This posting is something of a dedication for the new series of articles under the category of “Inner Voices,” which I have introduced in another posting as a music-based, rather than psychological, metaphor for a vital aspect of emerging community. I’m not even going to try to be rigorously consistent in my observations at this point; my weekly conversations with Fred over the three years of his journey with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) profoundly informed much of my thinking around patterns, community building, civic imagination and engagement, and even the value and application of social media tools.

This “witness” of gratitude that I shared with several members of the Songaia Cohousing Community, founded over  ten years ago by a dedicated core of families including Fred and Nancy Lanphear and Stan and Carol Crow, was my first attempt to publicly reflect on those Friday morning conversations. They had chosen the name, Songaia, to represent “song of the earth,” in celebration of their journey in discovering new ways to live lightly on the earth.

So I offer it here as an initial exploration of the inner voices, the ongoing buzz of daily life we sometimes mistake for background noise as we anticipate the next  Big Moment.

You always wonder a little about what will happen to a community when two of its founders die, especially within such a relatively short period of time, as has happened at Songaia with the passing of Stan Crow and now, Fred. Because sometimes in the wake of such a deep loss, communities can lose their sense of center and fall apart. I want to witness that from what I have seen, Songaia is going to do just fine, and will continue to demonstrate resilience and vitality for many years and generations to come.

As some of you know, I had been visiting Fred on Friday mornings over the past two years. And over that time, I was privileged to observe, and sometimes participate, in many of the milestone happenings over the weeks and months and seasons, the fullness of life constantly unfolding across the community, from the arrival of new goats, to the arrival of new bees (and subsequent departure of some of the bees!), conversations about how many chickens this year, the designing and construction of the gazebo, children maturing into teens, teens into young adults – and news of everything passing through Fred and Nancy’s living room, a continual stream of life flowing onward.

And I know something of the stress and strain weighing on the shoulders of community members, through conversations and concerns expressed on the pathway toward Fred’s house and on my way back to the car, through the ongoing circulation of volunteer sign-up sheets to cover an ever-increasing number tasks and responsibilities as Fred was able to do less and less for himself.

I’m not trying in any way to slight the experience of any other communities that have experienced the death of members – but I know what I have seen here, and must witness to here, because it’s so important sometimes to hear from someone else, from someone outside the community as an “objective observer,” so that you can truly believe in the miracle of what is happening here, and the role you are playing in allowing miracles to happen, every day.

Excerpts from a reflection shared with members of the Songaia Community
during the Northwest Intentional Community Fall Gathering
hosted by Songaia, September 25, 2010.