If you ever find yourself in the Northern California foothills, an odd area that feels like a chunk of the Bible belt dropped into the top half of the generally liberal state, as you’re passing through the small sleepy towns, if you happen through a particularly small conservative town, you might notice something strange. There’s a commune there, in a small church off the main road (which in this town means it has four lanes instead of one or two).
Granted, currently it probably looks much less strange; people pay rent to live there and volunteer at the free clinic and free lunches the church offers – that bit of social justice still sticks out in a place with a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality, but the living arrangement itself isn’t particularly odd.
It was a bit different when I lived there.
We called it an intentional community rather than a commune, though the idea was the same; simplify your life, share with others, and purposefully engage in relationships with each other, rather than the forced and often distant relationship between roommates. We were liberal Christians that alternately took homeless folk in off the street, had meals and prayers together, offered art classes/workshops for kids and teenagers, occasionally helped the very elderly population of the church we resided in, and often felt like failures as our town and the people in it never really changed.
I moved out just before Christmas 2011, and some of my memories of my time there are already fading. My three years in college already bled together, but it’s difficult for me to remember the people we worked with, their stories, and when that was. Which is a shame, because I was exposed to a wide and diverse (in every sense except race because, you know, small conservative town) range of people.
I could try to rationalize that these are important stories that need to be shared with other people, that maybe someone might learn from our mistakes, but frankly I just don’t want to forget. It doesn’t help that it’s theorized that the more you bring up a memory, the more inconsistent and inaccurate it is, so these memories are only going to get farther and farther from what originally happened. I’m sure some of that altering has already, and is currently, happening, hence my “mostly, probably true” phrase.
And just to be clear, since I’ll probably be giving the stories of our interactions with certain people, that these posts are not at all meant to demean or make fun of them or their possible mental disabilities. With the population that we dealt with, our possible reactions to strange and uncomfortable situations generally ranged from laughter, to fear, to anger, and even though I didn’t always pick laughter in the moment, I try to in hindsight. I’d much rather smile, comment on the strangeness and move on than become afraid or angry. So please take these stories with the best of intentions :)
These stories will be posted pretty much entirely at random, I’m not even going to pretend to commit to posting them a certain day every week. Hey, at least I’m honest!