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(One summer a Danish soldier came to visit us to give us all of his solider stuff, new start)

I´m big on family but read my book and you will know how complex and ambivalent I also find the family unit to be. The greater good seems to always trump the individual need as an anarchist (or feminist or social constructionist) I have a problem with this (structure, power, story) but as a person I can´t stop being big on family.
So I´m torn.

When we first came to the forest we met a lot of people here (you´d be surprised to realize how many people who have actually left the loop, people of the forest, they exist, they live like Robin Hood!)
One of these people had an enormous impact on us – as a family and as the persons we are. We went through a lot together. He ended up calling me a nucleus core family fascist… and that was kind of the end of it.

I´m not into “free love” (grew up among the hippies, I don´t believe in it one bit) and I DO believe social relations should “be allowed” to vary- I can´t relate to everyone with the same depth or commitment, this is natural, this is ok, social relations should be varied (and this is also why I´m sceptical about a lot of the intentional communities that I´ve seen).

I had an ideological break down the first year in the forest because what I thought I wanted was a tribe. We said that out loud “We want a tribe” we said… but then when it came down to it I didn´t want a tribe. I wanted a clan.

I wanted a clan connected to other clans – or self-sustained and sustainable units of either single persons, families or groups.
I can´t be the father or the mother, I can’t be the freight train, my arms can´t be stretched out open wide for everyone, I have privacy issues (what a surprise!) and boundaries and borders to defend too!

This man I´m talking about means the world to me though, he has taught me so much both on a practical and a philosophical level. We had an argument and didn´t talk to each other for a long time (sounds “familiar” dosn´t it?) and it bothered me, thorn in my side, beam in my eye.
Recently we spoke. Forgiveness. Focus. Trust. We´re good.

Our relations out here has been so extremely intense. It has taken a lot of “deprogramming” to learn about building relationships, it has taken a lot of effort and time, sure, but we didn´t really have a choice.
We need the other people.
We really and truly need them- we can´t do what we do all by ourselves and alone.

What intrigues me is how this friend has become MORE than a friend but is still LESS than a member of my core family unit.
It´s like a third option.
I´m thinking we´re on to something here. The third option I mean.
I think I believe in that.

I´m thinking about all of this because my friend Julie Top- Nørgaard just had an essay published in Danish newspaper Information (she writes for them) (in Danish, sorry)
When my son Sebastian left the woods to go study in Copenhagen he moved in with Julie and her (nucleus core) family (wonderful family, I like them a lot).
Julie writes about her experiences with Sebastian, she contemplates about how much she wants to live in a committed community but also why she thinks she can´t (she found it stressful that he wanted to work/help/add/contribute)

(Sebastian working, image by Jakob Carlsen)


Her analysis goes like this: she wants the others to be obliged to help her, she want the others in a community to live up to their duties- but she don´t think she has the energy to do it herself.  She thinks the commitment would be too much for her (and a lot of her peers) to handle.

I´d like to add that I think it is a false assumption to see community as a phenomenon of surplus energy (and thus impossible for a lot of stressed, working modern family units to engage in)
We have been raised to view communities in a certain way, as something that has to do with charity, baking cakes, smiling- but community can be so much more than that, it can be a circumstance, it can just be reality, a framework in which your life plays out. I think this is important to note when we speak about communities. It dosn´t have to be “a thing” like that (and really it is a sign of our own alienation to view it that way)

But it´s something else I want to tell you about today.

This is what happened.
Jeppe and me began to dance, we risked the ridicule, we didn´t have a choice but to dance:

People came. It took four years but slowly people came and we are more now.

I seldom write about the others because

1. They are self-sustained and sustainable units of their own, their story is not mine to tell.

2. We are so untrained in building social relations and community, this is a real fragile process and I don´t want to fuck it up (I don´t know if the name calling is particularly Danish, it might be,  but it´s really fucking annoying that you have to defend yourself from being “a sect” as soon as you try to do something ELSE. This is another of the defence mechanism of the status qou, a standard accusation to single you out and obliterate your arguments, be ware)
(and please note that in the video the guy does not talk about the leader as “the leader of it all” but simply as the first mover)

This winter was defining for us in so many ways.
One of the things that happened has been hard to write about, very delicate situation here. It´s regarding the community.

Let´s say that someone did something that was a gross overstepping of my personal borders and boundaries, something that affected my nucleus core family feeling, a relational threat of sorts.
They might not have done it intentionally. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe there were all sorts of reasons to why it happened.

1. Self examination. What part do I play myself in this? Have I provoked this situation into happening, could I have done something to prevent it (yes)

2. Consequence. If the fault is rarely on one persons shoulders alone how should an eventual consequence look? What is my law and what is my judgement, what is a proper retaliation?

I didn´t know.
Weeks passed by. Silence. Paralysed.
Then I drove into the ditch, it was minus 20, Jeppe was away, I had Sigurd in the car. I called the person (because that person was located closer to me). The person helped me. We sat in a warm room for a while afterwards, awkward silence then I just said “Well, this is stupid” because it was.

I repeat: we need each other.
We are exposed and Mother Nature is grand, not dangerous, just grand. We don´t really have the TIME for all of that petty (or not so petty) fighting. We need to get over ourselves. Swallow the pride.

Sometimes the transgression will be too heavy and relations can´t be healed. Other times it´s not. How to know the difference? I don´t know but I know than in more cases than not we have been able to heal the relationships simply because… in the great scheme of things, in a universal light, under the stars… a lot of the things we preoccupy our minds with really dosn´t matter, our sense of self-importance is… naaahh…. you know…

More often than not we can do better, do more, if we work together. More often than not the problems can be fixed.
Focus. Trust. Forgiveness.

WE. NEED. EACH. OTHER has changed the way I relate to people and in all truth… the way I related to other people needed to change.

That´s what I had to say today. Now: dishwashing!

This entry was posted in Blog.

34 comments on “We need each other

  1. Dear andrea
    Thank you for this post. It raises many important, good questions.
    You write: we are so untrained in building social relations and community.
    if we lived in any kind of society worthy of the name “civilized” there would be a form of training in building social relations and community. (I do not mean training in conformity!)
    People living an “intentional” life do attempt to model and pass on to their children and neighbors/colleagues something of that sort.
    But it’s an area fraught with ambiguity, as you describe.
    I tried, with a little mantra, Think of Others!

    But sure, though there is lip service to these ideals, such as ” everything I know I learned in kindergarten…” , the underlying message is quite different. It’s more like, imposing the politics of scarcity, each man for himself, competition–
    In short, the unprincipled triumph over those trying to live by a civilized ethic.

    Helena Norberg-Hodge came to my community and talked about what had happened in Ladakh, where the erosion of the traditional life and values had happened very quickly, due to India’s building a road suitable for military vehicles into the country.
    We know there is an economics of happiness, of trust–but it seems in my country we are so far down some other path that we may never experience it.
    Leaving the introspective ones to come to Buddhism or “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” as their means of countering the dystopian outlook.
    All best,
    ~ abigail


  2. Bill says:

    Your post makes me think about communities of the past. Folks back then didn’t have the luxury of moving away, or living in isolation. In order to survive they had to survive as a community. And I’m sure there must have been just as many jerks then as now. But the community had to find a way live with them—because as you say, everyone needed each other.

    I’d rather just shut those kinds of people out of my life. Your post makes good sense and is great food for thought. We do need each other and more often than no the problem can be fixed. Great post.


  3. We need each other…..
    Define we.
    Define need..
    Define each other…

    To me the we stands for me, the need is either an emotional/spiritual relationship or practical/physical assistance and each other is the one(s) providing that. So I am talking different categories here. Different levels of intimacy. And in order to have boundaries between them there has to be communication; clear and respectful.
    Lack of communication or respect leads to crossing boundaries. Crossing boundaries leads to conflict. And relations change. Change all the time, so we need to reestablish and rearrange those boundaries all the time. And we need to communicate it too all the time. We all have needs and others might be able to help fulfilling those, but it should never be a demand or an obligation. That is one of the surest ways to overstep boundaries.
    Yes, we need each other. But not as one big, happy, intimate, suffocating, intruding family, stuck together like gum. It doesn’t matter if you call it a tribe, a clan, a club…. A community is a group of people supplementing one another in one way or another, whilst still respecting the boundaries.


  4. Oh and I love the Danish camouflage pattern. Nice and subtle…


  5. BeeHappee says:

    Very interesting, Andrea. I love the Sebastian working image, excellent.
    Our family is in four different countries. … And not one person of our family is within any driving distance, most are half a world away.. Our immediate community replaces our family. But it is such a fragmented community: these are the people you hang out with while homeschooling, these are the neighbors you see once a year on Halloween, these are the friends you visit once a month for a playdate, and these are the ones you celebrate birthdays with. For most Americans I think it is very fragmented: work friends, school friends, kids soccer friends, church friends. No community attached to a place any more, but rather to passing interests, and as the interests change, kids grow, jobs change, communities change so fast it is hard to build any meaningful relations.

    Bill, funny about jerks. .. Jerks used to be excommunicated. And you get excommunicated in the old times, you get thrown out, you die. But you cannot romanticize the past either, there was plenty of fighting, teasing, arguing in any community, plenty of poison arrows in the throats, plenty of groups splitting off from the main clan, etc..

    Ron, funny about gum.

    OMG, looking out the window, where is spring?? We are having most beautiful white Easter here…thick fat snowflakes coming down like in December.


    1. ncfarmchick says:

      Bee, you are so right about community being attached to potentially passing interests. Story of my life! I think back to friends and they all (with only a couple of exceptions) are in categories based on what I was doing then. This used to sadden me more till I decided people come in and out of your life and fulfill a need at that time. Kind of like what Andrea says about different levels of friendship. On the surface, it sounds wonderful to be so close to a large group of people but it could also be exhausting and unsustainable from an energy level perspective. It surprises me that my nearest neighbors do not know each other well. Even in our rural setting where one could use all the community you can get and you would (at least I do) assume that you want the support of those physically closest to you, many of my neighbors don’t even know each other. I know everybody because I am home with my boys and we see people coming and going as we are out exploring but there is a sense of independence to a fault which I think is unfortunate. I guess that’s why intentional communities appeal to me in theory because it would seem you are combining common interest and location. However, I know the ideal is not always the reality. Such an interesting subject to think about and try to find the balance that feels right.


      1. Life’s like a busdrive. You’re the driver, the start and endgoal are given (but not to the driver), yet you decide the route. On the way you’ll make a few stops, there’ll be detours, delays and breakdowns and people get on and off the bus all the time.

        I’m with you on your assumptions, but that doesn’t fly here either. Far from!
        Each to his own and God for us all…


      2. Passing interests and passing people, no wonder that so many of us end up feeling lonely. On the other hand: committing is equally hard (so I´ve experienced). I value these comments and thoughts so much!


    2. I think you pretty much nailed it, Bee with the fragmentationpart.


  6. Abigail Higgins says:

    Wendell Berry has written much: essays, novels, poetry, his great predictive work, “The Unsettling Of America”; but throughout his writing he pursues community, how to practice it, achieve it, recognize it, strengthen it, and yes, mourn it.

    it is a body of work, not one single document–maybe that will come from you, andrea!–but i find WB to be a sturdy, resolute guide to the issues i wrestle with..

    am guessing many who comment here have read at least something written by WB.
    ~ a


  7. nicoleaugust says:

    I think I believe in the third option too.


  8. Marianne says:

    Hi Andrea,

    Today my husband and I signed the contract for our new home. It will be build near a forest but just north of Copenhagen, where only stressed, working modern families with good careers can dream of building a home.

    We will live with 30 other families. Each family has a private house, and we will share a big common house, where we will eat together and take turns cooking and washing dishes. And hopefully it will host some great parties too.

    This new community will be our extended family. I’m greatful that our children will grow up in this place.

    Thank you for all your posts.



  9. That sounds exiting, Marianne. Best of luck!


  10. Eumaeus says:

    I wonder if I read what you write correctly. I wonder if I understand you at all. Do you feel like you understand yourself – really understand?


  11. Well, it´s getting better at least….


  12. Eumaeus says:

    Ha. Watched the video. Michael Dukakis wanted to be a leader too. Unfortuanately, he made one fatal mistake. He wore an army helmet and allowed himself to be photographed wearing it. 😉


    1. BeeHappee says:

      This was a very funny comment, E!

      That video I think has a good point. In my opinion, the leader often has some egoistic motivations to be in that position, a point to prove. While the first follower is more altruistic and actually needs more guts to stand up for the unconventional leader’s position, or could be against the existing leaders views, or point out the flaws, and that is often the break of the crowd. At least that is what I observed in smaller groups here in my life. But that is kind of well known through history, right, like having a jester advising the king, jester being the “first follower”, who actually has more power than king himself.


  13. ncfarmchick says:

    Ha! I loved the shirtless dancing guy. Have metaphorically done this myself a couple of times only to fall on my face and slink away to the shadows so I am very impressed and inspired by him. Maybe the lesson there is when you fall you make it look intentional as part of the dance and, who knows, it may come out better in the end anyway.
    I have used the exact words you mention, “we need a tribe, ” many times over the last year and even mentioned it here in the comments, I’m sure. So, what you write above speaks very clearly to me. I will be thinking about your words for a long time. This feeling combined with other factors may mean we will leave this homestead, a place I thought I’d leave only feet-first, within the next year or so and find another (closer to my husband’s family where he has roots going back hundreds of years.) Funny how making and verbalizing this decision, which we have talked about for a couple of years. has lifted my spirits in a way I didn’t know they needed lifting. I guess you can flee to the forest more than once in your life! Thanks for the wonderful words and thoughts. They seem to reach me when I need to hear them most.


    1. BeeHappee says:

      Wow, NC, that is a big news… What in the world is happening, all these “I will stay here forever” people, like you and Ben suddenly leaving. 🙂
      Good luck to you and let your spirits stay high no matter where you guys go.


      1. ncfarmchick says:

        Thank you, Bee. It’s a good thing but will disappoint some people (my family) who are here. But, who knows, they may come with us. So the details are not certain but our commitment to what we want to do will be the guiding force. I appreciate your good wishes.


        1. Best of luck to you!


  14. ncfarmchick says:
    I’ve followed what this group of people are trying to do for a little while now and it is exciting. Thought it was appropriate to this post and many of the conversations we’ve had here.


    1. Wow, really positive stuff is going on. I love that link and what those people are doing. It’s really got me thinking about how my husband and I (who are debt-free and skilled) could insert ourselves into this “movement”.


      1. ncfarmchick says:

        I’m sure you would have an enormous amount to contribute, Renee. If you look up the Transitions website, you can do a search to find an official transition town near you or a group just organizing (called “mullers.”) Lots of interesting info there. Peace!


        1. I did and the closest one is in Sacramento which is not out of the question for us as a place to find our homestead. So I’m going to make “contact” with them (they’re “mullers”) and see what might come of it. Thanks for the tip! I’m going to tell my 21 year old daughter about it, too. She lives in an official Transition Town. Lucky!


      2. You sound like perfect neighbourgs to me, Renee! 🙂
        It´s wonderful to discover that one actually has something of value to contribute with and to add. I never saw myself as an asset but now that we have done this, lived like this, I realize that I´m really worth something! That my skills are practical and needed. So strange to think of the fact that I DIDN`T feel like that back home (even when I had a fancy job)


        1. I had a fancy job and I actually had a feeling of making a contribution. I worked for a non-profit and they were cool-head people with an astounding and successful mission. But before that I worked for people making what we called “junk in a box”. You had to be somewhat numb to do it. So I know what you’re talking about. Yes, it is so good to feel like one is making a contribution. High Five!


    2. A very interesting piece!
      I think I will give that site some more attention and see what it or I can come up with..


      1. So glad you all are excited about the Transitions Lab stuff as I am. As much as this topic of community has been brought up here lately, I’m surprised I hadn’t thought to share it before. When this new article showed up, I knew I had people to share it with. By the way, am in the foothills and forest of my husband’s ancestry right now beginning the serach for our next homestead. Will be a process but feels good to begin. Definitely feeling as we we are in “the space between stories” and, you know, it’s not so scary afterall. We feld once, we can do it again.


        1. ncfarmchick says:

          That should say, “we fled.” Hard to keep those fingers under control with boys jumping on me:)


        2. I checked the site and the locations in our part of the world. Not much happening there. Seems to have petered out…. typical.
          We’re in between stories too, waiting for someone else to open up a new book, so we can start to write the next story. I handed the book to them and told them I’d very much like to write that story….


        3. I am so proud of myself. I was able to share the story of Transitions Lab with my husband over lunch today. I couched it thus: “I wonder if this could work for us. I wonder HOW it could work for us” then I explained it. And on that basis I had my extremely conservative (conservative in the sense of this: doesn’t like to try new things especially if they have the smell of earthy crunchy. Likes old tried and true, hands on, old fashioned ways. Nothin’ wrong with that!) Anyway I had my conservative husband nodding his head saying maybe that could work. It’s pretty cool. We have skills. We could either host a less skilled person for barter. Or we could contribute for barter our own selves to a financially well off group/family. As caretakers of this ranch we are already sort of doing that. We get free rent and they get improved ranch. On our own land (that we are looking for) we could host a less skilled person and have help developing it.

          Memo to me: must research this whole idea even further. Again, NC, thanks!


          1. This is so exiting, what a positive vibe!


          2. ncfarmchick says:

            Awesome, Renee! Wonderful to hear your enthusiasm (and your husband’s) and look forward to hearing more. Peace!


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