Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reflections by Keith at One Year

Exactly one year ago today---on October 30th, 2009---we woke up in our rig after spending the night in our friend David's driveway, said goodbye and began a journey whose length and breadth we could not predict. Having sold our house and most of our things, quit our jobs, and made the radical decision to hit the open road in search of intentional community and (excellent) adventure, we left our beloved New England for points unknown.

Not several weeks after our departure, our aforementioned friend David took his own life, and an unplanned return to Massachusetts for his funeral threw a temporary wrench into our travels---and our hearts---as we processed the grief and loss that his passing engendered.

Recovering from David's sudden and unexpected death, we continued our descent down the East Coast, visiting friends, family, and intentional communities whose missions or values spoke to us.

For me, this East Coast sojourn was like a long goodbye after 45 years of living along the Atlantic, and my heart continued to open to the West once we took that right-hand turn in northern Florida. We meandered through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and there were BBQ's, communities, serendipitous meetings, Laughter Yoga, camping adventures, and all sorts of events along the way.

It was a wild ride, and I must honestly share that even though we were very road weary and ready for a break once we returned to New Mexico following our visit to the Grand Canyon for Mothers' Day weekend, the transition to a place-based life was indeed difficult for me. After so many miles and so much forward momentum, our screeching halt in Santa Fe---although necessary on many fronts---gave me pause as well as a short-term bout of depression.

Now, after five months living at The Commons on the Alameda Cohousing Community and making the most of life in Santa Fe, I see clearly how we all needed this break, and that living only 90 miles from our beloved son and daughter-in-law is sweet and lovely.

We left Western Massachusetts in search of community, with a deep desire for a sense of belonging and sustainable living. Here at The Commons we have fulfilled that longing, and we have immersed ourselves headlong into the life of the community, making the most of our time. We honestly have no idea how long we will stay at The Commons or in Santa Fe, and while we would like to find our "forever home", I'm not convinced that that concept truly applies to us.

One year ago, we took a giant leap of faith into the void, with eight wheels between us and the road that opened up before and beneath us. That road has treated us well, and even though we're now in one place (for however long it lasts), my "traveler's mind" is active, intact, and still brimming with curiosity. Although I love many things about where we are and who we're with, I still feel like I'm traveling, and those 10,000 miles have not really assuaged my itch to further explore the world around us.

There's no predicting where we'll be in another year, but I have no doubt that it will be rich with community, adventure, beauty, and possibility.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Joys of Community Living

When we set out on our journey on October 30th of last year, our intention was to visit sustainable and intentional communities around the country and find one where we might be able to create either a short-term or long-term life for ourselves and Tina.

Now that we're here at The Commons on the Alameda, we are dedicating ourselves to life in this community for however long our stay turns out to be, which will be at least until the end of March. Reluctant to make a long-term commitment, renting a little studio "casita" gives us a cozy little home, a place to rest our heads, and 79 other people with whom we have frequent opportunities to interact.

The Commons is a cohousing community, so it is like an intentional neighborhood that was designed by the original families to be a safe pedestrian village wherein children and adults could live a community oriented life while maintaining a large degree of personal autonomy. And to this end, The Commons has been wildly successful.

Socially, we are lucky to have two opportunities for inexpensive community meals twice per week, and these meals provide us with the chance to break bread with neighbors over homemade food, and it is a weekly ritual that many of us are loathe to miss. Some residents are very popular chefs, so when certain people are on the schedule to cook dinner, you can be sure that the tables will be packed! So, for anywhere from $4 to $7 each per meal, we feast with our neighbors and can even take home inexpensive leftovers for the next day if the food really strikes our fancy.

While organized parties are few and far between (at least since we moved in), we did recently celebrate the annual harvest celebration here at The Commons, and participating in that 19th annual party was a treat. Also, various Commoners frequently host movie nights, sing-alongs, and other gatherings that bring some of us together. (Tonight, a group of us watched "Vitus", a sweet Swiss film that we heartily recommend).

Living in community also gives us the wherewithal to make our needs known and have them fulfilled without participating in the conspicuous consumption that makes American life so expensive and unsustainable. When we need to borrow a tool or a cooking implement, we simply send out an email or stop by the community kitchen or tool shed to see if there's one we can borrow. When I had two flat tires last week and had to send my car to the garage, one email resulted in five offers of cars to borrow so I could get to work. And if one of us was to fall ill or we were to need to community support in a pinch, we have no doubt that it would come through with little effort on our part, and that is a comforting thought.

As far as community processes, we both make time to attend various meetings here at The Commons, including the monthly business meeting, community meeting, parents meeting, and other important gatherings. When we arrived, we immediately saw that the Care and Concern Committee (with only one member) was in need of energy, so we both joined and have initiated a monthly "Heart Circle" where Commoners can come and be heard in a space devoid of judgment, feedback, or problem-solving.

When it comes to kids, that is a very fun aspect of life here. With Mary doing childcare two afternoons each week, many of the kids now see our casita as a place to come for fun and positive adult interaction, and Mary has smartly set up a shelf at kids' eye level that is covered with various toys and playthings. So, various Commons kids come and go from our casita throughout the week, and Mary has especially put a great deal of energy into creating sweet relationships with many of the children here.

Akin to kids, dogs at The Commons are another source of joy, and we have several canine friends with whom we share a special bond. There are a few who wander at will (and sometimes make their way into our casita in search of treats), and then there are others who we run into as we wander the community.

Yes, life in community offers opportunities for socialization, time with children and dogs, and the ability to dig into community life, contribute in meaningful ways, and enjoy not living in isolation in some anonymous neighborhood where no one seems to know one another.

I can say all of this and also simultaneously acknowledge that community life is not perfect. No community is not without its dysfunctions, personality clashes, and cumbersome processes, but in the larger scheme of things, we feel most at home and comfortable when living in an environment wherein some semblance of shared living is involved. It is more sustainable, more ecological, and yields a sense of connectedness and belonging that living in that isolated outside society can often lack.

The Commons may not be our forever home, and we may eventually move on for other pastures, but for now it's a comfortable place to be, and we're settling in for a New Mexican winter here in the high desert, safe in the folds of community living.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tina Sleeps

Our poor aging Tina has a shoulder injury that's necessitating additional anti-inflammatories, restricted activity, and a whole lot of rest. Next step: x-rays and more drugs to keep her comfy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fun Friday: 50 Weeks!

Today, October 15th, 2010, marks exactly 50 weeks since we left Amherst, Massachusetts for points unknown. On October 30th, we will celebrate one year of being on the road and away from our beloved and beautiful New England environs. Stay tuned for our one-year celebration!

Meanwhile, today was yet another Fun Friday adventure, this week being an adventure close to home.

After a relaxing morning, we took ourselves out to a celebratory lunch at a fancy outdoor restaurant that we've been eyeing for months. Like most everywhere, lunch menus are commonly more affordable here in Santa Fe, so we took advantage of that fact and spent a wonderful lunch hour being tended to by the nicest waiter this side of the Rio Grande. This tall, benevolent man in a starched white shirt was so nice that Mary looked up at him as he served our meal and said, "You seem like such a kind person." He smiled and thanked her graciously, and he hopefully smiled even more when he received our 30% tip.

At the risk of boring our dear readers with even more photographs of the aspens changing colors up on the mountain above the city, we did indeed return to the mountain for a hike, and hereby submit a small collection of photos documenting our time high above Santa Fe.

The rest of the day involved a trip to REI to buy Keith a new pair of sandals on sale, a few art downtown art openings, and a return to a tired but happy Tina who is currently recovering from a shoulder injury that may turn out to be a chronic condition for an old girl in her golden years.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Images From Taos

Here are some images from a quick overnight jaunt to Taos this past Sunday, which we undertook with our friend Darina who was visiting from California.

An interesting sculpture captures the light from the sunset.....

And the sunset continued in its glorious Taosness......

Is the raven real?

And we got to spend the night in our kind Taoseno friends' sweet, humble abode in the foothills while they were out of town....

It was a quick visit to a magical place, and the return home to our community in Santa Fe was also sweet.........

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn Bike Ride

Yesterday afternoon, I fulfilled one of my Autumnal desires, which was to bicycle all the way down our street, through downtown Santa Fe, and into the east side of town, where shady streets, ancient acequias (water canals) and lovely adobe homes look radiant and peaceful in the late afternoon light.

At the end of my ride, I was rewarded with carrot cake and a decaf latte at a lovely little cafe we discovered just recently. With great coffee, excellent pastries, the best magazine selection around, a sweet garden, and an adjacent bookstore and photography gallery, the Downtown Subscription Cafe was the perfect destination. The fact that they were playing the music of Brian Eno was just icing on the (carrot) cake!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fun Friday: The Beauty of the Aspens

Today, for our Fun Friday activity, we drove just 15 miles up the winding mountain roads to the Santa Fe Ski Basin in order to take in the beauty and splendor of the local aspen trees in their autumn blaze of glory.

From the city, we've been able to see that the mountains began changing colors almost overnight as Summer gave way to Autumn, and our friends and neighbors have admonished us to get up to the mountains as soon as possible before an errant storm has the opportunity to strip the trees of their leaves. So, today was the day, and we ventured out without Tina, who was home nursing a sore leg and old lady fatigue.

Although we had no idea the Ski Basin lift was currently in operation this week, we took full advantage of the opportunity and bought two one-way tickets to the top, where the views were glorious, if a bit hazy. The hike down was steep, but we took our time, waved and conversed with people on the ski lift above our heads, and arrived back to the car, tired but happy.

This is our first Autumn in New Mexico after twenty years of living in New England, so we've been duly spoiled with the reds, oranges and other resplendent colors of New England fall foliage. Still, the aspens of New Mexico do indeed offer a certain solace to the New England transplant, and we took in the deep yellows and golds (and patches of soft reds) with gratitude for the splash of color that they lend to the somewhat more austere New Mexican landscape that we now call (at least temporarily) home.