“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” – Joel Barker
I’ve been hearing “It takes a village” for years and frankly, it failed to give me the warm and fuzzies the first couple hundred times. Usually uttered by frazzled mothers, the phrase seemed born of a loose parenting style heavily reliant on others. I favored the word tribe, a word that to me meant multi-generational, place-based cooperation. When my neighbors began comparing our relationships to a village, I tried substituting the word village for tribe and it dawned on me that a village was exactly what I needed as I grew greyer and more frail. It might take a village to ease me into my golden years.
A few mornings ago twenty of my neighbors met to envision the future of our community, a place affectionately referred to as “The Bend in the Road.” There’s been a lot of activity in our neck of the woods lately and it seemed like a good idea to proceed mindfully. As one person put it, “We are standing on the precipice of a world we’re all dreaming into life.”
We sat comfortably in a warm windowed room, sipping hot drinks and leaving muffin crumbs on the radiant heated tiled floor. Among us were visionaries, spiritual leaders, chefs, a building contractor, a permaculturist, farmers, parents, homeowners, true believers, and elders. Our host Lyle opened with the story of what these fields and woods looked like before the rest of us arrived. Back then trouble lights obscured the night sky, and daytime views were marred by cars on blocks, single-wides, chained dogs, and midden heaps.
Generations of people hauled their trash into the woods before landfills came into being. Lyle made us all laugh with the image of a field strewn with Kotex applicators, blaming his bad back on years of stooping to pick them up, one by one. Although I still run into an occasional midden heap, the rest of these eyesores are gone. The ‘hood has come a long way in twenty-five years.
The group discussed a balanced menu of projects including a farm, apiary, school, spiritual learning center, and cemetery. “All we need is a birthing room,” someone quipped, “and we can go from cradle to grave.” The room thrummed with energy as one project after another was explained and discussed.
Many of us felt we’d been drawn here by the strands of an invisible web. Stephen King’s “The Stand” came to mind, the story of a global epidemic and the survivors who dreamed of an old women urging them to trudge onward until they all found themselves in Boulder, Colorado. Our experience was similar, only it was Tami and Lyle who drew us to The Bend with their dynamic personalities and dreams of a post peak oil utopia nearly ten years ago. We knew coming in that this was more community than neighborhood, and now it was becoming a village.
One of us had grown up in a real village, in Kenya. In this country we don’t know what that is. We play at village-making knowing we can hop in our cars and drive off any time we want. “Every village is unique, yet all have invisible energy,” he explained. “They are infinite because they will go on in perpetuity. Living outside a village these twenty years – it’s a crazy unsustainable way of living.” I’ve been there and know of that frightening, soul-sucking existence disconnected from family and friends. But not since moving to The Bend. His thoughts moved on to the village we seek to create. “I’m not it, you’re not it – the village is it.”
I laughed out loud when the first person used the term “the G-pop.” “Is that G-pop for General Population?” Bob asked. We used to call it mainstream. One person observed, “Where I came from people are working, but toward what?”
A village requires infrastructure and living skills. We were here to visualize the transformation. Another neighbor observed, “This work is why I’m on this planet. I don’t know what I’d be doing if not this.” One of the elders brought up the importance of faith, of giving our hearts fully to the enterprise. “There is magic in the right mix – visionaries, strong backs, growers of food,” he continued, “I’m not a joiner but I’m throwing in. These young people really have a lot of juice so I’m building my home here. The real juice in this community, this vocational community – we’re living it, doing it, being it – so much juice here.” The younger people in the room, the strong backs, beamed.
“I love the kids,” a bright young woman said, “It’s not just about the adults.” Perpetuity. We build future and the next generation continues the work. Villages never die.
Lest you think we are all on meds, the challenges were also discussed. “There’s a whole lot of fear in what we’re doing and these wounds are very deep. I think everyone has them,” observed one. Another brought up the importance of communication. “Asking is important.”
Bob took on the weighty topic of gossip. “Not everyone will participate in the same way. Diversity breeds resilience. Talking about others, fact finding, blowing off steam are all okay up to a point. But not well-poisoning. We have to find ways to talk about the hard things. You have to be willing to take out the garbage and it’s going to be messy, the bag might break.” Another person said, “Blame and Shame – we’re steeped and marinated in that shit.”
“Out there in the G-Pop, there’s an insane search for meaning. Learning to play the instrument you all handed me is what I’m meant for. I’m living in a dream I didn’t make possible. You made me possible.”