There is a faint memory that manifests repeatedly in my mind…. It comes on the same way that trying to remember a dream from the night before comes, scarcely bringing back the details, with a feeling that I cannot quite locate. The memory includes sun-tanned, dirty children, who are peaceful and naive, and with a glow and wildness about them. The sun is shining from the east.
Families burdened with dual wage earners. Single parents living paycheck-to-paycheck. New mothers overwhelmed with their desire to raise children in a way that is counter culture, but have nowhere to turn. Even the tedious scheduling of play dates, which are unconducive to playing when the time to play naturally arises, has come to be part of a grind. Deep conversations with many friends have lead me to understand the longing for a different way.
The famous author and political satirist Kurt Vonnegut ponders.“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
Is it daring to create stable communities? What does a young person have to commit to to cure the disease of loneliness? Loneliness. Disconnection. Alienation. Lack of support. Too much stress. “How are you?” we ask our neighbor with a smile. “Just busy” she says, as if that is the only answer. It is no secret that many people want something different, less rushed, many even something pastoral.
In a seemingly unrelated discussion, people are flocking into the city to live at incredible rates, essentially abandoning rural towns and land. Farmers are decreasing in numbers. In spite of Wisconsin’s formative values that land is a community (as espoused by Aldo Leopold) not a commodity, our land use policies are being dominated by the incessant greed of agribusiness, while we as concerned citizens sip lattes at modern cafes and get nail jobs. Our modern conveniences have a cost… money, time, and natural resources. The lifestyle, causing the very ailments that we describe wanting to escape from while rural lands are exploited in ways that we claim to object to.
Bill Mollison gives the famous example of the permaculture principle, The Problem is the Solution, with this, “You don’t have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency!” (referring to slugs taking over a garden, and a duck’s taste for them.) And, indeed, we gardeners, many of us do indeed have a duck deficiency.
Might I suggest, that Bill Mollison’s famous permaculture principle might once again be reinforced. The problem of loneliness might very well be solved, if we opted to solve the problem of the abandonment of our rural lands by making that leap to populate this land with people who commit their lives to caring for it, together.
People coming together to own and care for land, while living a shared, or even tribal lifestyle, is not new. There are existing models for making this happen and they are often referred to as co-housing communities or intentional communities. The social, financial, and legal structures vary, from place to place and group to group, but there are some common themes: shared land, shared resources, shared meals, shared workload, a goal of generational diversity, smaller separate living quarters for each family unit with larger community space. Notice that there is a theme of sharing.
This model of sharing land, and living small, is a model for the future, one in which the people who collectively own the land ensure that the land is cared for and preserved for generations to come. The problem of our modern culture is the solution to the environmental issues of our agricultural system. The problem of the urban/rural divide is for city folks to move to rural lands and participate in caring for the land. The problem of loneliness, cured by the agrarian tribe being reimagined…warriors of a new path forward.
There is opportunity for transformation to happen. For land to be shared and cared for. For children to run wild, and stay innocent, with a tribe supporting their still-feral desires, of frogs, and trees, and freedom.
Victory Garden Initiative has a database of 10,000 mostly urban people. Land-owners reach out to us on a regular basis to offer land up to be used for sustainable agriculture, for free. If you are interested in reconnecting with land, if you have land that you wish was farmed and cared-for differently, if you seek a tribe and space, if you think that perhaps the problem is the solution, I invite you all to participate in a new conversation called Convergence Community and take this short survey, so that when the time is right we can begin to create the solution.