Barn Raising

This past weekend Jeff and some new friends of ours worked to put up a roof over our porch. It was a lovely day, perfect weather, children running around, drilling and hammering in the background, grilling and s’mores in the evening… I had the thought that it felt a bit like what I imagine a barn raising feels like. Jeff commented later on how nice it felt to work with the men- they just seemed to know what to do and did it. My new friends were equally intuitive and generous, everyone cleaning up at the end of the day and leaving our family feeling like we’d come out ahead. We felt concretely and simply loved. I sincerely hope they call us for projects at their places in the future. Jeff was particularly relieved because it made use of a pile of lumber he’d salvaged from an old deck. It needed to be used soon, or else it would have ceased to be useful since we had to store it outside in the elements.

We’ve been in this place 7 years now, and it continues to evolve, slowly but surely. Something about that particular number has me feeling like this is our actual life now- the rhythms are steadying, the work is ever present, some of the novelty has worn off and we have a more sobered perspective. We’ve had the opportunity to evaluate how we really feel living here and in this way, especially after the initial push of intense learning and infrastructure building in the first few years. It’s not perfect and we have adjustments to make, areas to simplify and reckon with. But overall we feel more connected and alive, like the place presents an endless opportunity for growth and introspection. It’s often hard, but when we play with the idea of letting things go, the alternative of living without these responsibilities feels like a bleak proposition. It’s in these meditations that I realize I really want this, even with the hard.
I was sad recently and Jeff, sweet guy that he is, asked me to come up with something I love about myself. The thing I eventually chose was that I love how committed I am. Over the years things have definitely shifted, but my values haven’t. I’ve been meditating on the idea of “commitment”, especially as a value that I believe is inextricably connected to reconciliation and relational healing.

Perhaps this is connected to why I’ve been kind of sad overall, lately. Lots of like-minded friends have been moving away, or are planning on doing so shortly. I can’t blame them, all their reasons for leaving make sense to me. But the phenomenon of flipping houses, of leveraging the energies of gentrification and leaving one’s existing community is also not exempt from my criticism, no matter how understandable. I also recognize my privilege here, having access to land. Many of these friends are leaving in search of it. I will miss these people, I grieve the lost community and creative potential, and I wonder about the ripple effect of these actions on other communities and places. These are my active areas of interest and work, so I think maybe it’s all affected me more than I realized. When people leave I remember old wounds, like running my fingers over an old relational scar. There are other changes happening in my life, and, when mixed with my regular dosage of existential contemplation, it can get a little heavy and overwhelming at times.

I find that this is one of the more painful features of commitment- it blasts apart idealized notions and opens you up to heartbreak. If you stick with the experience, you realize that you only really have control over your part. You get to see how much of your staying was and is conditional, and your values get tested over and over. You learn that the heartbreak is necessary and connected to this personal refinement- you can’t actually access it without it. And the healing of your heart is connected to your own transformative movement on the other side of the heartbreak, in your willingness to anchor deeper into your higher power and faithfully create more of what you want in the world, unattached to outcome or direct reciprocity. You get to square yourself in front of your part of the offering, which holds within it the power of a visionary outcome but ironically asks you to lay down your attachment to it.

And so no wonder the feeling of a mini “barn raising” brought me so much joy, with all this on my mind. The notion of a whole community coming together and putting themselves into a singular task, accomplishing great things together through cooperative effort.

Earlier this year I was invited to a women’s circle. We were asked to write an intention for the year on a small piece of card stock. This morning as I sat down to write, I was shuffling through some papers and it fell out. Timely.

Note: I’ve been posting over at Patreon for the past several weeks. My aim was to post in both of these places, but I’d been experiencing some persistent technical issues here and it discouraged me. Hopefully I’ve worked out the glitches and I can continue posting essays here, too. You can head over there to catch up on some essays if you like, and feel free to check there- there is no paywall. My study of the gift economy made me to realize that I wasn’t creating many avenues for people to support my work, and the Patreon is one way to open up a channel for offerings.


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