Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What's in a Name? — Allison Piper

I am a greeter at most of our monthly Open Houses. It’s a great opportunity to meet prospective members and share my enthusiasm about Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage. One of my main duties is to answer questions about our upcoming community, a lot of which start with “Are you allowed to…” have dogs, have a garden, etc. Visitors ask basic questions about the parameters that we plan to live by. Some decisions have already been made, and I answer those questions to the best of my ability. But I really love it when someone asks a question about something we haven’t approached yet, since I get to answer, “Actually, we haven’t figured that out yet. We get to decide that together — it’s our community.”

One of the more interesting decisions we get to make is the name of our road. The City of Belfast isn’t going to pick it for us. That’s certainly not a decision I’ve ever had the opportunity to make before. In a recent general meeting, we brainstormed about all the things we want to consider when choosing a name for our home. It turns out though, when you really think about it, it’s not a super easy decision to make. In fact, it’s actually a pretty tall order. Here’s what we came up with. An optimal road name should meet all of the following criteria:

“Be easily pronounceable, short, convey a sense of place, convey hopes for the future, have a good musical sound, roll off the tongue, be mellifluous, be groovy but not too groovy, meet city approval, not be “cutsie,” have historic resonance, be grounded, not cliché, be something we want to remember or hold precious, have ecological resonance, not sound like just another subdivision.”

So we broke into subgroups and discussed some possibilities. It was actually an interesting exercise and revealed a lot about how different members process and make decisions. Some groups had more straightforward and linear thinkers, some had more creative or humorous personalities. When the groups came back together, here are some of the names we shared: 

Dovetail Road, Shelterwood Road, Keene Road, South Hill Road, Seven Meadows, Treeline Road, Utopian Harmony Road, Right Way, Only Way, Left Way, Green Gold Way, Goosewing Road, Rascal Road, Little River Road, Gathering Way, Keene Farm Road, Fox Road, Coho road. Wild Wood, Buttermilk Hill, Chestnut Hill, Blackberry Hill, Sprout Road, Barberry Lane, Bittersweet Lane, Live Lightly Lane, La La Lane, Raspberry Lane, Back Farm Road, Back 40, Buckthorn Hill.

We had a little bit of discussion about the names, but mostly this was a first group pass intended to get our juices flowing. Shortly afterward we wrapped up the meeting and had our pre-Open House brunch potluck.

Even though I actually volunteered some of the names above (mostly the tongue-in-cheek humorous ones that blatantly flout some of the suggested criteria), none of them quite rang true for me.  I joked that we could auction off the road name to the highest corporate sponsor. Imagine: ‘Odwalla Road’ or ‘Seventh Generation Road’. We could be rich! Rich!! My idea didn’t exactly fly. Though I do actually like the latter.

On our drive back to Boston, though, Lindsey and I made our typical pit stop in Portland. A sign caught my eye, and it occurred to me that it might be a perfect name: Legacy. Legacy Road. That really hit home for me — it encapsulates a lot of the reasons I am so excited to be a part of BC&E. The biggest one is that I am doing this for our future kids.

The least heavy reason we have joined this project is because we want our young kids to be able to run out the door and play as they will — in a safe, beautiful, car-free community. But there are other reasons as well. I am concerned, worried really about the path that we as a society are on both environmentally and socially.  I am such a small part of this world, but I need to do something to reduce my environmental impact. I need to be around people who feel the same and are actively, consciously working for change. People with the skills and compassion that are going to be necessary when the consequences of the way our society has lived in the Industrial Age start really impacting our lives. I don’t want to live isolated from my neighbors and my family any more. I’ve been living that lifestyle for way too long. I need to start thinking in a real and meaningful way about how I want to leave this world. What will be our legacy to our children, to our grandchildren? What will be our legacy? Legacy. Legacy Road. I feel deeply in my heart that living as a part of this community is a big step in the right direction.

So that’s my best shot at a road name. What’s yours?

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