Thursday, June 4, 2009

C is for Commune

When I was younger, I thought of happiness as something I was perpetually catching and losing, like chasing a butterfly with a shoddy net. It would linger in my possession for a moment, all bright and coy and intricate, before inevitably escaping into nothing. Nostalgia would commence immediately. Having caught it for a moment, I knew that it was possible to catch it again. But its memory, though glorious, only underscored its absence.
Happiness has been my axis, the center around which everything in my universe revolves. I want other things as well: accomplishment, love, independence, family; things that can be crudely "measured" by education, relationships, stability. But more than anything, I want to be happy. However the other chips fall into place, so be it.

For me, happiness has been elusive. My friend Aaron said to me once, "I love it when you're happy." I thought it was a really sweet thing to say, a compliment. I love it, too, so why can't I just be that way most of the time? Drives me clinically insane.
But something is happening, and I don't know if it's the bees or the sunshine, but I'm stocking up on shades to protect my delicate eyes from the bright future. (Wacky shades!)

It's not just me, either, my friends have it too: reckless optimism, gumption, a return to the heart of things. Planting gardens. Playing, kid-style. Sharing. Being kind. Working together. We're concocting ways to create the lives we imagine for ourselves. It's infectious. It melts sadness.
This weekend 8 of us were essentially blasted with happiness at Twin Lakes. Bocce tournament. Fireplace cooking, yum. Napping in hammocks. Pontoon boat. We relentlessly performed each funtastic activity with love in our hearts, smiles on our faces, and laughter in our voices.
Of course, the awesomeness of the weekend led to talks about the virtues of life on a commune. (We all read Drop City or The Beach, right? No need to rehash the negatives.)

More fun. More fresh food. More friends. More fulfilling jobs (beekeeper-writer, for example.) More nature. More happiness, I say.
So I've been reading about "Intentional Communities," as communes are called these days. Apparently over 70% of them are religiously affiliated. Our commune's devotion to the playing of lawn and board games would allow members to worship their chosen deity freely. (Thanks for the brilliant suggestion, Alex.) On the IC website, classified ads for individuals seeking communes (and vice versa) allow people to clarify specifics like "no drugs" or "must sleep in a tent."

I find this slightly impersonal/creepy, although I understand the need for it. However, our commune would consist of a base group of people with established relationships: "the core." When a core member nominates a candidate for membership, that person does a trial run at the commune, like the overnight jail stay for misanthropic teenagers in Scared Straight. If the candidate decides to join, the candidate is automatically admitted, no questions asked. The core members, therefore, must seriously consider a candidate's potential fit. There should be something of a collective mind at work in these cases. A trust in one's neighbor.

Crayon-cloaked core member, Cowboy Cole

We would each work on the commune, keeping bees, raising chickens, growing fruits and veggies, cooking, building, fixing... we'd divide the responsibilities, you get the idea. Each of us could also work in "the real world," whether that meant working in a Manhattan office or selling honey and produce at the Greenmarket. Artists, writers, professors... we would individually choose the extent to which we participated in society. I'm thinking that the occasional couch-surfing, power weekend in the city would do a body good. But hey, that's me. I'm a country girl at heart.

We couldn't escape it this weekend; it was as if happiness wanted to exist in our lives, begged us to let it in. We accepted graciously. No pursuit. No grasping at nothing. No languishing.

"I just want to be filled up a little more with what exists,/tipped toward the laughter which understands/I'm nothing and all there is."
-from the poem Choosing to Think of It by Stephen Dunn


  1. No buts about it!
    My role is sign painter.

  2. Awesome. Start thinking of the "Honey" sign early...

  3. AnonymousJune 08, 2009

    You are a very talented writer with a unique voice. I will def be back. Keep it up! -Dustin