Soon we will journey to Bill Coperthwaite’s former homestead in Machiasport, Maine, for a gathering of the Dickinsons Reach Community. I’m not finding words to describe how I feel anticipating this, so I’ll share some words written and images taken when we gathered last year, and perhaps you will know….
A Dickinsons Reach Community was forming around twelve families whose feet had walked that trail to Bill many times. Would we circle in? Would we be a part of the conversation of how to continue simple, handmade living after Bill? We found ourselves pausing roof shingling to head back down Dickinsons Reach trail, our children jumping out of the car and down the familiar path before we even had our packs on. Half of those who gathered had hammered next to us during our yurt building. The other half were faces I’d seen at Bill’s burial. All felt familiar, welcoming, and solidly present. The many shelters Bill made here were filled with life again.
For four days we gathered, circling around Bill’s eighteen-month-old grave, sharing our current thoughts about our common mentor. We sat side-by-side in the workshop at the bottom of his home, taking turns talking about what was coming up for us in the world now. We discussed the world of possibilities of this community and this place that had sheltered Bill, his ideals, and the many apprentices along the way. All to the steady subtle sound of blades scraping on wood as Josh, Peter, Rani, Scott, Helen, Mario, and most of the children carved spoons, spatulas, dolls, toilet lids, and more. We cooked and ate meals together. We moved logs together to repair the woodshed together. We canoed together. Children built found-buoy forts together. We learned about hand tools from each other. We squeezed into the round inner sanctum of the guest yurt to sing into the night together. We bushwhack-hiked together, each taking a slightly different route to a stone outcrop overlooking the tidal waters, Dan racing with the children. Somewhere along the way I realized that I’d misunderstood Bill’s passing, that those close to him were not seeds to scatter on the wind. It turns out we were rhizomes, strongly connected even while following our many different paths.
On the last night of this first gathering of a new community, my family crawled into sleeping bags and children wiggled into my arm pillows. Caden mumbled, “You smell like mud,” and then drifted off to sleep. A whippoorwill called. Something, likely a porcupine, scratched the earth nearby. I had not looked into a mirror in three days. I could see more clearly than ever, vibrantly alive and awake, knowing myself, knowing what to do. I sent out a vow to keep focusing on keeping this kind of connection and purpose within, on not going back to sleep in my world. Then I, too, drifted into slumber, wrapped within the forest, within the circle of these shelters and the many heartbeats harmonizing within.