Notes from Windward: #68

Another Aspect of Community Living

dealing with a winter-time challenge


     Forming an intentional community involves bringing together a group of people who consciously choose to marry their fortunes together--what isn't always intentional is the degree to which things can then become commingled. One way to describe the boundaries we try to transcend is by noting that Windward as a commune of ideas, a place where we hold knowledge in common and each member agrees to teach what they know and share what they've learned. By way of contrast, in the corporate consumer world, you don't share what you know, you cling to any scrap of advantage you might have over your peers, or soon get left behind. We don't want to live that way, and we don't.

     Another way to draw the distinction is to note that Windward functions as an expense sharing cooperative, rather than a sort of employee-owned business. While our land and buildings are owned by our non-profit corporation, other assets as varied as automobiles and chain saws are personally owned. While each member contributes monthly to help cover necessary group expenses, we each manage our own personal finances. The challenge is one of moving close enough to the fire of community to strike a balance between the cold of going it alone, and the heat of coming too close, becoming too intense.

     There are considerable benefits to living in community, and these Notes routinely celebrate them, but there are also downsides; the past few weeks we've been working our way through one of them. Winter is a time when colds and flus stalk the land. Given the isolation we choose to embrace during the winter months, the bugs generally by-pass our woody hide-away--but not this year. When the first person came down with this year's particularly nasty flu bug, we wondered if it might not be a case of mild food-poisoning caused by some left-overs that got left over a bit too long. Gina's vigilant about that sort of thing so it's not likely, but it is possible when using common kitchen facilities. With fewer people here during the winter months, left-overs last longer and not everything makes it into the soup pot bubbling away on the wood stove.

     But when a second person came down with the same symptoms two days later, it was clear that we were dealing with a flu bug, not tainted food. By stepping up our protocols we were able to cap the bug's run at three, and while this bug was tenacious--the sort that lays you low for most of a week--it wasn't especially contagious. The folks down with it stayed in their quarters curled up under their electric blankets sipping soup and downing yogurt until their systems righted again, and by now things are pretty much back to normal again. Given that we're waiting out the usual mid-February mix of rain, sleet, snow and mud, having a few people take a week off to rest and recharge hasn't been disruptive. Indeed, it's been a good time to reflect on how nice it is to live a lifestyle that's fully engaged with the land, with gardens and animals, and still be able to take a week off to get better at our own pace.

     Having some members of the team down meant that others had to do some extra chores to see that everything was covered, but my experience is that any such inconvenience is more than compensated for by not having to be the one driving the porcelain bus. Finding adequate health care is a problem for lots of people including twenty-somethings wanting to move beyond being dependent on their parents, but unable to find affordable health care on their own. Intentional community can't cover all aspects of the health care puzzle, but it can effectively address notable components of it. By working together in sickness and in health, we're able to build a life based on being at ease rather than an ongoing struggle to cope with disease in its many manifestations.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69