Hello friends. Been a minute—I’ve been writing elsewhere, about topics a little more personal. Relationships. Boundaries. Exploration. I’ve neglected this blog, somewhat outward focused as it is, to focus on internal work. I am a student now, too, back for what might become another undergraduate degree. I am working my way slowly and inattentively through an Environmental Studies program here in the PNW. College the second time around is much less stressful than the first time, but the subject matter has kept me more or less engaged. I care less about grades, and have mostly figured out all of the “adulting” that makes parts of college so difficult when one is 19.
My lack of writing here doesn’t mean that the topics that brought me to start this blog have disappeared from my consciousness. Indeed, I spend much mental energy considering my future and the future of others in the developed world, who have so much farther to fall. It is for that reason that I am evaluating my present lifestyle.
I am a condo-dwelling suburbanite at present, a stone’s throw from a major city that I drive into regularly. Urban life holds powerful appeal for me—most of my social life and connections are in the city, not on campus, which is a rural half hour drive in the opposite direction. Concentrations of people tend to bring liberal and progressive political views, culture, art, and the ability to meet and converse with a wide spectrum of people very interested in my own passions. In terms of social sustainability and health, I am thriving here—growing and learning about myself and others, enjoying the company of eclectic folks, and meeting my needs for connection, contact, and friendship with a vigorous abundance.
The corollary to urban/suburban life, at least for me, is that I find it hard to live sustainably in other ways. I must drive most places and there’s nowhere here for me to grow even a tiny fraction of what I might consume. I’m highly dependent on the grid—everything in my apartment is electric—and limited in how I might reduce my impact. The convenience of urban life is also the temptation of urban life—I am highly, highly dependent on Amazon delivery, far more than I have any reasonable need to be.
In an effort to explore ways I might move my life in a more sustainable, holistic direction, I drove down to Lost Valley, an intentional community in Eugene Oregon, to spend several days in the company of about 30 people living a very different lifestyle. I visited for three nights and four days, and in that short time, I witnessed what I believe to be a normal work week/weekend.
I spent Friday morning helping a work party clean up branches and fallen trees from a recent snow storm that caused significant damage on the property. I worked a ten hour day on Saturday, starting with gardening in the morning and followed by an afternoon of culling ducks (those who followed my other blog, Grey Odyssey, won’t be surprised by my ability to participate in the realities of farm life without hesitation).
I ate with the community, took a look at a variety of accommodations they have on site, walked around in the woods (appreciated the stellar clarity of the night sky far away from city lights), and conversed with several of the residents at some length.
There is a magic in that slow life, that shared life—a magic many of our ancestors knew, generations back, when most people lived in small villages and never left. I brought my dog with me to this community and she felt the magic—the difference in how relaxed and happy she seemed was striking, though how much of that is a reflection of my own mental state is hard to say.
Lost Valley is multi-generational, growing, energized. They are a community in transition—but how many of us aren’t? And they’re realistic, despite the road sign at the entrance encouraging motorists to “Slow—Faerie Children at Play.” It isn’t easy to live on the land, to work the land. It isn’t easy to live with other people in such proximity, working to shed the toxicity and unconscious patterns we all grow up with, born as we are into a culture so hyper-focused on free-market capitalism and violence. I asked some of my hosts to convince me not to move there—to scare me off. They did their best.
I don’t know what the future holds, for me, for anyone—not for sure. But I know that this box-dweller life, satisfying and rich as it has become in many ways, is not an end goal for me. Each time I dip into my primordial past, I become eager to visit again. Nine months in the woods wasn’t enough, and in many ways just peeking around tree trunks and through leaves is not enough. Could I immerse myself in such a life? Are the sacrifices in modern convenience worth it? If I answer “no” to those questions or other, similar ones, am I an utter sham, a hypocrite with these values I am unwilling to embody?