Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why I'm Considering Cohousing — Arielle Bywater

One of the members of the Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage recently suggested that we use this blog to explore some of the reasons why we're considering this option as candidly as possible. She made the point that many Americans respond with fear to the idea of their individual needs being met. I admit to often being one of those people!

Anyway, as a first stab at this enormous topic, here's what I wrote for the BC&E e-newsletter:

Ever since I can remember, I've been fascinated by countercultures and subcultures. (Watching the documentary Woodstock on video twenty years after it took place was enough to reduce me to self-pitying, born-in-the-wrong-time tears.) As the suburban kid of religious Jewish parents who were also sort of hippie ex-urbanites who also loved tent camping (and took me to Acadia when I was still in diapers), I was brought up in a wealth of interesting dichotomies, and have always been most at home outside the mainstream culture.

Now that I have a family of my own, I am constantly thinking of how best to live a life that reflects my values and satisfies my desires — which, like my childhood, are full of dichotomies. I want quiet (I write poems) and fellowship (I'm pretty outgoing, especially for a poet). Interdependence and independence. Simplicity and challenge. Freedom and responsibility. Like many people I know, I am striving to live a slower, greener life, but don't have the skill-set or time to homestead — and don't want to spend one more second in a car than I have to. I love pedestrian-friendly, in-town living — heck, I love big-city living! — except when it feels crowded and noisy and unfriendly. I want a life that is affordable, sustainable, and connected to the seasons, the landscape, and the people around me in deep and meaningful ways. Oh, and I want community with like-minded souls who will teach and inspire and enrich me. It's not too much to ask, is it?

To me, the idea of cohousing offers both a very old-fashioned, wholesome vision — kids running through the grass in wild packs! Baking chocolate-chip cookies for sixty people! Car pools!--and a genuinely radical experiment in living, one which offers a downright revolutionary antidote to many of our accepted but misguided American notions about house and home. Even what worries me about cohousing — how I think I would have to learn to be a better listener; how I would be forced to own less and share more; how, as a parent, I might not know where my children were every minute of the day — excites me, because I can see how much I'd benefit from those lessons.

I hope others in the group will chime in here about their hopes and fears!

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