mist rising from a pond, red and yellow pavilions seen in background and foreground.I sit writing this in a pavilion on a pond, the mist wafting up from the water as the sun threatens to rise behind me. Peacocks are calling, bullfrogs are letting me know they’re around, mosquitos are….

I sit writing this from my comfortable room overlooking said pavilion. I spent last night with the ISKCON community in West Virginia, a group that formed in the late sixties around a charismatic leader and simple, communal living.

A few months before I headed out, sister C took me up to Chabot Observatory for my birthday. They were having a Star Wars party for the 50th, complete with themed drinks that doubled as science experiments, fan art, and hard science. The topic of Elon Musk’s Mars expedition came up.

“Would you ever do it?” she asked.

“Of course. In a heartbeat.”

“Really?” She seemed so shocked that it made me pause.

“Oh wait! There’d be other people, wouldn’t there? And no way out, no chance to get away… Hang on, I have to think about this more…”

me, in front of an abandoned railroad tunnel
all alone, climbing up the haunted Moonville Tunnel in Ohio

A big part of this trip was about breaking out of my isolation, and yet I keep rebelling against that. The foundation of this trip was about retracing my route from 12 years ago — and on that route, I mostly avoided people. The sites and attractions that are my favorites are the ones I usually have to myself.

See, even though there are numerous studies and articles about how people need people, I’m pretty sure I’m one of those rare folks who is happier solo. (This article said it well — I absolutely have high “avoidance social goals” and hell yes I prefer to avoid conflict. Or maybe I’m just smart.)

This train of thought was kicked off by a friend I met on the road (yes, I recognize the irony of that statement…). Her boyfriend mentioned he thought he was one of that group as well; he’d be perfectly fine in the middle of the ocean on a sailboat by himself.

Take a deep breath, loved ones. That doesn’t mean we will head out onto the ocean alone; we both recognize that our lives are richer for the particular individuals we have in them right now. I know I plan to stay close to my tribe, whatever happens to my rent-controlled apartment in the Bay Area (OH GOD MY LANDLORD SOLD IT I’M FREAKING OUT, BUT THAT’S NOT THE TONE OF THIS POST, SO SQUASHING DOWN).

But it means that the allure of communal living — and as I pause my writing in order to head down to help milk a cow, I tell you that the allure is strong — doesn’t outweigh my general mistrust of human beings and satisfaction on my own.

This place, New Vrindaban… The ideals are pure, the intentions beautiful… But while it’s peaceful and serene at this spot now, it certainly hasn’t always been. (Alternate spelling: Vrindavan. I’ll let you google it. It’s okay, I made it through the night alive.) The group that’s here now seems like they have won each other’s trust through trials and tribulations, and their group is tighter and stronger now because of everything that came before.

Their history, for me, is a reminder that I really don’t trust people. I’m pessimistic at heart. I feel truly blessed to have fantastic, wonderful people in my life, but I believe that in general, humankind tends towards the selfish and nasty. Religion, any religion, is a framework to help us fight against those pretty natural tendencies. Not everyone needs that framework, but some do, and some will find a way to be nasty even within that framework. The happiness of the current New Vrindaban-ites is a reminder to me to stick close to the amazing individuals who have won my trust, more than an inspiration to make me run out and found my own tiny house commune in Port Costa. I don’t need community for community’s sake, or a husband just so I can be in a relationship and not die alone, eaten by my twenty-six cats. (Just kidding. I’m obviously a dog person.)

Jokes (and, okay, a pretty real fear that’s tied to aging) aside, I’m deeply happy on my own. I’ll still look to connect to people on this trip, friends and strangers, but I’m going to relax and let myself have my alone time when I need it. And I’m not going to start a commune.

(Unless, of course, every one of those people who have earned my trust are in on the tiny house idea, and then DUDE LET’S DO IT. Let’s talk when I get back. Charismatic men excluded from this offer, just as a precaution.)

pink stuffed animal in front of an abandoned railroad tunnel in the forest, MOONV_LLE
okay, not totally alone



One thought on “Community

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  1. Beth you are a great writer! It’s hard to hold my interest when it comes to reading but you are doing a great job! I’m constantly checking to see if you’ve posted some little tidbit! lol 😂 and maybe it’s partly envy because I so would have loved to be brave enogh at some point in my life to have done what you’re seeming to accomplish so easily! Thank you for sharing!!

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