Intentional community

We planned a full day at home on Saturday to mill wood, make a hand pump platform, plant some last bulbs in rock gardens…  We just needed to take a quick trip up to the Blue Hill winter farmers’ market to get a few things…

We’re still adjusting to the fact that you usually can’t take a “quick trip” to town.  The farmers’ market is not just about getting food.  It is stopping every few steps, before you even get in the door, to chat with a familiar face about which local play you are going to see, the unseasonably beautiful weather, how impossible it is to get a haircut that at all resembles what you asked for…  This is small town living like I’ve only read about.  Perhaps it will wear on me someday, and I’ll wish to be another anonymous face in the crowd that can more expeditiously pick up my carrots.  But for now it is lovely to feel that belonging, to feel connected to these people who in some strange way we feel we’ve always known.

And it doesn’t stop at the market.  Before we knew it, plans were being made for visitors to come that afternoon.  Previously I despised the thought of spontaneous visits.  It meant going through three floors with 10 rooms and 3 bathrooms to attempt to tidy up what dogs and children and “stuff” had inevitably whirled about.  But this time I came home from the market and realized there was really nothing to tidy!  One floor, one room, one bathroom meant that the house was generally always tidy.  There is not a lot of “stuff” and things are already constantly being put away, mostly to avoid claustrophobia.  It took 15 minutes to do another sweep, wipe down the counters, and put away a bit of laundry.  Nice.

I’d like to also share a bit about these particular visitors because they are an example of why our path and what we’re doing here feels so very “normal,” even if our previous selves would find it so abnormal.  A month ago this couple moved from Washington to settle in Blue Hill and their daughter joined Caden’s kindergarten class.  But that’s just the tip of the story…

The three of them spent a YEAR driving around the country, taking only what would fit in their car, sleeping on yoga mats, in search of that unknown something that would tell them THIS was where they wanted to settle.  Where did they find it?  In this little Maine town called Blue Hill.  And they are not the only ones with a story like this.  Another family was living in North Carolina a decade ago and feeling they needed a change.  They camped up the eastern seaboard in search of a place, a community, that fit them.  Blue Hill.

Most everyone I know here falls into two groups:

  • Many have a story like ours or these others where they were feeling unsettled and dissatisfied, cast a wide net and got caught up on Blue Hill.
  • Others grew up here and then traveled the world to get away from that “everybody knows you” microscope, only to want to come back here to raise their families, often living in family homes or building on family land.

I write about this in an effort to continue to try to explain and understand myself what the pull is here for so many.  I asked the father who was visiting us and he emphatically said that for them it was “the people.”  The people who are so intentionally living and creating something here.  So many of whom built their own houses, not because they were carpenters but because they could ask friends and check books out of the library and just wanted to do this.  And so many of whom are homesteading to some degree, taking ownership of their food and water and waste.  It is a congregating of people who are building purposeful lives and building intentional community.  Of course this is not a community for everyone.  But it is very much the kind of community we wanted.

The visit also included one of their friends from New York City who is hoping to move to this area, who knew the search path his friends had been on and joked that they’d already done all the hard work of finding the perfect place to live so now he just needed to figure out the logistics of the actual move.  But in all seriousness, his family had vacationed in this area, and when his friends said this was where they intended to settle he realized, of course!  His 5-year-old son was a completely different being when they vacationed here, happy and carefree and in his element with nature’s elements and the different pace and rhythm.

We talked about building our own houses, foods we’ve lacto-fermented, cosleeping, making slippers and mittens out of old sweaters, had long conversations about compost toilets…  To many this might seem like a program for some kind of hippy convention.  However, the father is a privacy lawyer who wants to do less lawyering and more living.  Their friend from New York City is an architect who feels that the most wonderful buildings are those freeflowing sort that no architect has a hand in, and who doesn’t want his son to become an architect.  These are highly “successful” people who are finding that some kinds of success can be shallow and stressful and unfulfilling.  All of us had been in search of something more meaningful and purposeful, of people with similar ideals, and our paths were converging on the Blue Hill peninsula.

At the end of our visit, plans were made for the father to come work with Josh on the milling and other projects here.  Because, as their friend remarked, it is surely better to have two people who don’t know what they’re doing than one…

6 thoughts on “Intentional community

  1. I know I just found you here,and now a second comment ;)…but, i feel such synchronicity when i read your posts. My husband and I live in Washington,just movedto Whidbey Island to be part of a smaller more intentional community.Ive been homeschooling my 4 boys till this year while we try out the Waldorf School here, while mama carves out some time to spend mapping out the dream a bit mroe 🙂 We are trying to sell our house and looking to do something around sustainabe building,working with our hands and exit corporate america. I am laughing and loving your post and feeling of connection in these funny things: i brew my own kombucha, my 1st sons name is Soren Maine , named after we quit our jobs and traveled camping for4 months and fell in love with Maine, we make slippers and sweaters,and wee gifts from old sweaters, and are noticing that with every THING we get rid of we are that much happier and slowed down. Ive been so contemplating self sufficiency and community lately…and i loved your post on that too! and the small house clean up..oh my…i get that.we moved from a 4200 sf house we built to sell to an 900 sf one bedroom when our 4th little guy was born and Ilove the 15 minute family clean up at the end of the day!! anyway,sorry to take so much space, but i’m looking blue hill up on the map and looking forward with deep gratitude to you…to the rest of your blog exploring.
    thanks for sharing it with me…

    • I am so very glad you shared this! What parallel living on opposite sides of the country. The funny synchronicities keep going – one of our very good friends here, in Maine, is also named Soren. 🙂 That mapping out the dream does take so much time and focus, doesn’t it… Especially when dreams keep evolving and the map needs updating! Very happy to hear your story, to know you are out there on one of these wild but purposeful paths too. Best of luck and do keep in touch!

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