Tuesday, June 1, 2010

community of nomads.

Cars have a lot to answer for. In a world without them, it would be inconceivable to build houses so far from schools. Or libraries. Or farms. In a world without them, communities would be organized, of necessity, into walkable neighborhoods. People would know each other; the lack of an easy escape "away" would force us to become more accountable for our actions.

I say all this, but I have taken full advantage of roads, cars, airplanes, all of it. I love travel. I love new beginnings. I love new identities, new homes, new vistas, new people. I really, really like running away. And as a very adept chameleon, I have been able to alter myself to fit almost anywhere. Thus my friendships run in strata: there are the vegan straight edge friends, the poetry friends, the old-time music friends, the permaculture friends, the Quaker friends, the counterculture friends, the kung fu friends, the respectable professional friends. Having moved around so much, I have very few friends who have known me through all these phases, and hence, even when surrounded by friends, I often feel something is missing. Some part of me has not been invited to the party.

I imagine most of us feel this way. But I wonder, when I watch communities of friends who have grown up together, if there is a fulness to that communion I have never experienced. From the outside looking in--so I could very well be off on this--it certainly seems so.

My dearest, oldest friends are all nomads too. At any given time my deepest community has been scattered from New York to Tarrboro to Tanzania to Germany to Australia. Never, never have we all been gathered in one place. When I imagine such a gathering it fills me with an almost fierce joy. To have my friends around me! To spend the ins and outs of daily life with them! To gather easily and regularly for music, for dinner, for ritual, for celebration! What could be more important in this brief chaotic life than this?

Yet, somehow, we are fractious about our independence. We make plans to buy land together and then sidle away. We draw up business schemes, cohousing possibilities, and then find excuses to keep them from happening. We want our freedom. We want options open. We want distant horizons. And, I think, we are afraid. We are afraid of what the ins and outs of daily life can do to friendship. We are afraid of being too deeply known. We are afraid of being unable to hide in anonymity.

On Memorial Day I made copious amounts of food, lit the wood fire to cook most of it, brought out the guitar and drank lemonade under its tree of origin. My boys ate with amazement (I don't think they've ever seen so much food before) and then raced around the yard in sugar-induced glee. Our yard backs up to about 7 others. Each of these yards contained its own Memorial Day party. 7 different radios blared 7 different songs. 7 different groups of friends and family celebrated in their own way, in their own space. I found the whole situation ludicrous. I wanted nothing more than to kick down the fences and merge our parties. Come on! By all accounts, the universe is going to end someday. This is it, humanity's one chance to express what it is to be human. Do we really need these fences?

I don't know how long I will be living here. Already I have begun making plans to leave. But when will it end? When will I accept the place I am as home, at least for now? I am still waiting for that fictional place where all of my friends will gather together and create a home with no pieces missing, with every bit of the past accounted for and gathered in. And in the meantime, we run, and run, and run.


  1. Okay, I am giggling at myself now because I just published this very histrionic post about how My Friends Are All Far Away!! and then Laura called me twice within the space of 10 minutes. I am, sometimes, full of it.

  2. I long for that fictional place too! One of my friends thinks it's Vancouver. I've heard Bali is phenomenal too! Just get everyone to move there!

  3. It's here.
    We just have to knock down the fences.
    After wanting to shake that woman who we saw working out today, I think I could do it. Maybe Richard could stay out of it, though.