It occurs to me as I contemplate the summer solstice that I’ve had a rather unconventional life so far. Most people start their public life attending some sort of school; then some sort of other higher education; get some sort of job; perhaps partner up; maybe have a family. Me; I’ve been a wanderer, sometimes physically, sometimes metaphorically.
The solstices for me are times of reflection, more so than other natural religious holidays. The summer one, particularly, is a time of feeling full; and I am! Not so much with food…although I like food…but with reflection; a personal reckoning. I feel as if I’m about to burst: With ideas; with disclosures; with life-changing revelations.
At Solstice time, not TOO long ago, I changed my life, again. It was shortly after the journey written about in this post. I had realized I would not be able to live within a traditional religious community and stay connected to my authenticity, so I sought elsewhere. I really hadn’t expected to get involved with the next community, either, but the end of a tumultuous relationship was nigh, and I found myself about to be homeless.
On this occasion I was not inclined to live alone, and as I was limited in funds, I also was looking for somewhere inexpensive and beautiful. Keep in mind that I was in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time: Beautiful=pricey.
A good friend told me there was a room available in his house. I knew him well enough to know he wasn’t speaking of a traditional family home. He lived with some people in an “intentional community“, whatever that was. I knew it was sort of spiritual, but in a tradition unfamiliar to me. My friend invited me for dinner, to “check us out”. It was in the most beautiful, woodsy, incredible area north of San Francisco; somewhere I’d always wanted to live, but felt I couldn’t afford. The rent was reasonable: For the same price I could have gotten a small snarky apartment in a bad neighborhood in San Francisco; here I’d have views of mountains and be walking distance from a peaceful lake.
There was just one thing. I would have seven roommates. Seven! Those of you who come from large families may think nothing of that, but I’d never lived with more than three people in my life, and those three were my family members. Seven. People. Six of whom I did not know.
I’m not generally an extremely outgoing, social person. I like to keep to myself a great deal; although I can share deeply in small groups, or one-on-one. What would it be like to live in a house full of vaguely hippy-ish spiritual seekers? Did I have to eat celery and wheat grass? Would I be required to chant and have a guru? Were there orgies every weekend? I agreed to dinner, as my friend was cooking that night. (They took turns cooking dinner, and ate that meal together; breakfast and lunch were on your own.)
Next: Let the interrogation begin! I didn’t quite realize I was being vetted. When I look back on it, of course they were interested in how I would fit into their household. It was an intimate setting, after all, and as I was not of their spiritual practice, they were even more wary of me. It turns out that they weren’t able to find “one of their own kind” to occupy their vacant room, or I’m sure they would have preferred that person over me. There was another “outsider” living there, but she was the girlfriend of a long-term resident, and lived with him in the garage apartment. I was somewhat relieved at this. I would not be the only one.
I parked my car. Took a deep breath, and since I was early, walked around the neighborhood a bit. I knew that this would be a temporary situation for me, until I “got my bearings” (still waitin’ on that one!) 🙂 and told myself that I could live here; it would nurture my soul. I wondered what the potential housemates would be like.
Gathering my wits about me, such as they were, I knocked on the front door. After what seemed like a long while, a young man—I’d guess a couple of years older than I—opened it. “You must be Muse“, he said. I admitted this was the case. “Well, if you’re going to live here you should know that we don’t lock the door, you just walk right in.” (!)
Wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I’d lived in a city. I locked my doors there. He led me through the lounge into the kitchen, where my friend greeted me and waved a spatula in a friendly way. As my friend was busy cooking (had I known then that the only person I knew in this household would be gone in two months; off to live with his girlfriend, I might never have braved this scene) my potential new friend allowed me to sit and began to ask questions:
Why would you want to live here? What kind of food do you eat? What is your feeling about alternative religion? Have you ever lived in a community before? Why do you want to do it now? Do you have a lot of stuff?—this last, because the room he’d showed me was fairly small. Plenty of room for me, though, I can tuck myself away into a nice corner and be content. It had the most important feature of a room for me: A door. I’ve been like this my whole life; wherever I’ve lived, in relationship or out of it, I must have my own space, however small. Those times when I did not were not good for me or the person with whom I lived.
Noises began to be heard in other parts of the house. Roommates were returning from work. This was a rambling house, with several additions seemingly stapled on from necessity without regard for aesthetic sensibility, with at least five entrances. Nevertheless, it had a pleasant feel.
I heard barking from below. There were dogs here! Soon, an intelligent-looking woman emerged from the staircase off the kitchen. She was the non-spiritual girlfriend of the fellow that had been questioning me. She said not to let them intimidate me, and told her partner to leave me alone and not ruin my dinner.
Part two: Dinner and Beyond coming soon to a blog near you. 🙂