Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Commune

When I was in my late twenties Brendon and I lived in Ottawa and shared a group of incredible friends. We all spent time with each other throughout the week. Many of us lived together, shared groceries, chores and leisure time. I remember when one of my closest friends Rebecca began dating her future husband he nicknamed us the Get-Along-Gang.

The group of friends is still incredibly close but now many of us live thousands of miles away from one another so the type of communal lifestyle we'd dabbled with faded away in concert with the distance that separated us. Something is afoot though and once again we are starting to witness a new version of communal living on our little plot of land.

Many of you know that while we were building the laneway house and for a few years leading up to it, Brendon and I rented Barb and Roger’s basement suite. The two bedroom apartment allowed us to test-drive living close to the parental units and helped us come to the quick decision that we liked sharing air space with such an amazing couple. When we moved out, Barb and Roger hadn't planned on renting out the apartment very quickly but life intervened and withing one week 3597 West 23rd got a new tenant.

I’ve known Allee Wells since I was 15 years old. We went to highschool together and then shared our first big adventure – cycling and hiking through the Yukon. Allee has lived in Vancouver for almost 12 years now and while we’ve stayed close, we haven’t seen as much of one another over the last few years as I would have liked. Well that all changed this July. Allee and her longtime partner split and she needed to start fresh. She moved into the basement suite just as we began taking out the last of our boxes.

Then, in September the two bedroom suite filled up completely as Jean Yves (JY), one of Brendon’s oldest friends, traveled from Yellowknife to Vancouver to complete a 3 month culinary program. Call it "pre-tirement".  Pretirees are folks mid-way through their careers that choose to change course and seek out new work options that allow them to create the life they've always wanted to lead. Many are heading back to school for additional training or striking out on their own as consultants or independent contractors. JY who has worked as a teacher up North for the last 10 years decided to use his pretirement to travel, learn new skills and take a break.

What this has meant is that we have a new Get-Along-Gang – Barb, Roger, Allee, JY, Brendon and Akua. We share meals together in the evening, help with the landscaping during the day and support one another through the hard times and the good vibes. ;-)

If there is one thing that the experience of building a home has taught Brendon and I, it’s how important community is. For all the green building focus and urban planning experiment, the part that stands out the most for me is the fact that our choices have allowed us to be surrounded by family and friends, something that I've come to appreciate more and more the older I get.

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