So I've been picking up the pace, stopping places for a week or three instead of a month or three, and that has meant time for writing has been harder to come by. I've kept up on the journaling, which is the most important part from my perspective, but when I sit down to write a blog post, it quickly blooms into something more the shape and length of a book chapter. I'm excited about that tendency, but it does leave you out in the cold, gentle blogreaders. I apologize. Let me give you a quick rundown of what I've been up to.
|JPUSA's historic Chelsea Hotel, Chicago|
It was hard to say goodbye to my friends in Chicago, but I admit that getting out of the city was a relief. As suburbs gave way to fields and forests, I could feel myself uncrinkle inside: so good to have space around me again. I thought I was a city girl, but maybe I'm wrong. Or maybe I'm just not a Chicago girl.
|Pallet-making shop at Camp Hunt|
My plans to join a JPUSA road trip to the Rainbow Gathering in Florida were stymied by yet another bout of sickness (respiratory flu: nothing serious, but enough to kill my desire to camp in the woods for a week). I did manage to catch up with the Jesus People at the tail end of their trip: a restful weekend spent at Camp Hunt, outside Bloomington, Indiana. Camp Hunt is home to a men's rehab program known as The Hebron Center: not precisely intentional, perhaps, but certainly a community. Staff and residents alike welcomed us with enthusiasm, talked about their lives and stories, expressed gratitude for the fellowship, teaching, and structure they've found at Camp Hunt. The program wouldn't work for someone who wasn't willing to at least profess an interest in Christianity, but it does seem to be very effective for a significant number of people. I wasn't there long enough to get much insight into the place, but it was an interesting glimpse into a community I never would have come across on my own.
|"Biketopia" [bike storage] at the Bloomington Catholic Worker|
I spent nearly a week at the Bloomington Catholic Worker, where six adults live in community, share resources, earn income part-time and volunteer part-time, with a focus on helping the homeless. They are well-placed: in Indiana, services for the very poor are few and far between, so the homeless flock to Bloomington seeking work and aid. The BCW offers their spare bedrooms as temporary housing, which helps a few of the homeless get back on their feet. Though this kind of hospitality is typical for Catholic Worker houses, the BCW is unusual in that its members are raising three (soon to be four!) children in this environment. My time here was very short, but we packed in a lot of good conversations and some lovely jam sessions, and I left with a lot to think about.
|Ferocious guard dog, defending his turf|
In Ohio, I spent two weeks with a household of anti-authoritarian activists. In an effort to live as sustainably and cheaply as possible, they scavenge almost everything they need from dumpsters, curbs, and demolition sites. Building materials (to repair and remodel their big old house), clothing and household furnishings (richly supplied by the dumpsters of nearby college dorms), even food (past-its-prime produce from one member's grocery job, assorted delicacies from grocery store dumpsters): all these and more are free, if you know where to look. Their labor system rewards both wage-earning work and unpaid service to the household, and allows them a lot of free time and energy to focus on causes like prisoner advocacy and pushing back against gentrification in their neighborhood. They also manage to squeeze a lot of fun into their schedule. I enjoyed foraging by flashlight, dancing under strobelights, and talking by firelight (woodstove and campfire) with these people. (I'm also a big fan of their gentle but not-too-bright dog, who ranks high on my Best Living Canines list. I mean, up there with Cotter at the Little Farm and Storm in Chelan. I'm not really a "dog person," but I am a person of specific dogs.)
|Friendly fauna at Stoneybrook Farm|
And I spent two weeks at beautiful Stoneybrook Farm, in Loudoun County, Virginia, with members of a religious group called the Twelve Tribes. They spurn the label "Christian" while following the teachings of the Bible, and claim to be the only true followers of Jesus. The Twelve Tribes work hard six days a week and rest on the Sabbath (Saturday), and incorporate a lot of Jewish tradition into their daily lives, from giving each other Hebrew names to performing Israeli folk dances on Friday nights. The men bring in income through tree servicing and construction projects; the women raise and homeschool the children, cook and clean. Both work to operate Stoneybrook Farm Market, a venue for homegrown organic produce, homebaked pies, and delicious deli sandwiches. Despite cutting themselves off from the outside world in many ways, the Twelve Tribes have a policy of warm hospitality to anyone who shows up on their doorstep. I was blessed by their cheerful generosity and enthusiastic welcome, even as I retain strong reservations about many aspects of their community.
|Catacombs of the DC Metro|
Now I'm in Our Nation's Capitol, couchsurfing and taking a breather: writing and internetting, sleeping in late, staying out late, observing my surroundings without worrying about taking notes. It's been lovely. I still can't believe I've made it all the way "Back East," as we call it on the west coast. But here I am. Goodness gracious.