What John Built


June 5, 2021- The man in full sat in a lawn chair, next to his wife of 46 years, and enjoyed being surrounded by their seven children and twenty-three grandchildren. This was the type of family gathering to which he, and the other forty-seven of his maternal grandmother’s “babies”, had grown accustomed.

He grew into manhood by becoming a diver in the United States Army, which included service in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. One sultry afternoon, he paid a call on one of his cousins, who was also stationed in Vietnam, showing that there were still means for soldiers and family members to find one another-even in a war zone.

In civilian life, he distinguished himself by earning his degree in Business Administration, and using it in a variety of ways- serving as a civic administrator in six communities, across his adopted state of Maine and building his own contracting business, all of which kept home and hearth in good stead, as his seven children grew into adulthood.

He was the second born of seven, and kept his siblings close, especially in the dark days of 2006, when four family members passed on, within months of one another. He kept some of his cousins close, too, even as our lives diverged. When I was tossed out of my apartment, under what turned out to be false pretenses, in February, 1977, I had a place to sleep for a few days, until the next more permanent residence presented itself. He and his wife kept my excess possessions for a year, when it was time for me to move, of a sudden, from Maine to Arizona.

That was who John Edward Madigan, Jr., one of my closest paternal cousins, was. He built a solid family, alongside his darling Mary; built much of the house in which they raised their family; built trust and confidence, even among those with whom he disagreed, socially and politically; built a successful contracting business, from scratch. He even began to build a place for himself in the Maine State Legislature, before cancer and COVID-19 muddied the political waters.

The greatest thing John built, though, was his heart. He seldom, if ever, missed a child’s or grandchild’s special event, whether religious, athletic, scholastic or any of the once-in-a-lifetime keepsakes. There is no life he touched that wasn’t the better for his having been there. When, on June 2, 2021, he went to be with his Lord, and to rejoin his parents, brother, sister-in-law and nephew who preceded him in death, John would surely have entered their presence with his shining eyes and mischievous grin.

John built a palace of love.

Blessed Intentions


November 19, 2017, Paulden, AZ-

I spent the better part of today at a small intentional community, in this mostly agricultural, unincorporated town, in northern Yavapai County.  Paulden is due west of Sedona, and despite being sans Red Rocks, it has a good deal of its eastern neighbour’s vibes.  These have drawn many people whose goal is to live as close to the land as possible.

Dharma Family Farm is made up of six adults and several children, living in conscious connection with the tall grass prairie that is found between the various small mountain ranges of western and southern Yavapai County and the Verde and Agua Fria Rivers to the east.

I met most of them last week, at Convergence, and had the pleasure of taking breakfast with them, last Sunday.  This led to an invitation to visit their farm and join them at table.  So, I took up that offer, this afternoon and evening.

Conversation with three of the farmers ranged on several matters, from not tilling the soil and understanding the nature of weeds, to the worth of intentional communities.  The recognition that rent and mortgage derive from the European manorial system, and earlier, from imperial mindsets in places as far afield as China and Egypt, led to one person’s opinion that having a roof over one’s head should not require half, or more, of one’s income.

It’d be really nice if that were not my reality, or that of millions of others, around the world.  The alternative, gift or trade economy as a means by which to live, is the basis for many intentional communities.  At Dharma, everyone has a set of responsibilities, which they undertake, daily and heartily, in good faith, in exchange for simple but comfortable housing.  Each adult accepts responsibility for the well-being of the children.  There is a group meeting,  in advance of any major event, and a planning board, with an interesting beehive motif, sits behind the common dining table.

If some of this sounds like the communes of the 1960’s and ’70’s, there are features of those entities, such as vegetarianism and natural healing. Fidelity between marriage partners is very definite at Dharma, however, and modesty in dress is practiced by all adults, and children of school age.  Hygiene is excellent.

Here are a few scenes of Dharma Family Farm, bearing in mind that this is the time when preparations are being made for the winter months.


This is a bottle wall.  Glass bottles help prevent cement from cracking.20171119_154703[1]

Artwork is random and eclectic.  I like the creativity of the residents in this secondary house.


Here’s the supply yard. EVERYTHING in this lot will be put to good use, especially during the winter and spring repair and planting seasons.


This is Holly, her youngest daughter, Lunaya, and two of their four dogs.  Holly  and her mate, Landen, were the first of the current group of residents to come to Dharma.


I came away with renewed respect for people in intentional communities.  Their work ethic is as good  as, if not better than, that of many wage and salaried workers, in the wider world.  Their children are well-fed, feel emotionally secure and, from infancy, are not held back from doing tasks that their bodies and motor skills can handle.   There is full equality between the genders, and nobody divides labour, of any kind, by stereotype.   Home schooling is the preferred vehicle for education.  This last would give me a skill to offer, if I pursue a period of itinerant service, following my retirement from my current work, three years hence, as I am sure that other intentional communities may have such needs. Indeed, I spent thirty minutes with a very meticulous two-year-old, assembling a tower from the plastic blocks I had brought as a gift to the children.

I will be back at Dharma, several times, over the next three years, at least.  Life is good, where there is love and devotion.