Archive for February 24th, 2009

Intentional Poverty

Posted on February 24, 2009. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Philosophy, Travel |

bgfun03 I had a friend in California who decided to take six months and live off the land. He had some small savings—he was a typical poor California hippie—and he got a cheap overnight flight to Hawaii. (I don’t know if they still have those.) He found himself a remote cove on a remote beach that didn’t seem to belong to anyone. He had a good, solid tent, a few clothes, a little money, and not much else. For three days, he ate mangoes and papayas and pineapples right off the trees. They were ripe, and there, and free!

The third day, he walked into town. I think he said it took two hours to do so. He bought some twine, and bread, and some more water purification tablets. He didn’t tell the people in the store where he was living. He treated his waste matter and trash organically, and earth-respectfully. He used the twine, tied to a long branch, to catch the occasional fish. They were that easy to catch there. He could broil his fish over a small open fire, and nothing ever had tasted better, he said.

He got quite used to living alone. He spent his time reading (he’d joined the local library in town, and would walk there once a week to return three books, and check out three new ones), gathering twigs for his few small fires, washing his clothes, thinking, singing, swimming, and watching sunsets and other miracles of nature.

He came back to “civilization” after four and a half months, feeling he’d absorbed what he wished from this practice. Even then, he moved into an “intentional community”, on acres of land in a dense redwood forest, north of San Francisco. There, he met a woman who had a baby. They decided to set up house together. They built their small house themselves. They had plumbing, but were not on the local water supply. The water came from a creek, was heated in a large copper kettle, and pumped into their plumbing system for showers and washing dishes. They had a composting outhouse rather than a flush toilet. I know all this because I visited them there. I’ve spent the night in the little loft above their main living space several times. I don’t always sleep well at home, but there, I slept like a log, in the the forest air.

The property had a “main house” which had been there some years before the community acquired it. This had all the mod-cons, as it were: kitchen, washers and dryers, large dining room, and, electricity! Most meals were taken there, communal style, because it was easier to prepare meals and do washing up in a fully equipped kitchen. The little hand-built houses scattered around didn’t have such luxuries.

There were a couple other notable features. One was the large redwood hot tub, heated by a bonfire. Through a series of ingenious pipes and valves, (I never learned who designed it) the temperature could be kept constant. It was open to the stars, and on warm summer nights, as well as cool winter ones, it was soothing and relaxing after a long day growing crops.

The crops were the other notable thing, here. They grew all their own vegetables, of course. After having their lettuce and tomatoes, store-bought were never quite the same. They brewed beer, and attempted wine. They had one other very secluded field I was never permitted to visit. They grew another crop, there—I’ll bet you can guess what kind! Although I’m not a user of that particular crop, I will say that I know this was all fresh, and organic, and not subject to the dastardly chemicals that “imported product” often has. These folks went miles off the property to their jobs (using gas-guzzling vehicles; sigh!) and didn’t believe in doing so “under the influence”. As far as I could tell, this was an article of faith with them. Recreational times were one thing; work another.

Some had jobs because the property didn’t pay for itself. Others contributed by working on their small farm, or doing maintenance, cooking, and other chores. I’ve often wondered what became of them all. I have not been in contact for a number of years, and I honestly couldn’t locate this place, now, if I tried.

So, why have I told you this story? During my evening inspirational reading last night, I read the following: “While money is not absolutely essential to your experience, to most people money and freedom are synonymous.”1.

I was thinking about this in relation to the “economic issues” that are so much in the news these days. I’ll often think that if I had “X” amount of money I could do or have __________(fill in blank), but since I have “Y” amount, I can’t. I remembered my friend, who had lived two distinct lifestyles (actually several other kinds, too; but those descriptions would make this long post longer) one using almost no money, and another with very little. I described him as a “poor-hippie-type”, earlier, but not once, in any reference to himself and his life, did he refer to himself as poor, or lacking in any way.

I got to thinking that many of our possessions; our jobs; our friends even (not to mention our families) can sometimes be anchors; other times be solace. Less can be more. I’m looking for balance in this; how about you?

1. quote from Money,and the Law of Attraction; Hicks


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