Community and Sanctuary: Pack Animal, Earth Animal

ImageComing up on the end of an abounding visit in the gorgeous, breathy, Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia, I’m reluctant to leave yet grateful for everything.

When not on the wandering road, I live and work in Brooklyn, New York, a shouting distance from the Manhattan metropolis and an extension of the great city’s crowded craze. This week, moving between urban and rural outer landscapes has, for me, brought about a switch in inner landscape along with it, a connected absorption of this sudden change of my surroundings.

And I like the change. A lot. The strained, spazzy, beehive-head I have even just sitting alone in my New York bedroom has slowed into a deep tide-like rhythm. I remember myself today; we are in every way an extension of this earth, birthed and evolved from its organisms, we share its elements, breathe its air. Our bodies never forget this, but our minds seem to make a habit of it. I’m beginning to feel deeply certain that my frantic buzzing mania in the city may be attributed equally to the absorption of my surroundings as it is to my body’s confused alarm in disconnection to its natural source.

Another thing to note and remember is that we are animals. The arrogant human species loves to forget this too. Regardless, I feel ever torn by my needs as a social pack animal and my needs as a creature of the earth—my simultaneous and often clashing yearnings for both community and sanctuary. I need family, love, outward social activity, as well as a space for true privacy, personal retreat, and deep inward connection. Amazing how other pack animal species naturally seem to wed these two needs, yet humans tend to pick one or the other.

The true presence of both community and sanctuary in the same space is shockingly difficult to find. Living in an intentional community in Brooklyn most certainly fulfills the community piece for me, but true sanctuary is sacrificed. When moving into community situations, more often than not, you must sacrifice the concept of “personal” anything; there is no such thing as personal time, space, quietude, or full privacy. On the other side of the coin, I remember in more extended visits away from the rush of cities and community, being in retreat and personal connection for weeks alone leaves me yearning for community and society as much as I yearn for the earth while sitting in daytime traffic.