‘We are a community, a part of a tapestry, to ignore this is a travesty, for without each thread we fall apart.’ – David Rastrick in ‘Community’ on album ‘Rastajazz’
What does community mean to you? Last year I moved into a tent at an intentional community, to see if I could live as a collective with a group of other people. That’s right, I put the ‘tent’ in ‘intentional’. 🙂 It was an expansive and nurturing experience. One of the most difficult things about it was the distance from my workplace. The community worked well for me, but so does my job. I found it a drain of my energy and an uncomfortably high cost in fossil fuel to be commuting an hour every day.
Currently my son and I are house-sitting in town, just a few minutes from his bus stop and my workplace. Having an entire three bedroom house, with a huge backyard, to ourselves seems ridiculously extravagant! Especially after living in the housetruck. It’s costing very little, as we’re caretaking the house and looking after the chickens. We’re in the third month of our stay, and have just a few weeks left to go.
It’s actually the first time in my adult life that I’ve lived in urbanity in my hometown. Before now, I’ve lived in various rural properties here, or other towns & cities. I never thought I’d settle in as a ‘townie’ here, but we’re really enjoying it! My son has formed new friendships, it’s been less of a mission to travel to places on the weekend, my fuel use has been slashed, it’s easier to shop at the farmer’s markets and attend events after school. Although this house is quite central, the street is quiet at night time, it feels safe and has pockets of privacy, and we can see the ocean from the dining table.
So this has shifted my trajectory, my sense of self.
I liked the support, inspiration, opportunity for growth, skill sharing and companionship that came with living in community. I also like the ethics and ease of living in a central location, and traveling less. One day I’d like to combine the two.
To do this, I’ve been talking about creating another community, closer to town. However, it’s quite daunting and definitely a long term project. I’ll need to find land, money, people, financial structures. I’m not currently in a position to buy the land to get started. Where do I start? Should I shelve the idea and just struggle on alone until the stars align?
Hugh Mackay thinks not. In his book, ‘The Art of Belonging: It’s not where you live, it’s how you live’, he argues that ‘the idea of the village can be realised wherever you live. However urbanised your situation, it’s usually possible to create a spirit of community.’ This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t dream about and plan for our ideal community set-up. Rather, we don’t have to defer or deny our desire to live a connected life. ”Home’ is a far richer and complex concept than the house or street you live in. In the end, it’s more about the people than the place; more about belonging than acquiring; more about engaging than cocooning.’
Becca Piastrelli from The Dabblist talks about what she did to create her dream community. And she didn’t walk into a ready-made, obvious community. She cultivated what she wanted in her life.
As I prepare to immerse myself in the Australian permaculture community at the 13th Australasian Permaculture Convergence in Perth, I’m exploring the possibilities of nourishing human connections. How to surround yourself with support, validation, friendship and the spark of new ideas, no matter where you live. One of the courses I’ve signed up for is Cecilia Macauley’s ‘Redesign Your Life‘, where she talks about applying permaculture principles to your whole life to create more joy, connection and simplicity. She mentioned ‘creating an ecosystem of mates and supporters’. Interesting!
Strong, cohesive communities can be created in neighbourhoods, by knocking on your neighbour’s doors and organising local events. They can be cultivated with people who share similar passions and interests, like the darning night I took my son to last month. They can be supported through organisations like the local community garden (mine is holding a produce swap and catch up tomorrow morning). They can be found online, in groups, webpages and forums. They can be formed very deliberately by setting up a common living space with people you share values with. They can be nurtured by performing acts of kindness for strangers, volunteering or supporting a worthy cause.
I’m looking forward to creating new inspiring connections in Perth next week, learning new things, and coming home to make the next step in my journey: putting my tent up again for summer! Yay! Communities can be created. Do you live in your ideal community? How did you get there? If you don’t, how would you like to live? What do you do to engage with the people around you?