Journal of an Incoming Member
Written by Jonathan Swiftcreek
The First Steps Towards Earthaven
The joint story of eli (lower case intentional) and me, our search for community, and two years later, our move to Earthaven, began in April 2007, in Asheville, NC. We had met recently, connected through community-oriented events related to food and our lifestyles (potlucks, buyers’ clubs, Critical Mass bike rides, miso-making workshops, Asheville LETS orientation). We began dating, and over the next few years our lives wove together completely, and our commitment to each other deepened. Asheville had a subculture that offered us much (as above, and also local farm and food awareness, herbalism awareness and education, and alternative health practices in general). Yet, during one April discussion between the two of us, we expressed our yearning for something else to fill our lives; we ached a pain we could not describe. We did know the source of the pain, and from my several years living on farms and having communal connections in livelihood with others, and eli her experiences, we knew what nourishment we needed. We were looking for satisfying community and connection, especially when it came to connection with food, and with sharing the everyday life and livelihood or long term project.
In May, now a community of two, we strategized how to become a community of more. We envisioned our ideal urban collective household, and crafted a document describing it. I had a friend who owned and lived in a large Montford neighborhood house that had been a university coop house of sorts. She wanted to move away from Asheville and sell the house. The timing and circumstances opened the possibility, and we created an 18-month rental contract with an option to buy. We hoped that by the time we were ready to sign a mortgage, we would have a few more people to sign with us, while the rest of the house would remain renters.
We spread the word through our friends, the weekly local foods potlucks we hosted, and posted flyers around Asheville. I went to the Twin Oaks-hosted Communities Conference during a weekend in August, to learn and to seek potential members for our forming community. A few people in Asheville expressed interest, but backed out. It wasn’t until practically the last hour, just a few weeks before our November 1st move in date, that we managed to get seven other people to join in as renters. Our house on Chestnut Street became Casa Castenea, Castanea being the botanical name for Chestnut.
The 18 months that we lived in Casa Castanea was a story all in itself (more like a book). Holding that tale for another time, the simplified version described the deepening understanding of eli’s and my needs of a community. What was illuminated during this time was our awareness of the importance of sharing with others a connection to the sources of life and sustenance- interpersonal relationships, food, shelter, resources, and meaningful livelihood. Most importantly, and lacking, we needed other people as deeply committed to the project as we were, and the consequent feeling of fairly shared responsibilities.
How long would it take for this to happen there? I had the sense that many people I met were not interested in committing to long-term projects and a lot of people attracted to urban collectives were transient in general. In October 2008, we chose to seek elsewhere for a community that could better meet our needs.
Our criteria was a community that:
We would fulfill our lease agreement and find new management for the house, but our focus would be on finding a new community.
To Be Continued…
(Please look for the continuation of the series describing my process of exploring and joining Earthaven.)
Jonathan Swiftcreek enjoys exploring Earthaven Ecovillage as a home, and spreading awareness and enthusiasm for eco-village life.