My first experience visiting in an Intentional Community – Alpha Farm Part One

I didn’t think this was proper to write from the beginning. Tonight is the last night of the first leg of my journey. I’ve spent the last two weeks at Alpha Farm. An intentional community located in Deadwood, Oregon. Population 294. I’m currently sitting in the living room of a one hundred year old farmhouse. I’m tending to the fire as an Alpha member plays piano. I thought it was fitting that “When you wish upon a star” should play as I’m writing this. I don’t think I put enough wood in. Fixed. I confess, I was going to read a book but I found the music inspiring. That happens a lot here. From here on out I’ll probably post more often, but that wasn’t right here. In fact that is the complete antithesis of the vibe here.

It’s March 23rd, I know the publishing date says September 1st but it’s March 23rd. Most of the residents here have retired to their rooms. People sleep fairly early around here. It was one of the first  things that I’ve become accustomed to since my arrival last Thursday night. I arrived shortly after dinner. Caroline, the last founder of Alpha Farm who remains here and another member, we’ll call him Bill, picked me up from the Eugene, Oregon airport. At fifty miles way it’s the nearest major city.  My flight hadn’t  come in on time and they were kind enough to wait for me.

On the plane I was in absolute awe looking down upon the mountains. I flew in during a storm so I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get to see Crater Lake from above. That disappointment quickly faded on the drive in. We were now “in” the mountains. Deadwood is in the coastal region so most of the locals refer to them as hills. Compared to these hills the ones I was accustomed to were children, babies. Tiny natural waterfalls poked out of trees covered in moss. There were shades of green that I had never seen outside before. I saw lamas that weren’t lamas (alpacas) and asked nonstop questions about the wildlife. I was so entranced by the scenes around me that it pained me to have to glance at my phone and converse with my mother who was texting me non-stop as I explained to her that my cellphone service would soon cut out.

We arrived at dinner time and I quickly said hello to everyone. It would take me a couple of days to learn everyone’s names. Though the number is everchanging there were ten permanent members, one extended visitor, and two short term visitors when I arrived.  A short term visitor can be here for a couple of days to a couple of months. An extended visitor can remain for several months either living here temporarily or in the process of an internship to become an official resident.  Dinner was brought out onto the table. It was curry, millet, and salad. A circle was formed around the table and I was a bit confused as everyone began to hold hands. Why are we holding hands? Are we doing grace? I didn’t think there was organized religion here. We held hands for several very long seconds and then my eyes widened as everyone began to kiss hands. Later that night I’d find a pamphlet in my room that explained the nightly ritual and how we kissed hands from left to right. Or right to left, I never did get it right. It was to show our appreciation for each other and to thank those who labored over our meal.

Visitor Informational Packet
Visitor Informational Packet

One of the last night’s of my stay someone sang  “Uncle Fucker”  from South Park under their breath during the handholding and I had to bite my cheek not to laugh out loud. I kind of wanted to hit them. Just kidding I didn’t want to hit them, there’s no violence on this farm. The only rules here are No Violence and No Hard Drugs. Though at times Alpha has been renowned as a place to party, currently it’s a tranquil peaceful environment. I’ve found that most of the people who live here do so to free themselves from societal structures. The government is no longer your middle man.

I don’t remember what I was asked or what I replied over the meal. At that point I was wired from 15 hours of travel. More than one person commented on how I should feel free to go to bed to the point that I just went to bed out of submission. It wasn’t until the next night that I observed how early everyone slept. It’s now 9pm, and three more people have retired since I began writing this. The piano has stopped. I need to put another log in the fire. I’m tempted to drink coffee but I learned from two nights ago that having a mug right now would not be wise. Speaking of Coffee. There is always coffee. This farm could not run without it.

Back to my first night. I decided to clean up a bit before retiring for the night. The two bathrooms in the farmhouse I was staying in were occupied but there were a couple others in various buildings. The community building/office was the nearest one and I was informed that there was a communal flashlight kept by a board in the wetroom. When I walked outside I tripped before turning the flashlight on. The darkness felt like an assault. It was then that I realized the full extent of light pollution in New England. Even in the suburbs far away from the city the stars had never shown so bright. Walking to the building across the way I looked around at the various cabins and houses. The layout reminded me of the overnight camp I stayed in as a child. Back then I was a child trying to be an adult. Now I was an adult trying to be as free as a child. Pro tip: That doesn’t exactly work.

Over the next few days I experienced a range of emotions. At times I felt naive and frustrated. As a visitor the most valuable skills that I possessed from my previous careers could not be utilized. Coming from the suburbs of Massachusetts where I had never worked on a bed of soil I was ignorant to some of the tasks that to others were the most basic. Those feelings would diminish over the coming week. Earlier tonight a member offered to read my tarot cards. The fool was placed upside down and we discussed how that related to my earlier feelings at length. He also told me to be aware of cults and cult like thinking. Which I thought was kind of silly coming from a member of what is essentially a hippie commune. [Cults have not come up in my travels to this day, but groupthink has and I’ve seen the disasters it can cause firsthand.] There were times when I was lonely. I dubbed it friendsickness because I like being here. I am not ready for another city. I don’t miss my home but as someone who was used to having such a large network and so many friends just a short drive away, sometimes even a walk away being thrust into independence and sometimes solitude was an inevitable challenge. One which I’m sure will repeat itself again.

Most of the time here I was simply content. To most content is not an ideal term. It’s a stepping stone to happiness. This is not the kind of contentment that I’d been ascribed to. I’ve battled anxiety my entire life. I’ve never been as relaxed as I’ve been here. Even now, sitting by this fire. I fed it a couple more logs a minute ago. Although I should be sleeping so I’m well rested for tomorrow’s departure, I don’t want to lose my inspiration. Inspiration comes so easy here. It’s something I’ve been after for months. I stopped taking the surveys I was using for meager income and began writing short stories and painting.

One day we went to the beach to gather seaweed for fertilizer. I was astounded by the massive amounts of igneous rock all around me. I had never seen so much volcanic rock before and at first I thought some of the stones had been painted black. We went to two beaches that day. The first beach, Heceta Beach, located in Florence, OR had several natural caves. Around and above the caves you could see the layers of soil and clay. I had never seen such defined layers of earth before. I don’t recall the name of the second beach. It had abundant amounts of bull kelp which I learned can be chopped up and spread as fertilizer.

 

Cave at Heceta Beach
Cave at Heceta Beach

 

The lull of sleep is now taking me. It’s taking me several minutes to drag myself away from the comfort of the fire. The heat does not travel upstairs and will be replaced with several blankets. I’m comfortable here. But I didn’t set out on my journey to be comfortable. I came out here to push myself and that means I must move on. When I finish this piece I won’t be here. I’ll be on a bus, or an airport, or maybe even back East. My plans are not so clear.

 

 

Leave a Reply