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A Call for Guidance from Friends

 
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Hello there! A warm greeting to all of you here reading.

I have been quietly following this forum for the last two years. Many of the conversations I've read have resulted in personal growth, leading to the development of a more positive outlook on my life and my role as a human here on Earth. Distant dreams and goals are now turning into tangible realities of which fulfillment is more urgent by the day.

A little about my situation: I am a 27-year-old man. I live in the southeastern portion of the United States with my companion and our two domestic cats. I went to school for renewable natural resource conservation and management. After graduating, I was hired as an environmental consultant using geospatial technologies to determine areas sensitive to economic development; this is where I am employed today. Recently, my position transitioned to remote work outside of the office, allowing me to work from any location in the United States with a reliable internet connection. This liberation from the company bounds has filled me with introspective thoughts of possibilities - Where am I to go? What am I to do? Who is out there? Who am I?

These questions have proven difficult to answer. In my current location, I feel a lack of connection with the community. I wouldn't conclude that the void is due to an absence of effort on my part, but that I am seeking something that might not exist. To be specific, I long for a clean and enriched community, one free of heavy pollution; I am using the word pollution to refer to both harmful substances in the environment (water, air, soil, food, noise, light pollution) and harmful attitudes & values present in society (fear, hatred, bigotry, willful ignorance, consumerism). I long for a place where I can be a part of something meaningful, where I can grow as an individual and work beside others with similar lifestyles and viewpoints; a place where I can be close to the Earth, working with my hands and learning age-old traditions.

Does such a place exist? That is what I am here to ask you all. I need guidance and deeply appreciate any insight you may have to offer. I am open to starting a dialogue and discussing whatever arises. Specific areas or cities, beneficial activities or lifestyle changes, stories from your life, really anything I'd be happy to discuss. In closing, I would like to note that the majority of my life up to this point has taken place within a suburban area in a large city, and I am not educated/experienced in permacultural techniques or theory. I would also like to mention that my companion and I intend to remain as a group, along with our two animals. Lastly, it should be known that a lack of money is not a serious issue for me, as I have built a comfortable amount in savings and continue to maintain a monthly income.

You have my sincere appreciation for taking the time to read what I have written, and I look forward to reading what you have to offer.

Cheers!
 
Posts: 39
Location: Denver CO
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Hi Nedloh,

I relate to much of what you wrote.  I'm planning a series of road trips over the next six months to hopefully find a fit for myself.  And my two semi-domestic cats.  The Denver area has a lot of great people, but it's so spread out and sporadic, it's time to cash out I think.  I'm interested to see if some new ideas come up in your thread.
 
gardener
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Nedloh,

Your love of nature and community strikes a chord with me, especially the part of me that decided, longed for Southern Illinois.  A little history first.

I traveled to Carbondale, Illinois many times as a child and adolescent to visit family friends.  Frequently they would take us to sundry beautiful locations in the Shawnee National Forest, a mostly overlooked jewel in the American forest system.

By coincidence I ended up going to the local University (SIU @ Carbondale) for the aviation program.  Even though I only stayed in the program for 1 semester, I spent hours sightseeing from the air, finding numerous new locations I desperately wanted to see on foot.  I memorized the directions to these locations.  Two years later I had a car and I explored all those areas I saw from the air and more.  

The Shawnee Forest is beautiful.  It does not remotely resemble the land of the rest of the state which is among the flattest land God put anywhere on earth.  I fell in love with the area.  The hills, caved, waterfalls, cliffs and bluffs.  I learned I loved the people.  What a strange, eclectic mixture of people!  People whose roots date back 5+ generations.  People who just moved in.  

Southern Illinois is a positively strange, wonderful place.  It sits at the intersection of the Midwest and the South.  To the north are the Great Plains and to the south hills.  The forest was never glaciated so hills remain.  There is a combination of midwestern and southern accents side by side.  In the middle of a highly rural culture there sits a surprisingly large, full fledged international community.  There are conservatives and there are hippies who seemingly still don’t know the calendar left the 60s behind.  There is a strong environmental movement in the area.

In case you can’t tell, I love Southern Illinois (which strangely also goes by the term “little Egypt” for reasons nobody fully understands but everyone has a thought.  By fortuitous coincidence, my work brought me back to “Little Egypt” after s brief absence and it is the land my wife and raise our children.

You couldn’t ask for a better community.  A more beautiful land.  There is some poverty, but you have income and the cost of living is low.

Should you come to Southern Illinois I would welcome you as a neighbor.

Eric
 
pollinator
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"Clean and enriched community."  I don't know of a city that is free of pollution and truly clean.  Few towns either.  Are you considering a rural area?  


"Similar lifestyles and viewpoints."  'Dunbar's number' references a premise that differences arise to the point of collapse when the number of people in a group reaches about 150.  However, as Paul has related numerous times in these forums, much smaller groups of people tend to differ when it comes to certain ideas or values they perceive to be more important than the group.

Lifestyles range greatly.  Are you and your significant other party goers?  Or prefer a quiet life where you can each do things alone and together mostly independent of a group?

Do the two of you share similar dreams and visions about living out your lives?  What are those dreams and visions?  How do you plan to grow together?

What type of group or community does each of you feel you will most easily blend with and be content interacting with?  

What are your expectations of community?  As individuals and as a family unit, what will you bring to a new community?

What are things either of you will never consider.  Deal breaker type things.

What are the 'must haves' you cannot live without?
 
Nedloh Seaux
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Buster Parks wrote:Hi Nedloh,

I relate to much of what you wrote.  I'm planning a series of road trips over the next six months to hopefully find a fit for myself.  And my two semi-domestic cats.  The Denver area has a lot of great people, but it's so spread out and sporadic, it's time to cash out I think.  I'm interested to see if some new ideas come up in your thread.



Buster,

Nice to hear from you and see that there are others with similar sentiments. I hope you have a pleasant trip. Traveling with cats can be an interesting process depending on the cat. Do you have a set direction in mind or might you just see where the wind takes you?
 
Nedloh Seaux
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Eric,

Thank you for the story, my friend. You certainly have a way with words. When I return to the library this week, I'll read about the Shawnee National Forest. It sounds like quite a nice area by the way you describe it. The community/culture you mention is one I'd like to witness. Little Egypt! How peculiar!

I am unaware of what the future holds, but may I one day see you down the road.
 
Nedloh Seaux
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Catherine,

Many thanks for the thoughtful response. I hope my answers to your questions are sufficient. This is a new medium of communication for me, and I am still getting acquainted.

"Are you considering a rural area? " Living outside of the city sounds beneficial in a number of ways: looking up at a starry night sky, being able to garden and raise animals, being away from all of the many different municipal wastes. However, where I am from, the majority of rural areas are not so pollution-free either. They are littered with heavy/light industrial facilities and the accompanying chemical runoff (now I do live adjacent to the largest river in the country and the surrounding petrochemical corridor). That's not even mentioning the hundreds of thousands of acres of chemically treated agricultural lands (sugar cane and soybeans). It would be fair to say I need to find out much more about other rural areas in the country. That's partly why I started this thread. The world seems foggy outside of my ideas and reasonings, and I am not sure what to expect. The unknowingness seems romantic in certain ways and insidious in others.

"Small groups of people tend to differ when it comes to certain ideas or values they perceive to be more important than the group." To be honest, I haven't had all of that many experiences living within a small or large group. Without the experiences, it is somewhat difficult to define my self. I will say, the thought of moving into a small or large, unknown community does sound a bit intimidating. It's difficult to know what's what at this point.

"Are you and your significant other party goers?  Or prefer a quiet life where you can each do things alone and together mostly independent of a group?" In the past, my companion and I have enjoyed many social events. We've attended plenty of parties, watched sporting events in large groups, went to musical performances/festivals, etc. Over the last few years, my emotions regarding these events have begun to shift. I see them more and more as acts of individual indulgence, often based on substances and letting go of stress brought about by the 9-5 lifestyle. I see this as more of an issue with the types of events near me, rather than the idea of an event itself. I love communication, feasting, and sharing experiences with others. It would be fair to say I am still developing as an individual and an awareness of what I want is not yet clear. My alone time is something that I equally value and I can imagine that a balance between the two is necessary and varies among individuals.

"Do the two of you share similar dreams and visions about living out your lives?  What are those dreams and visions?  How do you plan to grow together?" The two of us share in many dreams and visions. Both of us desire to live a healthy and more intimate life with the world around us; appreciating what we have and not wasting, remaining present in the moment, maintaining an awareness of the environmental/social pulls that surround us. We plan to support each other and remain together as we continue to develop as individuals. We view having a comfortable place to live with our physical/mental/spiritual needs met as an important part of reaching our full potential.

"What type of group or community does each of you feel you will most easily blend with and be content interacting with?" Lately, it seems that each time I find myself amongst a new community, I notice that they really aren't that much different than the last. Please consider, I am working with a relatively small sample size. A brief description of groups I frequently encounter is working consumers that conform to what is "normal" as a result of numerous hidden/unspoken fears of what is "different". They often question things outside of the spectrum of normality and cast doubt upon future innovations and possibilities (both for the self and the group or society). I would place the majority of my family and friends into this group. Even while I feel very different than these individuals, portions of my current self would still likely fall within their group. Groups are sticky for me... I suppose one could say that I am still trying to find my self and to live a life that falls completely in line with my principles and values. Is this possible? I wonder.

"What are your expectations of community?  As individuals and as a family unit, what will you bring to a new community?" Pulling these thoughts from within, an ideal type of group or community for me in this moment would be one based on love, understanding, and discipline. A place where individuals could discuss ideas and take action, work hand in hand and rest side by side, suffer and rejoice, together! A place where individuals are allowed to be who they are within any moment and have support from those around them. A place where lessons can be learned from mistakes and where confidence can be placed in a functioning system, a system that nurtures and protects.

As individuals, we are very different and very similar. We are still growing and developing. We offer both unique and ordinary features: will-power, intelligence, humor, creativity, compassion. We are interested in many different things: philosophy, history, literature, the sciences, architecture & engineering, mathematics, the arts, singing and playing music, dancing, being still, gardening, farming, foraging, speaking, writing, reading, creating, baking, working with natural fibers, outdoor sports, games, story-telling (to list a few)

I'll be back to answer the last two questions tomorrow. Good night!
 
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I'm very sorry say this to you, Nedloh, but I do not believe that Xanadu exists on this Earth.  Also, I don't agree with everything that Micheal Jackson ever sang about, but I do agree with what he said in the "Man in the Mirror".  If you aren't familiar, here is the chorus:

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

That's not to say that you won't be able to find individuals with whom you resonate with along the way, but it is a lofty idea to think that you will find group of people in a specific place without problems and pollution.  
 
Eric Hanson
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Nedloh,

By all means, look up and read all you can about Little Egypt.  But you likely won’t find much.

Even scouting the internet will only just gloss over the area.  Like I said earlier, this is a land time forgot, and the present world barely knows exists.

Likely you will find information about Southern Illinois University.  But this only one tiny, but important component Little Egypt.

At least a partial reason is Chicago.  That city dominates the minds of most everyone who ever think about the state of Illinois.  It dominates politics.  Chicagoans themselves contribute to this phenomenon by referencing everything south of that city as being Southern Illinois and in fact they tend to be, I am afraid, fairly un-knowledgeable about the geography of their own state or the culture that exists outside the metropolitan area.  And largely due to shear numbers, they form the public face of the state.  Little Egypt is most definitely best understood by visiting (but I totally understand that researching in advance is both easier and a noteworthy goal by itself).

This fall I traveled not far from my own home and went canoeing in the Cache river, the northernmost cypress swamp in the Western Hemisphere.  Like I said, a place out of time.

By all means, research, but please do so with these thoughts in your mind.

Eric
 
Buster Parks
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Nedloh Seaux wrote:
Buster,

Nice to hear from you and see that there are others with similar sentiments. I hope you have a pleasant trip. Traveling with cats can be an interesting process depending on the cat. Do you have a set direction in mind or might you just see where the wind takes you?



My first trip is to Michigan to visit family for Christmas, depending on the roads I'd like to extend it out to the Duluth area and as much more of that general area as I can see.  I'm planning a trip to the PNW, Idaho, Montana area for later in spring.  I've also been planning to go see the Ozarks region of OK, MO and especially Arkansas.  Eric's post makes me want to extend this leg to see Southern Illinois too!  One of the western trips will include northern Nevada.  However, my thoughts are mostly on higher elevation areas of Arizona and New Mexico as the climate is similar to what I've been working with here for the last few years.  This will probably be my January trip.

I made the mistake years ago of thinking I just needed more land to do my thing and be happy, but failing to connect with the community made that a bad experience valuable learning experience.  The main focus of these trips will be to find a place I want to live that has reasonable small acreages close in.  Your comments about what you are starting to value or look for really resonate with me.  I don't expect to find a 100% perfect fit, at least not in the USA.  Just a few like minded neighbors would be amazing, as long as there's a great small town within 10 to 30 minutes drive.

I think TJ is right about not expecting a perfect place, whenever somewhere starts to get close it inevitably becomes crowded, expensive and loses the magic (IMHO) with Boulder and Fort Collins being two local examples.  I know for me wherever I find it will be up to me to make the connections that make me happy, something that's been tough wherever I live.  I just hate how much driving it takes here, and it's always rush hour anymore.  Spending an hour each way in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour long permaculture guild meet-up doesn't feel like a good way to spend my time or gas.  I'm also approaching the limits of how off grid I can be in this city, but know I can still do better with my resources.
 
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I think there are tons of places that are unpolluted, but it all depends on how a person determines what "polluted" is. If a person means there is no evidence of human activity, then for sure, that will be tough to find. But where I live, I can hike across land, stop at a stream and drink with no fear of getting sick. I think that is pretty unpolluted; not just in terms of being able to drink from a stream directly, but that I have thousands of acres in which to hike across. Some of them are my acres, and some are my neighbors...

But like most people, I would never say much about where I live because to talk about it, would be to bring people in that would ruin what we have, But I am not alone in that, there are many places like that out there. You do not hear of them, because we do not talk about them.

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Maine stream
Maine stream
 
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...Just two brief thoughts: When you leave the site of the problem, don't take the problem with you; and, "If you build it,..."
 
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I think I've posted much of what you've said here in the past on Permies.  I shopped around for intentional communities and such for many years but never found a good fit for my values and personality.  Several years ago I was in a highly toxic rural area, surrounded by blind consumerism and everything and everyone was absolutely riddled with illness.  It was stifling and I HAD to get out.  I took every gamble I could, read every bit of information I could (like on sites like permies), did some gardening, dabbled in farming, but mostly worked towards getting OUT, which meant increasing self reliance and decreasing expenses.  That meant cutting costs, growing food, eating weeds, hunting, butchering, hell even cooking roadkill for dinner, foraging wherever I could, learning to can foods, dry foods, to make my own flours and eat for less.  Learn to ask around for unwanted harvests/fruits, work as a farm hand in exchange for meat.   I learned about tracking, learned skills with hiking and backpacking, learned to fix my own car, gathered tools at second hand shops and garage sales.  Downsized my entire life inventory to a single spreadsheet of belongings.  I made myself learn what I needed to survive and learned to let go of what we perceive as luxuries or necessities.  I tested myself to see if I could pack everything I needed at a moments notice and be ready to leave civilization (might have been in a slight prepper phase...).  Friends, family- everyone- disapproved.  "When will you stop trying to do things different and just be normal".  Well, after much tribulation I've left the toxic agricultural centers, left suburbia, cut off the suffocating, malignant social ties, and said bittersweet goodbyes to the familiarities of living near friends and families.  I moved 500 miles away, found a beautiful partner, and we're on our own self-sufficiency adventure up here in Montana.

I have a post rolling here:  https://permies.com/t/112586/friends-slice-paradise
Read through it and send me a message if it strikes a chord with you!

You said: "The world seems foggy outside of my ideas and reasonings, and I am not sure what to expect. The unknowingness seems romantic in certain ways and insidious in others. "
Jumping into 'wild living', so to speak, is kind of a make-or-break deal.  Though that might depend on how far into it you jump...  I didn't know how much I didn't know until I was actually doing things.  Shoot, wood stove use and maintenence, chainsaws, building, forestry, knowing my local flora, the ins and outs of maintaining a living structure and its systems when it's not 'conventional', solar, how to deal with precipitation, how to use precipitation to your advantage, water diversion, dealing with predators, driving in atrocious road conditions, learning about the laws that govern how we can live, reading a landscape's potential, reading a single tree's potential, substrate composition...  the lists go on and on.  I researched everything I could, and that really helped, but it doesn't compare to applying that knowledge and actually doing something with your hands!  
Growing up in the city, or in suburbia, robs us of so much experience and knowledge about the world, how to fill our basic needs, and how to use our bodies and our minds.  Throwing yourself into it may either be invigorating and powerful, or hugely overwhelming and defeating.  I've seen it go both ways.  As long as you're in a stable environment with some guidance though, the rest should be up to your own physical, mental, and emotional endurance.  If you have a genuine passion for it, it should lead you steady.  If it was all just a fancy or whim, well, you'll find out sooner or later then!

My $.02
 
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