We had a party last weekend for all the folks here who have birthdays in December. I think it’s the most-represented month on the commune, when it comes to birthdays. We haven’t had a big party since Halloween, so people were really ready to let loose and go wild. We did a silly pseudo-ritual to call in the “four spirits”: Sake from the East, Tequila from the South, Bourbon from the West, and Vodka from the North. After invoking the spirits we passed the bottles around the circle for everyone to take a swig… lots of people had significant hangovers the next morning, but it was worth it for the value of parody.

At some point during the evening, I gave in to my exhaustion from dancing and crawled up into the loft that overlooks the large living room that was hosting the party. I sat with my legs dangling over the edge, watching people dance. Dances here are so different from any other big parties I’ve ever been to. People are at the same time extremely independent and extremely connected. We all know each other, and we spend our daily lives in support of each other on multiple levels. We all live here. We’re comfortable and independent, not relying on the “friends we came with” cluster for comfort because we’ve mostly all come by ourselves. And because of this comfort, people let loose in a way that delights and inspires me. So many different ways of moving and expressing through the body. From my vantage point at the top of the ladder, I watched how people would engage in the mass of dancers, sometimes dancing by themselves, eyes closed and facing away from the crowd, then turning and getting into a groove with the person or people around them. There’s not a whole lot of “coupling” on the dance floor, especially over an extended period of time. My newest love interest (!mmmm…!) and I would lock eyes as we moved near each other, coming close to share part of a dance, then move away as the tide of the group carried us in different directions.

So what really felt extraordinary about this, for me? I’ve been wanting to write about it since I woke up on Sunday morning with one of my first major hangovers since college. I think a large piece of it was the feeling of being so connected to the people at the party, and loving them as they expressed themselves through dancing. I have an image preserved in my mind from sitting at the top of the ladder, scanning the crowd below me and appreciating each person for their role in my life. I wasn’t on drugs, and I wasn’t even very drunk (I was sober enough to climb up and DOWN the ladder). This feels like a key piece of community — not only in the territory of “communal life”, but community in whatever form — this feeling of deep connection with other people. It’s something I really missed when I moved to the city after college. I didn’t know any of the people I passed by on the street, and it was unlikely I would ever know them. Or the post office workers, or the grocery store checkout folks, or even the people in my apartment building. I moved to a commune to find those deep connections I was missing, because I really wanted to KNOW the people whose lives support mine. And yet, I’m guessing (hoping?) I didn’t need to move to a commune to get those connections — I wonder how I could have created it within the city I lived in. I know I didn’t have the communication skills to really listen to people with a different life experience than me, and I certainly didn’t have a deep awareness of what kinds of connections are possible. If I moved out into the city again, what would I do differently? A question for another post…