Lessons of communal living…and loving it


When I was younger, I heard about communes and communal living; I was told they were strange and absurd. In college, a friend of mine spent a weekend with a community that shared religious, spiritual, and communal beliefs. He came back in awe of the generosity and kindness he felt, but also uneasy about the distance and isolation, which this community kept themselves in.

Last summer on thesca.org, I read about a residential corps in New Hampshire where 30 people around my age worked, cooked, and lived together in Bear Brook State Park. I became intrigued because of the work they did, and how they did it. In college I studied Elementary Ed and we spend 3 months teaching Environmental Ed. to 4th graders. I’ve worked in New York State Parks since high school and did conservation work in NH parks and forests for 4.5 months. What drew me the most was living with 30 strangers from all over the country.

One of the things I find most valuable about my time as a SCA NH Corps member, is that I’m able to learn every day, all of the time. These aren’t necessarily tangible lessons, like developing a strong lesson plan, hanging an axe, learning to crochet, or making some pretty rockin’ sweet potato muffins. I’ve learned that my cabin mates snore, but they also tell really funny jokes and don’t get angry if I talk about rock climbing too much. I’ve learned that people from all over the country have different accents, and so do I! I’ve learned that morning sunlight filtering through snow-covered hemlocks has the power to literally stop me in my tracks. I’ve learned that for every nice thing that I’ve done for someone, probably five nice things have been done for me. And I’ve learned that I have so much more to learn… and I have 28 wonderful friends to help me.

We’ve spent the past few weeks here at Bear Brook training for the second half of our program, which will be spent in the forests and parks of New Hampshire and Maine. It will take all of our energy to do the work we have to do. Two crews of seven will head to the White Mountains to work on building, clearing, and restoring trails. I along with six other members will head to the Saco River Valley in Maine to rebuild a bog bridge. We will again eat, work, and live together. We will solve problems and get hot, dirty and tired by day, and we will talk, laugh, and relax in the cool summer evenings. Tents will replace our cabins and the ground will replace chairs. We will rely on one another, share our stories, and learn from one another. We will form a new community, and I’m psyched!