Last month I did some arithmetic and asked Misty, “Did you realize we only have three months left here before we leave?” We both got sad. Sprout House is as close as we’ve ever had to a perfect living situation. But we’d already decided that it was time to get moving in the direction of our dreams. “I feel like a wart in the city,” Misty had once said: useless and just consuming, rather than making any positive difference. Before we decided not to wait until 2017 to leave, I’d been looking at the upcoming year as a time for us to teach ourselves basic land skills in order to have a foundation for the big ones to rest on when we would get out to the land itself. But I saw Misty’s point: you have to learn sometime, and jumping in headfirst is usually the most effective possible way to learn.
Lately, though, both of us have been eyeing our June 15 move-out date and feeling more and more melancholy. Misty felt like they couldn’t really participate in anything or make any commitments or connections to people around, because they would all evaporate soon anyhow. I felt like I was leaving things unfinished, getting up in the middle of a big project that I would never get back to: a general feeling about everything in life, but especially the house, where we’ve just started an awesome meal share, we’ve finally started banding together as activists (more about both of those shortly), we’re going to get chickens soon, I’ve started working with Peter on web design things, and I’ve been forging deeper and more meaningful bonds with everyone there.
A couple days ago Misty realized it didn’t feel right to leave right now. It felt like running away. Running away had seemed like a great idea when the thing we were running from was The City, a concept we (especially Misty) had built up of an unsalvageable environment that enforced radically wrong lifeways we couldn’t endorse. But the other day Misty realized, and I agreed, that we’d also be running from the best manifestation of community life that either of us have experienced.
So we’re going to stay here another year. We’re still going to do a bunch of traveling this summer, but instead of segueing into a bunch of traveling through fall and winter, we’re going to come back here and put together the chicken enclosure and harvest wild edibles (for real this time) and build stuff like solar cookers and composting toilets.
I mentioned our meal share. We’re only a few weeks into this, but everyone who’s in it agrees that it’s one of the best things we’ve done. It’s pretty simple: there are six of us in it, and each evening, one of us cooks a meal for everyone. (That leaves one night that’s no one’s; currently we stop by the store and get a baked chicken that night.) So we only have to cook one dinner a week, and yet we get a fresh hot meal every night. It’s one of the most elegant examples of the great possibilities community life has to offer, I think. It makes you wonder why it’s not normal everywhere to do this. And also why it took so long for us to get this going.
I also mentioned banding together as activists. A few months ago, we had a meeting where we realized that we kind of had our community life in order, and it was about time we started spreading our inward-pointed life out into the wider world to make the difference we all want to make.
Three people who especially jumped on that impulse were Peter, Erica, and Annabelle, who had already been pretty heavily involved with the Justice 4 Jamar movement, and then came up with an idea to combine their skills. Peter is a web designer, Annabelle is a photographer, and Erica is an oral historian, which has meant she interviews people about their life stories and packages up the transcripts for them and their descendants to keep and remember.
So the project: they’d been meeting more and more people who’d been brutalized by police, and it became clear to all of them that, if you’re brown, getting roughed up or beaten or even killed by the police is not at all an uncommon thing. It’s the rule, and yet we middle-class white people assume that it’s the exception, because we only hear occasional news stories, not stories from people we know and love. So they decided to spread the stories. They would get in touch with a brutality survivor; Annabelle would take a portrait right where it happened (yes, these things happen in the real world, not in exotic “bad neighborhoods”), and Erica would interview them for as long as it took to tell their story. And Peter put together a website where anyone can listen to them and read them.
Here it is: Behind the Blue Line. Spend some time with it. It’s important for everyone to know that these things are happening, and that means you, especially if you’ve never been arrested or had a cop pick you up off the street for no reason. It needs to be known.