Archive | December, 2010

Community, but…..

27 Dec

I just started reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.  Now, before you lose your mind, and decide that I’m one of those people, let me assure you that the term radical is fully employed here.  Hayes is not advocating for any kind of cloistered, “keep sweet”, silent and supporting-role kind of life for women.  Feminism isn’t just a consideration, but the genesis of Hayes’s thought.   She doesn’t necessarily envision women as the ones to be doing this homemaking.  She’s mostly just uncovering and celebrating a network of people who have decided that Wendell Berry had the right idea – that we should try to make lives that are productive rather than consumptive and that we should focus on being good to people and the earth.  Keeping a really nice home (which to me has never meant anything about size or perfection or whatever) has always been really important to me.  I like to live in a nice place, with delicious food, and traditions, and good vibrations and it’s nice to read about other people who value those things too (and, who aren’t, well, you know, crazy).  People who want to find ways to make a wonderful life for themselves and their families without wrecking the world – even making it better.  Anyway, I digress.

I mention the book because it is bringing up all kinds of interesting ideas for me.  Firstly, it appeals to my growing sense that I want to live in community.  Except when I don’t.  Let me clarify.  I envision a space – sometimes it’s a 6-flat in the city, and sometimes it’s a farm in rural Michigan – where I’m living in a larger group of people with my family.  My family has our own little spot – an apartment or a little house – but there are community spaces too.  Everyone is contributing in their way.  For me, this means a lot of cooking, some creative making of things (for practical purposes and maybe art), taking care of Ida, participating in some kind of radical school co-op, and tending to earth-based projects like gardening or farming (says the girl who has never successfully kept a houseplant alive) tending to livestock, and definitely butchering – which I have never done, but will hopefully start learning soon.  I know I’m going to be awesome at it – the butchering that is.  I envision people to raise kids with, fellow adventurers for Ida, and general support – you know, community.

It’s a beautiful life the way I imagine it.  Everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do.  There are enough people so that no one has to take care of their kids when they’re sick, or do things alone that are easier with other people, or figure hard things out in a vacuum.  Everyone works hard.  Everyone is nice.  Everyone is happy.  Things are fair.  Money is magic.

Except…. what about how I like to sometimes read a book all day and mostly ignore my responsibilities?  Or what about how I do really uncool things sometimes?    Things that I wouldn’t want any of my hip, community friends to know about?  Or what about how I sometimes want to keep shopping at Target?  Or driving my car?  Or ordering pizzas?  Or netflix?  Are you allowed to have netflix in the community?  Even if you’re using it to watch crap tv?  Or what if I still want to celebrate over-the-top-commercial-Santa-loving-Christmas?  And what about those times when I want to be a hermit – not because I don’t love people, but just because I really like being alone?  What if the community people hear me and Nathan fighting… or worse…..?  What about how I only like to share on my own terms?  How I sometimes resent demands on my time or resources?

I don’t know how to negotiate all of this – my desire to live this sort-of utopian fantasy combined with all of my reservations and THEN combined with knowing a little bit about the way that shared efforts can get really ugly?  I really want to live in community, but I sometimes feel like in order to do it, I need to be a totally different person.  She’s someone I really want to be, for sure.  But I’m not her and truthfully, if I really wanted to be her, wouldn’t I be by now?  It’s overwhelming.  But even still, at the end of thinking about all of these things, my brain is still scheming…. still imagining my little shed where I’ll smoke meat (or, my little Chicago back-porch), Ida running around with other children, finally feeling like I have enough people to cook for, helping teach, helping grow, just plain helping.  Making something beautiful out of my little life – contributing to something rare and special.  Anyway, I digress…