Tuesday, October 1, 2013


I get home this evening, and I'm greatly looking forward to it after five weeks on the road.

I'll see Ma'ikwe tonight for the first time (not counting Skype) since I put her on a train in Rochester NY three weeks ago, and I ache to hold her in my arms. When I pulled out of Missouri in late August the soybeans fields were still bright green. Driving through Pennsylvania yesterday, many of there trees were bright red.

Even though it's now October, the weather in Columbus OH was mild enough last evening that I was able to enjoy a rambling what's-life-all-about conversation around a glowing backyard fire pit with my hosts at The Midden (an income-sharing enclave of twentysomethings that owns a multistory turn-of-the-century brick duplex in a working class neighborhood just east of the OSU campus). But winter is out there lurking.

Three days ago I got an email from Trish (Sandhill's garden manager) asking, with some sense of urgency, how quickly I could get to the ever-growing collection of sweet and hot peppers mounding up in our walk-in cooler. The sorghum harvest is already underway at home and all hands are needed to keep up with the workload. I promised I'd be in the food processing kitchen with a sharp knife Wed morning.

• • •
For the past four decades, I've devoted my life to community: building it, promoting it, distilling it, troubleshooting it, and writing about it. Over the years I've gradually felt drawn to doing a lot of my work on the road, to the point where I'm in the ironic position of extolling the virtues of community, while being home only half the time to enjoy them. It's a dance.

I feel there's something essential about my community work being rooted in a living community experience (as opposed to a remembered community experience), yet I strain those connections in a serious way.

Here's what's in the mix:
o  I love what I do, and believe I'm effective at it. Both my community networking (as FIC's main administrator) and my work as a group process trainer and consultant. Further, there's only so much of that work that I can do at home; for the most part I need to be in the same room with my audience. So it makes sense that I go to them.

o  It's important that my community not be so dependent on me that I am crucial to essential functions. In response to my traveling, other members have stepped up to learn what I know about community operations. While there's still plenty of vital work for me to do at home—and they're happy to have me when I'm not on the road—my presence is no longer needed for everything to run well, and that's a good thing.

o  I have a strong constitution and am generally in good health. I can sleep anywhere, don't need a lot of down time to recharge, and can eat anything—all of which adds up to the travel not being that draining or logistically complicated. (Whew.)

o  Because most of my consulting and teaching happens on weekends (when others are not at work and can therefore attend sessions together), I generally have weekdays off, allowing time for writing reports, visiting friends living in the area, and traveling to my next gig. I especially cherish the visiting friends part, as I'd die of ennui if I had to rely on friends journeying to Rutledge to see me. So, just like with my clients, more often than not I go to them.

o  On the other side of the ledger, I am not as well-connected at home as I once was. Not only am I gone half the time, but a significant fraction of my time at home is devoted to avoiding travel (through phone calls and emails with out-of-state connections) or getting ready for travel—neither of which connects me with my fellow Sandhillians.

o  For the last four years Ma'ikwe has been battling the effects of chronic Lyme disease. Since the fall of 2009 she's had two really hard years and two years of semi-normalcy. In the face of her uncertain health, there's a serious question about how well our partnership can work if I'm on the road so much. She's adjusting her life to being home more and we're trying to figure out if I can reconfigure mine so that I still have the work I love and we can manifest a loving relationship that works.

• • •
Today though, I'm not worrying about the challenges; I'm just happy to be driving home. As one of my hosts astutely pointed out last evening, with the life I've created I get to experience the special joy of returning home with unusual frequency. Hah! 

Instead of dwelling on what I don't have, all day I get to savor the anticipation of this particular silver lining—peculiar to the life of a cooperative road warrior.

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