August 20, 2012
Between 18 May 2012 and today I lived in a new world. I don’t want to return to W&M, finish my degree, live in an apartment, cook for myself, own a car, and get a job. I want to live at Living Energy Farm, Twin Oaks, and Acorn, three networked intentional communities based around good food.
Acorn is an income-sharing community of about thirty people in rural Louisa, Virginia. Acorn operates Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a predominate grower and supplier of organic, heirloom seed especially in the southern United States. We bundled and shipped thousands of orange, purple, and white sweet potato slips. We spent days harvesting cherry tomatos and packaging seed from harvests.
Twin Oaks is an income-sharing community of about one hundred people. Twin Oaks owns tofu-, hammocks-, and Acorn-seeds-producing businesses. Twin Oaks also maintains an immense, lush garden that feeds its members and a constant flow of visitor-workers. Last Monday Garden harvested fifty-two buckets of Roma tomatos. Seeds produced another fifty-two buckets of Cherokee Purple tomatos. Food Processing spent all day making 112 jars of tomato sauce. Two dozen watermelons, red, orange, yellow, rest outside of the social hall. I enjoy fresh bread, pure nut butters, raw milk, and help make abundant vegan and vegetarian meals from the garden and dairy. I enjoy talking, sitting, working, playing, and helping with those around me.
Living Energy Farm, my home this summer, also produces seed for Acorn: golden watermelon, large and cherry tomatos, red peppers, summer and winter squash, cucumbers, okra, peanuts, corn, cantaloupe, sorghum, and cow peas. Living Energy also grows hundreds of fruit trees: pears, pomegranates, muscadines, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, cherries, peaches, apples, pecans, figs, kiwis, jujubes, and persimmons. Not even the muscadine grapes or the blueberries tasted like anything I had tasted before.
Living Energy is special in another way. It’s a zero-fossil-fuel community. We rise with the sun and retire with the sun. We drink spring water and solar-powered well water and wash with rain water. We cook with a parabolic solar cooker, a wood stove, and a solar oven. We work by hand with shovels, hoes, scythes, axes, and hammers. We harvest cedar for posts and beams and salvage scrap from construction sites for our cabin, house, pole barns, and kitchen lean-tos. We deal with the work, sweat, weather, swarms, and small mammals. We study the natural world around us. We talk quietly, in greeting, and when necessary.
I used my cell phone to call family. I forgot how to use a computer keyboard. I developed friendships more deeply than I ever had before. I came to peace with myself. I didn’t worry about the unsolvable big questions. I worked as hard, perceptively, simply, and generously as I could. I succeeded personally. I learned common sense.
I’m writing this post in Woodfolk House, a house and intentional community in semi-urban Charlottesville, Virginia with another diverse orchard, reviewing my life and reading the inspirations of Alexis, Living Energy’s founder, and Cat, Twin Oaks’s founder. I’m at a crossroads: do I idealistically do what I love and what feels right or do I pragmatically return to William & Mary and finish my degree? Many of my friends from the summer have chosen the former; I tend toward the latter, considering that my interests might change, I might not last in community, I only have eight months of school left, I have commitments to myself, my friends, and my family, and I have an opportunity to be curious and passionate about anything at all. But I remember the mental and spiritual stress, the fact that I don’t see the point, my present separation from the mainstream, and the fact that this summer has been sensually, nutritionally, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually richer than any other point in my life.
When I get back to school I will live in an apartment and own a car. I will use my car to dumpster food from Trader Joe’s and other retailers, to buy food from local farms, and to visit my three home communities. I will maintain William & Mary’s campus gardens and gather kale, collards, broccoli, beans, tomatos, rosemary, carrots, and other herbs from there. When I leave William & Mary I hope to return to Twin Oaks, Living Energy Farm, and Acorn. Now and in the future I will be mindful of my blessing of being able to think, debate, and act; to discover where I came from and who I am; to define my values and set goals. I’m not an activist. I’m not out to start a movement or organization or even join a cause. I seek peace, doing what feels right, being friends, helping friends: being a whole person and a member of community.
Discovering, cultivating, and sharing food helps me be whole.