We’re chronic renters… the longest we’ve stayed in one place since I joined the family (6 years ago) is 2.5 years.  We moved to our current house almost a year ago.  I think this one might just break the record.

home sweet home

Home Sweet Home

We’re in a small cabin in the woods, 15 minutes outside of town.  We’re in a cluster of 7 cabins total that seem to have been built originally as weekend or seasonal rentals.  Now, they’re homes to 7 households of people who found their way to this quirky neighborhood in the woods.  There’s nothing intentional about this “community”, except whatever intention brought each of us here, to live in relatively small cabins within sight and brief walking distance from 6 other homes.

Our closest neighbors are a middle-aged couple, both teachers in a local rural school.  They call themselves rednecks, have at least 5 dogs at any given time (they help a relative who runs a dogsitting business), and offer us food whenever we knock on their door.  Our mail mistakenly started going to their box when we first moved in, so we got to know them quickly as they came over daily to deliver our mail.  They’re friendly and talkative, and we have a neighborly friendship.

Directly across from us live a couple of artists, who aren’t a couple at all.  The woman has lived in the cabin for over 7 years, with various roommates.  She’s a glass artist who sells her jewelry at an outdoor stand downtown.  Her studio is set up in an outbuilding in front of her cabin, and she often works late into the night.  Her current roommate is a Japanese potter who is sometimes difficult to understand, and makes beautiful plates, mugs, and bowls in a kiln he recently built.

Down the driveway (or around the back, a quick walk through the woods), there’s a family with 3 young kids that moved in just a few months after we did.  I met them when they first came to look at the place, and I was thrilled at the prospect of having more kids in the neighborhood.  We’ve gotten to know each other slowly over the last 8 months that they’ve been here, and as the weather has gotten warmer, we’ve started sending our kids over to each others’ houses for play dates.  We’re culturally different: loud messy hippies (us) and calm tidy Christians (them), and I think I’ve held back from sharing too much of myself out of fear of offending them, not wanting to risk the beauty of having kids the same age who enjoy playing together.  It’s tricky to want a friendship, rather than just letting one form in the course of shared experience and connection.  The wanting actually gets in the way, introducing nervousness/anxiety about it not happening.  Over time, though, we seem to be getting to know each other more, with mutual respect and appreciation.

Next to their cabin lives a semi-retired dog-loving man and his professional wife, who moved in a few months before we did.  He works part-time at Lowes and has built himself a beautiful workshed.  He’s friendly and generous with his tools.  I’ve hardly met his wife.

I haven’t interacted much with the folks who live in the other two cabins, at the very beginning of the driveway.  They’re not outside much, and one cabin has “No Trespassing” signs posted.  The other cabin houses a couple of youngish guys who I met on a walk to the mailbox one day, and haven’t seen them since.

That’s our little cluster.  When we first moved in I planned on hosting a neighborhood party so we could meet everyone and start forming relationships… but I didn’t.  Why not, Kate?  Well… I was focused on other things.  At that point, creating community with these people I didn’t know wasn’t my priority.  I wanted to get the garden going, and organize the house.  I was exhaling, relaxing finally into a home that it felt good to be in, letting myself emerge again as a joyful, passionate, creative woman.

mountain view

Our fence looks nothing like this, but the view is pretty close!

Now, after almost a year here, I feel ready to dive into developing community among these people I live “with”.  First step: a community garden.  The fence was built this week, largely by me and Free and the Christian family.  Our two households have had plants in the ground since the fall, with separate shoddy fences around our own plots.  Now we have one fence to unite us all, including extra space for others who want to garden, too.  Yesterday, as the sun sank behind the mountain, we shared a blissful scene of 5 adults from 3 households working in the garden while the 4 kids played/crawled/helped/laughed around us.

I now have much of what I feared I’d lost when I left the commune.  It just looks different.  And I can live with that.