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Jessica Eve Watkins

15th April, 2014.


I awoke to a sky breaking open. Hot, humid, sticky Spring drew a breath of relief for Virginia rain. Flowers pollinating, buds furry, sun neon through new veiny life. It took less than three days for the world to burst open, and winter to die; then seven days for the heat to break. I am in love with the renewal, in love with the rain.

Last night we left Twin Oaks, one of the longest standing intentional communes in America. Peter spoke to us there of loneliness. He came to live in a community of 100 so he could always be a part of something, a part of someone else’s something. He is discovering he still lives alone. Still lives inside his own body, still has himself to answer to. Nobody wants to dance with him when the music’s off. He’s thinking of moving on.

In the car afterwards, Harper is sad. This isn’t how I imagined community to be. This isn’t a bunch of best friends having a good time together.

But I’m finding the trip to be not only less than my expectations, but more, too. These worlds exist. These people have made strong choices, tread lightly, work in harmony with the earth. Their days don’t involve Starbucks, their food comes from their own fields. They never waste a car journey alone.

We arrive at Acorn, an offshoot, baby-brother community, half an hour down the line. A track so long and rough leads to the door and Harper wonders if we’ve been tricked. Nothing could be so remote! Above us is the blood moon, shrouded in cloaks of cloud. Full moon in Libra, moon of balance, moon of seeing another’s point of view.

In the car-park with the cardinals darting overhead we feel exhausted before this third stop-off has even begun. It’s been tougher than we thought. More beautiful, more adventurous, wilder. Our hips ache from sleeping on bare earth.  

Making a documentary about people who have chosen to retire away from a showy life is indeed tricky. It’s almost impossible to catch a group shot; there’s always at least one person adamant to hide. And I can do nothing but understand exactly why they’d feel that way. At Living Energy Farm almost no-one wanted to be documented at all. It’s hard to film people and it’s hard to get started. It’s hard to ask them to stand still. To repeat themselves. To wait for the wind to die down. It’s a trial by fire.

Back under the blood moon, we are met by Ginger and Samantha, a mother and daughter who are both members, both live here full time. Sam in panama hat sweeps us around the grounds, opening doors, trying to find us a bedroom. She is wonderfully beautiful and friendly. The place is brimming with youth. No room at the inn. On every stoop strangers are gathered, clinking Sierra Nevada bottles and laughing. We are greeted warmly, face after face, a rarity at other communes. It’s a grounding feeling, these open arms.

News has travelled about the documentary and before we mention it at least three people have offered to speak on camera. What is this magical place!

We grab beers and pull ourselves up onto a bamboo stage recently erected in the garden. It’s an impressive structure built for a party, covered in a fabric-painted moon chart, and eaves dripping in coloured fairy-lights.

We are alone and opened up from a week of travel, the evening late and bare-shouldered.

We talk about relating to others, our differences and ambitions. I realise that I don’t know what my closest friends want from their lives. We meditate, try to fuse energy back into our tired bodies. When I open my eyes there is a man standing in front of us, watching.

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