“Is there any subject that you don’t use to refer back to neighborhoods?” The question, by one of the nearly a dozen neighbors who had gathered for our second newly instituted monthly potluck dinners for the Green Acres Neighborhood, felt punchy, challenging, even mocking. I had been speaking of the I.U. basketball coach Tom Crean, and how he has to deal each year with an ever-changing group of players, and that he seems to know something about team-work, something I’d like to learn that we can apply in our own neighborhood. For Green Acres, as one of Bloomington’s core communities, borders IU, and of course has an enormous number of ever-changing student rentals.
So that’s when she asked that question. And that’s when I answered, instantly and with no hesitation. “No, nothing. Because this is where we actually live, where we actually can connect with each other in person. If we wish to live the way we choose, then we need to take our power back, to have it spring from below, from the grassroots, rather than being imposed from above.”
I felt strongly then, and I still do, hours later. Perhaps it was the wonderful bracing conversation with fellow ecovillagers from Cincinnati today. Perhaps it was just the real me inside, springing into action. In any case, here we are, and in this dinner we nearly doubled the numbers from our first potluck one month ago. May we have many more, and may they all enjoy as lively a conversation as ensued during those two hours leading up to the Super Bowl.
I had been at a conference on “intentional Communities” in Ohio. Had watched the new film about how Cuba coped when the oil gave out, back in the early ’90s, hearing about the phrase “peak oil” for the first time. I got scared. Really scared. White knuckled, clutching the steering wheel on the way back to Bloomington, I panicked: “Geez, I’d better join an intentional community right now! Man the barricades! Circle the wagons from all the marauding hordes!” Then, just then, I heard a whispered voice in my ear. “No need to do that. Just change perceptions in your neighborhood.”
Aaaah . . .
That Saturday happened to be the day CONA (Council of Neighborhood Associations) put on its annual neighborhood event at the Farmers’ Market, and I went from table to table, having newly moved to Bloomington from Jackson, Wyoming with my husband (for him to go to law school, and he died after only one semester). I pored over the map at each one, asking myself, “Do I have a neighborhood?” And if so where is it?”
And there was Georgia, behind the “Green Acres” table. Oh! “Green Acres!” It’s where I live! So exciting, to discover its name, and the welcoming woman behind that table. Right then and there, I asked her for lunch.
And at our lunch I started our conversation with this statement. “I want to do this with you, I want to get the Green Acres Neighborhood Association going (again, for it had been active in the past), “but only if we can develop a culture of creativity rather than a culture of complaint.” (For that, as you know, has been the usual raison d’etre of neighobrhood associations, formed in response to some kind of threat, usually to their borders.)
At this statement her face light up like the sun. “Oh! That’s what I want, too!”
And the rest, as we say, is herstory.
We started with GANA, the Green Acres Neighborhood Association. We are now mutating into GANE, the Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage. Check it out: