The title for this was tough. I say ‘commune’ for lack of a better word. Intentional communities is too long and not even that phrase fits all…as Coenraad at House Alive said, “I’m not really sure what our intention is”! Regardless, Troy and I visited three great and very different groups of people this last weekend, had a blast and learned a lot.
We started at 3,000 ft in the foothills of the Klammath Mountains (I think…the distinction between the Cascades and the Klammaths and the Siskiyous is still a bit hazy for me…). An hour from Ashland and 30 minutes up a gravel road lies Eloin, and the name appropriately means to remove to a distance – this magical place is surrounded by one of the few remaining old growth stands of forest in Southern Oregon and is certainly removed, in more ways than one.
Eloin is old growth itself, in terms of West Coast communes. The group started in 1974 and has been as large as 25 adult members. As a result the buildings are impressive. The kitchen is large, airy and filled with natural light. There are also many large homes about the property and the Temple is something to behold…This is a spiritually focused community and they certainly made that a priority while building.
Our time at Eloin was spent cooking, working in the garden, walking in the woods and playing games. Their life is relaxed enough so that even while working there is time to appreciate the blessings all around you. They say grace before each meal and every quarter moon
enjoy Sabbath and a spiritual reading after breakfast. They live amongst free ranging horses and donkeys and are off the grid, gathering their drinking water by hand from a spring.
Next we headed west, past Ashland to the Applegate Valley. This region is well known amongst farmers and back-to-the-landers. While Eloin was cool and shady under the big trees, Full Bloom is in full sun! On a south-west facing slope are three beautiful homes with views of those beautifully diverse tree-covered Siskiyou hills in the foreground and Dutchman Peak behind. There is a kitchen garden (the beds are in the shape of a flower), a large shop, goats, chickens and sheep. The kitchen is USDA certified and is home to a bakery.
Full Bloom is a relatively new commune and does embrace that word. After starting 7 (?) years ago and getting most of the infrastructure laid down they are now focusing more on member relationships. They cook for each other 6 nights a week and have regular scheduled meetings and heart check-ins, providing space for quality communication. The founding members met at Green Gulch Farm and maintain those Buddhist ideals…”to awaken in ourselves and the many people who come here the bodhisattva spirit, the spirit of kindness and realistic helpfulness”, from the Green Gulch website.
Our last stop was House Alive, also in the Applegate. On a sunny south facing slope in a clearing in the trees (madrone, oak, and pine) are various beautiful cob structures, a big garden and some chickens. Coenraad Rogmans and his family host cob building workshops and live collaboratively with those who rent out some of the cob spaces on a longer term basis.
House Alive is a neat intermediate between a commune and more typical America. You pay rent, but maybe you pay a little less if you help out by growing food for the group. The cooking and eating spaces are shared so the individual homes can be more simple, and they would like to move towards ordering bulk food as a group to save money. In all aspects there is certainly an air of flexibility and creativity.
In my dream scenario I want elements of all three groups. There were many great aspects of each but of course no one was perfect! Perfectly imperfect, you might say 🙂