Wednesday, January 17, 2007

perfection and loss of community


Over a week ago I was sifting through the massive number of Compact emails. I read an email that someone wrote about not wanting to pound clothes on a rock in order to wash them. I did not read all of the associated emails, thus I don't know what was entailed.

What is does make me think about is how we seem to have a need to do everything ourselves. As a mother and working woman I know this powerful feeling of the need to be "supermom." We seem to have to have perfect children, the perfect house, make all homemade dinners, bake our bread, all while working full time. June Cleaver on hyperdrive. I admit that I often feel that I have to do it all. And I try to.

The other day, however, I realized that it may not be a good thing. Yes, it is good to make choices in order to live in a healthier way. However, why am I baking my own bread and trying to sew my own diapers (for the babies - not for me). I love baking bread - why don't I bake bread for myself and a neighbor while the neighbor sews diapers for me? Why not heat my own oven - instead of my own and a neighbor heat theirs? Why not share some meals with a neighbor - instead of all of us using our ovens?

As I am planning my edible landscape, I noticed that I am trying to grow ALL of my own food. Why not grow a larger portion of something and then trading produce with a neighbor? Why not share tools with neighbors - instead of everyone owning their own lawnmower? Why not heat one kitchen instead of all? I understand the need of privacy, but there is something very nice about being able to ask a neighbor for butter or eggs or a hammer. It is nice to not need to do and be it all.

These are just questions that I have been thinking about as I try to do everything.

One of the first steps in creating a sustainable community is the development of community. What once was the front porch community is now the backyard community - everyone is hidden from their neighbors. I walk through my neighborhood and rarely see neighbors. I know they are on their back deck away from prying eyes. I wouldn't even recognize half of my neighbors if I saw them on the street.

As I develop my sustainable home I hope to develop community.

22 comments:

Katie said...

A local sustainable community is something I long for as well. I've made it a goal this year to try and get something started - the contact of other like minded folks to share, barter, and grow with is just necessary in my mind (despite my sometimes hermit-like behavior).

Kristy Harris said...

I agree, when I was in Oregon I volunteered and took classes with Northwest Earth Institute. The result was after a number of classes, a group -a community- of like minded people was created in my small home town. It was great to be able to know that if I had a need for fresh fruit, I could call on Paul who had a yard full of fruit trees that he was always willing to share. My friend Max was facing a horrible case of debt and needed to admit that he required the service of a lawyer, I was able to in part assist him at a greatly reduced rate because I knew him to be like minded and part of my community.

Similarly, when I was traveling in Asia and my husband was home in Oregon, a different group of friends determined that my hubby needed Sunday Dinners. So for the next 6 mths they all gathered to have dinner on Sundays in a potluck fashion. Even after I returned we continued the practice for another year until our family moved away.

Living in a foriegn country doesn't give me as much ability to raise a community, but a great aspiration. Thanks for the great post!

Kim in IN said...

This is something I think of often too Emme. I am reclusive by nature so it's a stretch for me but I really do desire this way of life.
we lived in KY. for awhile and did live amongst like-minded people with whom we shared so much. The constant social aspect was hard for me but the generosity of everyone involved was beautiful.
Meals,helping hands to build a barn,sewing circles,etc. It was awesome.
hoping for peace,
Kim

Anonymous said...

http://www.simplelivingtv.net/tvclips/72/tv-clips/

Emme,
You may be familiar with this show and the people involved, but there's a video clip about simplicity circles that I thought you might be interested in.

Lisa

Evan said...

I would love that. It makes perfect sense to me and why not go further and car share or child care or eldercare as a community.

Evan

e4 said...

Community building can be very hard indeed. Our culture has been heading toward individualism for so long that we've forgotten how to interact any further than a wave across the yard.

I look forward to hearing about your efforts, and learning from them.

BurdockBoy said...

these are the reasons we are considering intentional communities. it's hard to find people these days that are willing to work together. so many people have different desires and lifestyles. i believe intentional communitiesbring people with similar interests together.

Teri said...

For the record, I have washed clothes in a stream with a scrub brush, against the rocks. It's not bad at all during the summer ;)

I moved from the Vancouver WA area back to the sticks in the Cascade mountains. I moved from an area where we had really no close friends back to where we have friends and history (we worked in this area for many years in the 70s). We are helping to keep the local church alive, one that was started in 1947. We help our friend keep his household going. He's been in a wheelchair for several years now. In short, even though we are making even less money now, it doesn't matter. We're home now.

Anonymous said...

Emme, have you thought about organizing a block party to get to know your neighbors better? My girlfriend's neighborhood holds one every summer and it helped her get to know her neighbors when she first moved in. She now knows almost everyone's name that lives on her block and most on the next block over. Not sure if it's a direct correlation as a result of the block party, but her neighbors are more neighborly than most and willingly share their tools and expertise if you ask for help on projects. I now plan on bringing some home grown veggies next block party in hopes of finding someone to trade produce with. ;)

Dan

Abi said...

Hi. I live in the UK and recently made friends with a woman from Zimbabwe. I have two small kids and am rubbish at housework. This is Not Acceptable in today's society, you're right - we have to do it all! Supermom indeed. Anyway, I was really embarrassed when this friend came round to my house for the first time, took one look round and said 'I'll wash your dishes for you.' I protested but there's no gainsaying an African mom with a purpose! She made my horrible kitchen spotless, and then said 'How do you expect to be able to do everything when you have kids to look after? In Africa we share it all.' She told me that when her three girls were little she and the neighbours would take it in turns to look after kids and do each other's housework; to her it was ludicrous that anyone would attempt to do everything by themselves. It took an effort to overcome my 'social conditioning', but now I don't mind her cleaning my house. It doesn't make me feel a failure, it feels like I have a kind friend!

Emme said...

Katie, Kristy, Kim - I am hoping that I can find like minded people around here. I have one backyard neighbor who is - perhaps we can share ideas, trade produce, etc. Maybe later we can get others involved!

Lisa, I have read about and love the idea of simplicity circles!

Evan + Abi - Yes! When I was growing up my mother and a few other women formed "playgroups." Each mother would take all of the kids for a few hours in one day and then another mother would on the next day, etc. I was actually astonished how little help I received after Sammy was born. 2 backyard neighbors brought over one meal and saved me!

BurdockBoy - I agree.

Teri - my mother was from the Vancouver WA area (in the sticks). It is great to hear htat you help your friend and church.

Dan - I think I will do something this summer. Maybe if my edible landscaping works well, I will have a garden tour :)

terri said...

One of the funnest things I did last fall was to go door-to-door and share our pears. I knew we wouldnt' eat them all, so why not? I love your idea, and I'll start doing it too!

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