Blessed Intentions

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Tales of the 2016 Road: Prairies Forever

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July 19-20, 2016, Hays, KS-   Early alley-oop, on Wednesday morning, got me over to Country Cupboard, in Carterville, about five miles west of Marion.  I wanted a simple breakfast, in a place favoured by locals- so there it was.

The conversation in the establishment was all about autistic children, and how they fare in the schools of southern Illinois.  It seems a mixed bag.  One mother found her child’s school to be minimally supportive. A grandmother expressed annoyance at how her grandchild was being received, day to day.  This is an area which hosts a sizable public university.  That, of course, in and of itself, does not guarantee  equity in the treatment of special needs children.  I read, just a few minutes ago, of a threat made against the parent of a special needs child, by a university professor in another state.  Education does not guarantee either wisdom, or human decency.  So, these ladies, and thousands like them, soldier on, fighting for their children- as only decent mothers can.  We won’t concern ourselves with the indecent ones.

I headed northwest, then due west, passing through metro St. Louis, noting that the Mississippi and Missouri appear to be in good shape.  I stopped , momentarily, at a Steak and Shake, in suburban St.Peter, and turned myself into a balloon with a delectable mint Oreo shake.  The burger, sadly, was forgettable, but life goes on.

In Columbia, I surprised a couple of old friends, who had moved there from Prescott, a couple of years ago, to be near family.

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The Fourcks, of Columbia, MO

We spent about two hours catching up on life events, and mutual friends, in the comfort of their living room and at a nearby Cracker Barrel.  I bid farewell to Emil and Pam, as evening approached, and drove on through Missouri, stopping only to savour the preserved prairie, at a rest stop outside Boonville.

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Tall grass prairie, Boonville, MO

It seems to me that the more prairie we keep around, the more the soil will remain rich and productive.  Monoculture, under whatever guise it is implemented, will only add to our food security problems, in the long term.

I skirted around Kansas City, took the toll road to Topeka, then got back on the freeway, as far as Salina, before stopping for the night.  Super 8 offered a decent breakfast, the next morning- and I got a relatively early start, reaching this western Kansas university town, just before noon.

Hays is another quintessential prairie town, in some ways a blast from the past, though people here seem as informed and contemporary in style, as anywhere else.  There is a mixed view of Donald Trump, much as I found in the conservative communities in which I found myself, in southern Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia and the Southeast.

Construction-wise, people here rely on stone.

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Ellis County Courthouse, Hays, KS

I was taken by the smoothed brick streets of downtown Hays.  The mood was fairly quiet, but there were plenty of people out and about- just going on with life, despite the heat.  It was 104 here, as I spent about twenty minutes poking about the north end of the city center.

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This stone gem looks like a church, but is now a law office.

The law office that looks like a church has this as a cross street neighbour.

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The Ten Commandments, St. Joseph’s Parish, Hays, KS

It occurred to me that there are a few, at the famous church back in Topeka, who could stand to learn a thing or two from the folks at St. Joseph’s Parish.  Then again, there are many, liberal, conservative, and in-between, who could do the same.

Here are a few more scenes of St. Joseph’s Parish.

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Social Service Center, St.Joseph’s Parish, Hays, KS

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Church of St. Joseph, Hays, KS

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Chapel grotto, St. Joseph’s Parish, Hays, KS

The above is surely a place of restoration, on a busy day.

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This store is still active, in the days of WalMart.  I find that reassuring.  

Downtown Hays has a popular lunch counter, inside the stationery store.  Northwestern Office Supply’s soda shoppe is the place to go for a full salad bar, freshly made (from scratch) soups and all the soda fountain treats one can imagine.  I behaved, somewhat, opting for a Reuben with cole slaw, and iced tea.  Had it not been so hot outside, soup would have been a magnificent thing.

There are other interesting towns in northwestern Kansas, such as Colby and Oakley, but I had this little agenda, of getting to the Denver area in time enough to skirt rush hour, so I say, “Another time.”  Yes, those of my friends who travel in rarefied circles, there is value to visiting the Prairie.  It has our roots.