Today I moved a small load of my belongings to a former shed (now ‘therapy room’) at a community garden in South Yorkshire.
This is the first physical step to becoming a communard – to creating a large, egalitarian commune, fully income-sharing, collectively generating income and producing our own food, with a shared political agenda and commitment.
Am I happy? Excited? Actually... more scared, unsure, frankly a bit blank emotionally.
It must be said, that leaving a communal housing co-op to live alone in a shed with no storage does seem somewhat counter-intuitive.
I’m being over-dramatic, of course – I mean I am technically going to live alone in a shed, but it’s a nice one, with heating and carpet and windows, and there will be plenty of other people about during the daytimes.
Also, given that a fellow communard is planning to join me in April and that I haven’t yet found anywhere warm and dry to store my remaining stuff (I’ve been collecting commune stuff for a while now, after all), I’m in a hurry to find somewhere bigger, which can be the commune starter home.
I’ve given myself four more weeks to move out of my housing co-op, where I’ve lived since 1995, sorting things as I go and hopefully managing to send a good proportion of my things to meet their destinies – archives, charity shops, recycling, hopefully not too much landfill.
I’ll be coming and going – a few nights in the shed, a few nights back here.
So why this interim shed option?
Why not just wait until we find a house?
I must admit, I do keep thinking I may be making a mistake. But I’m pretty sure I need to leave my current community. I feel it’s a bit like polyamory – in the same way that I don’t know how people manage to find enough quality time with multiple geographically-scattered partners, I know that I can’t be a good member of multiple communities.
And once it’s clear that someone is leaving a co-op, it’s hard for that person to stay fully committed to co-op life – hard to take part wholeheartedly in discussions about policy that won’t affect you, hard to take on jobs that won’t be finished by the time you leave, hard to have an opinion about people applying to join.
And, at the same time, everyone else is already contemplating the future without that person, meeting lots of applicants, negotiating who gets to upgrade to the nice big room, thinking about what policies could be changed now that person won’t object....
So, leaving as soon as I can leaves space for growth and change in the old co-op, while staying there casts a shadow and creates a sort of limbo, a blockage of energy.
I find this a useful lens to look through – where is the energy?
It reminds me of that lovely passage often misattributed to Goethe:
‘Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back... the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.... A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance.... Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.’
I must go! I must get things moving!
Looking through the energy lens is also good practice at referring back to the Permaculture Principles which the commune has embedded in its rules.
‘Catch and store energy’ and ‘creatively use and respond to change’ are two of the twelve Permaculture Principles. (I’m probably going to struggle with ‘produce no waste’ this month.)
We have developed an eight-session learning programme for people wanting to join the commune and we’re holding learning evenings twice a month.
In our first session (last week), we looked at the various sets of values and principles which we have chosen to use as frameworks for commune thinking. I’m really very excited about potentially living in a community which explores its shared values and goals so explicitly and clearly.
This is where I start to wonder whether I subconsciously want to be a cult leader – oh my goodness – as a person who’s often pretty sure about what needs to be done, how great would it be to have a hundred people who agree with you and implement your ideas?!
Unfortunately for me, the other communards seem very concerned to avoid being a cult.
Permaculture Principle Number Four: ‘Apply self-regulation and accept feedback’.
Oh, and the other nuisance co-op principles like democracy and aiming for a world with no hierarchies.
Yep, I really shot myself in the foot getting that lot in our registered rules.