Coming to Common Ground

Lately we have received a prose poem on the subject of the name change, after an evening on the land, by a pseudonymous member to be known to us only as Change O. Heart (no relation to any Harts we know or don’t know).


Tonight a crystalline blazing Venus settles toward the horizon of our common ground.
By sidelong glance I can still just barely catch the outline of the fence enclosing its intensively-worked vegetable sub-plot.
Any minute now the owls and coyotes will repeat their claims too. Don’t forget us!
Common ground on all scales, from the line of tall trees that eagerly awaits the slowly down-drifting stars to the dirt under our fingernails.

There are other kinds of common ground too.
One is the common intention that grounds and unites us, the village-in-the-land we mean to build.
Our hope, our work, our great venture, the project draws us so strongly to each other.
It’s the common ground of our dreams, the place where our hearts become one.

Besides, that vision scales up. It’s not just our work. Something about it goes much farther,
it turns out, judging by the fact that it’s a common name.
It seems we are making common cause with all manner of change-projects.
No hesitation, then: we’ll rise to it. We embrace and celebrate all our compatriots on the
vast Common Ground-swelling,
While at the same time we announce ourselves as the Common Ground Ecovillage.
We are the way the Great Common-Grounding shows up here.

Come inside now, friends.
There is a fire on the great hearth and a lively circle of fellows is singing, or maybe
tomorrow’s planting is being planned.
We are re-creating for the thousandth time the commons: “The cultural and natural
resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as
air, water, and a habitable earth.” (Thanks, Wikipedia… which by the way is
itself a commons too, isn’t it?)
That is a beautiful word, friends… and portends a beautiful world besides.
Togetherness, cooperation, mutuality… community.
It’s an old story — talk about centuries of struggle!
Think of the Diggers’ creed: All Land in Common, All People One.
Don’t fall for “tragedy”. There is no “tragedy of the commons” waiting to happen.
As a social institution the Commons worked for millennia, across a vast
range of different cultures, until it was destroyed by enclosure, and monied
appropriation. That was the tragedy!
The derogation and dismissal of the Commons is exactly what a venture like ours ought to
resist and reverse.
Common Ground works.
Indeed, in the long run (thanks, Margret Mead), it’s the only social and
ecological arrangement that ever has.

Next we must sing the ground.
This Ground is the soil. What we hold in common is a living community itself,
which we propose to regeneratively join,
a million times richer than anything bequeathed us by any or all Harts,
shared with each other, with the oaks and pines and even the ailanthus, with
the hawks and otters and the winds and stars.
(Saturn rising now as Venus sets, and a cloud front is moving in. Rain soon.)
Our hands in this dirt, our food from this ground, our feet on these trails,
our dreams burbling along these creeks – that’s the grounding we ache for,
the reunion we intend.
This “ground” is no more humdrum than “commons” are tragedies.
This ground is spectacular!

It seems that in renouncing the name of a slaveholder we have led ourselves
back to the absolute basics in the end:
Beyond all human or historical names,
Beyond other-than-human particulars
(sure I liked “Kingfisher” and “Daughter Oak” and “Headwaters” too, but it
seems something bigger got hold of us),
Even beyond regional place names,
To finally name ourselves unapologetically and simply for the unadorned
Earth/soil/ground itself.
The commonest of Common Grounds.
We lift up our Common Ground as it always and forever lifts us up in turn.

So, concretely, here and now: we – you, me, us – have come together and keep
coming together around this work of Common Grounding (I like the verb).
Yeah, it’s work. It’s still possible to miss the ground entirely (so used to walking
on asphalt or floors or not walking at all) or lose ourselves in different parts
of the woods.
Our trails need way more walkers to truly settle into the land.
It needs such skill and subtlety and patience sometimes even to find the
(small-c) common (small-g) ground that we have learned to call Good Enough
for Now and Safe Enough to Try.

But we grow, and it grows on us. And likewise perhaps the hidden wisdom of the name
only opens to us slowly, like some shy trail-side flower awaiting a long and sunny
enough spring day to unfold in its own good time.

Welcome to Common Ground!

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