myself.

Being sick takes time, with all the teas, tinctures, pills, inhalers and sinus rinsing, and it also requires resting, so having meals and dishes taken care of and feeling the support of the community really made a difference. I have healed now, and I don’t wish to be sick again, but I am grateful for this vulnerability episode that allowed me to experience a new unexpected manifestation of the power of community.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

The Gifts of Being Sick in Community

Communities Conference Workshops

Here is the workshop and partial presentation schedule for the upcoming Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  The below links are to blog posts on these elements.  There is a posted full program (with short descriptions for every workshop are in the newly published program).  

big-meal
Cambia lunch

Saturday September 1st

9:30 to noon

1:30 to 3 PM

4 to 5:30 PM

Sunday September 2

9:30 to 11

There is still time to register for this amazing event.  Twin Oaks Community is hosting this event in central Virginia Aug 31st thru Sept 2.  There is also great Labor Day (Sept 3) program at Cambia Community, less than one mile from the Twin Oaks Conference site.

TO 50 group shot
Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary – Circa 2017

Communities Conference Workshops

Seeking and Finding Community

By Courtney Dowe

 

( An excerpt from the forthcoming novel “ OVERTHROW YOURSELF”)

 

When I decided to leave Washington DC to check out an intentional community in Puerto Rico, it wasn’t because I knew that it would “work out”. The idea that something has to last forever in order to “work out” has never really made much sense to me. By that rationale, any human being that has come to the end of their life should be considered a failure. If I live to be 90 years old, and someone standing next to my death bed says “ I guess it just didn’t work out.” I hope I still have enough strength left to flip them the bird.

Anyway, I went to Puerto Rico because I knew that I was not prepared to sacrifice all of my dreams, for the sake of motherhood. I knew that I had to at least try to build a life that I could love. I knew that I needed to see what was possible, and most importantly, I knew that I couldn’t live in fear just because I had a child. If anything, I needed to be more willing to take a leap. For the first time, there was more than just my own happiness at stake. There was a new life that was counting on me to take a huge running leap toward personal liberation and to land as far as I could.

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I had been talking with a land-based community on the island for some time before I decided to actually go there. I sent them an email about a year before I heard anything back. Once we did connect, I had regular phone conversations with the man who started the project for about 6 months before I finally decided to get on a plane with my child and fly into the unknown. We were headed for the rainforest. The only rainforest in the U.S. National Park system to be exact.

When I remember the rainforest, I think of the sounds. A vast biological jam-session that never stops. I remember frog-like creatures hanging out in the ice-maker and tiny lizards crawling across the living room floor. One night a baby scorpion even decided to stop by. Gratefully, we found it before it found us.

The community was basically just a small family. Two parents and their child. They were very kind but they were under a lot of financial strain and I think that heavily impacted the way they engaged with us. We stayed with them  for about 2 weeks and then I realized that we were not going to be able to get past the stress of survival enough to be honest with each other, enough to be able to work together, enough to see ourselves as being on the same side and in the same fight. Without getting too much into the details, I decided to leave.

Soon thereafter, a friend of mine living in community in the DC area reached out to me unexpectedly. I tried to join the community where he lived a couple of years before, it didn’t work out but we remained friends. He told me that there was a new income sharing community that was forming in Washington DC.  I reached out to them immediately, but I had to let them know that I was not in a position to fully engage right away.  I was trying to get my bearings and I wasn’t going to be able to focus on getting to know them from a distance until I figured out some basics for my everyday life.  They understood and so when I finally did settle into my own place, I decided to reach out to them again. We started talking on a regular basis. They had Tuesday night meetings and I would often attend via satellite through some kind of chat program. The meetings were unexpectedly encouraging. The people in the group were interesting,and they not only tolerated my direct style of communication, they actually seemed to like it. I figured I should continue to give it a shot.

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I will ruin the suspense for you here because wondering whether or not I would become a member of the DC commune was intensely emotional for me. Everyone was supportive and kind for the most part, it just took me back to my days as a child in foster care, when I wondered whether or not I would ever find a family and a sense of belonging. As I write this I’m laying here in my bedroom, in the house in Washington DC that I share with five adults and four children. My son and I are full members of Compersia Community.

Every day’s an adventure, even without leaving the house. I believe that we are all mirrors for each other, not just in the commune, but with people in general. As we reflect and as we are reflected, we sometimes see more of ourselves than we expect or want to see. Anyone who’s ever seen themselves, first thing in the morning understands that a mirror is not always your friend, but it can always tell you something.

The love between members of any community is hard to describe. There are days when I stand back and marvel at the miracle of human connection. But, to clarify, and to make sure that I’m not misrepresenting reality, for anyone who has ever thought about joining an intentional community, on a lot of levels it sucks. There are a ton of things that are really hard about living with even one other adult, let alone 5 adults and 4 children. Every single day I have to push through something in order to be in harmony with the larger environment. I have to grow. I have to stretch a little more beyond myself, in order to rise to the occasion at hand. That said, there is still something deliciously ordinary about having dinner around the table, putting out the plates and forks, and listening to the sound of someone practicing an instrument while the kids run around doing whatever it is that kids do. Someone is coming home from work and someone is just leaving. Someone is feeling deeply connected and someone else is feeling terribly alone, and all of it, every single sweet sacred part of it, is love.

Courtney Dowe is a member of Compersia Community in Washington, DC.

Seeking and Finding Community