THE OLD red and white panel truck hulked to the shoulder, mud tires whining to a stop. Eager-faced hitchhikers scrambled for the door.
"You’re welcome to come along, but we can’t go far. Twenty bucks is all we’ve got left. Have to stop ‘n put some money together when we reach Butte."
"Yeah? Where’re ya headed?" Gears ground back onto the lonely road as the tires resumed complaining. Miles of two-lane highway reached across open plains to distant mountain ranges on the west, north and east.
"We’re goin ta Colorado. To the Rainbow Tribe gathering in Rocky Mountain National Park."
"No kiddie’? So are we. Three states away and we’re already in some kind of movement. Where’ ya from? We’re from Alberta."
"Washington. What have you heard about the happening? I guess the Yaqui Indians have a prophecy about a white buffalo appearing in the sky on the Fourth of July."
"Yeah, and somethin’ like seven planets will align at the same time. Very heavy."
"Well, I don’t know about all that spiritual stuff, but I sure wanna be with the people. Sposed ta be over twenty thousand."
"Ya know, one of these times everyone’ll set up camp for keeps and we’ll just go on livin’."
"That’s the dream now, ain’t it? Heaven on Earth? Well, maybe this’ll be the time. Maybe it will."
Hippies, flower children – folks who couldn’t let a full moon shine unnoticed. The early years were spent looking for perfection inside Timothy Leary’s window pane. Altered consciousness showed there are no mistakes, that Life’s fabric has no flaw save what we interject through flawed reflection.
But with eyes glued to that TV screen, marveling at intricate traceries of life art, we overlooked our integral part. Running hither and yon to find that perfect place left only aborted ambitions. The end of the rainbow always vanishes when you are chasing it. With high minded ideals it was humbling to realize no greater progress than generations before. The call of "Westward Ho!" echoed away to a mumble as humanity piled into itself like so many thundering pachyderms, too slow witted to change course. It was time to stop.
"Well this must be it, honey. Five Acres and Independence on a rural route." Although everyone around me said, "Yes, this is it", I was disappointed. What happened to the intentional community and communal sharing of my dreams? Weren’t we intended to be caretakers of this Earth? But with the children growing fast and youth slipping into middle age, dreams dissolved in the rigor of day-to-day life. A strange, comfortable stability surfaced. It threatened our impassioned beginnings with a lackluster curtain call.
Looking to nature for an answer of spirit, the seed game was named. As a human desire is planted in the heart, so is a seed in the ground. But as a seed’s growth can’t be forced, neither can a wish. The farmer of heart, far from being removed from the process, is attentive and ready to assist and nurture as growth begins. Our seeds had been sown and nature would take its course.
Some neighbors down the road, deciding to make room for a new building, gave us an old two-story farm house. Plans were made to have it moved to our land. Realizing the impact it would have on the space of immediate neighbors, I went around breaking the news.
"Sure gonna change the view around here. Can ya stick it outta the way so it won’t block our sunset?"
Moving day came and our behemoth inched down the tiny country road. Fenceposts were pushed the extra fraction needed to let it pass. Finally it crossed the field and sensitively, if not inconspicuously, nestled onto its new fou ndation.
Projects gleamed with a newness I hadn’t felt since childhood. We wanted a super garden, a pond, a cow. I surveyed woodlot and stream and we chose the spot for an orchard. Life took on new interest as it became apparent that I was a caretaker for this small corner of Earth.
It wasn’t long before we started getting opportunities to nurture our community seedling. As needs arose we chose to ask neighbors for help and welcomed the chance to return help. Work parties were formed with an air of celebration. The whole of us was definitely greater than the parts. Sharing work and tools mushroomed into a lifestyle and walking paths between homes became inviting brown ribbons.
Discussions of philosophy, religion and politics revealed a common value system. With as many ears as neighbors, we were better informed and more able to respond to situations affecting our community.
When a little-publicized meeting of the county commissioners was called concerning the building of an oil port near our homes, we were alerted. Within a short two hours everyone was notified and we attended the critical meeting, en masse, to express our concerns.
Issues such as education, environmental protection, health and economics could most often be better dealt with as a community group. Our rural, four party, telephone line, though annoying at times, has worked out as an answering service when important calls were expected. We’ve also pooled rides to town and events, joined in bulk food purchases to increase buying power, and shared child and animal care. One neighbor, skilled in backpacking and camping, took twelve of the neighborhood children on a week-long trek into our National Park. Afterward, with parents and children aglow, we squeezed into an ample living room to see slides of the adventure and enjoy a potluck dessert.
New frontiers beckoned, if not in untamed land, within the head and heart. To anyone hugged by the harmony of rich music it’s easy to imagine. Friendships create harmony and compassion; the basis for a bond of renewed patriotism. The call to arms? How about, "Arm in arm."
While breathing the scent of sweet basil over the garden fence, we brainstormed. "Why not have a neighborhood choir?"
With borrowed sheet music, the most experienced directed and we rehearsed in the living room of our relocated house.
After several months of rehearsals we were asked to sing at a local church. Although choir was composed of both churchgoers and folks in no organized religion, this didn’t prevent joy in our music or inhibit performances.
I’d been writing musical plays with my wife and we sounded the choir about using one of our works for a production. Several of the musical pieces we already sang were composed by folks in the group, but a commitment like this would dominate choir time and I questioned the worthiness of our creation. The project was, however, enthusiastically accepted.
We rented local halls to rehearse with sets and lighting equipment too large for the living room. As performance time drew near, feature articles were written in local newspapers. Arrangements were made for three performances; one in each of the nearest towns. In addition to the musical play, the choir would sing some other pieces and a six piece neighborhood band would play providing a full evening’s entertainment.
With great satisfaction we performed for enthusiastic, generous audiences. Not only our immediate group, but the larger community around us experienced a memorable and meaningful time together.
Members of our group have built houses, boats, and tipis, taught classes and workshops, begun foundations and businesses, started community newsletters and coops, written books and quarterlies, planted orchards and forests, become politicians and activists for positive change. It seems that our combined abilities are limitless. The fertilizer that keeps us farming the same garden is communication.
Playing the seed game is neither ambitiously competitive nor passively ambivalent. One must know the variety of seed/wish one wants to plant. A Utopian vision, communicated to every listening ear, is left to sprout in darkness while mundane life screams distraction. Well planted, it returns – young, but sturdy – greening its way along rural routes, flourishing in neighborhoods everywhere. Anyone can play.
Trevor Gloor lives outside of Blyn, Washington and teaches drama in the local public schools.