National Geographic : 2005 Aug
TECUMSEH, MISSOURI a family, but we are a pseudo-family," says Kara Jo, 26, who came to East Wind when she was 17. "When people here are at a loss, we help them out. And I don't want Yarrow to leave." She turns to Yarrow, who sits slumped in the corner, poker-faced. "You can come hang out with me," she tells him. Bad idea, say others. Yarrow needs professional help, and East Wind isn't a detox center. Some argue for a contract that would specify how Yarrow's behavior must change. That's redundant, comes the rebuttal; membership here is the contract. Another member insists that Yarrow will change only when the culture that enables excessive drinking is transformed. The next day ballots go out, and a week later the verdict is in: Yarrow can stay if he signs a social contract. He does, and promises to change, but soon breaks his vow. Six months later, he's gone. His exit solves one problem, but it skirts a much larger one: With social ism faltering around the globe, what gives East Winders a sense of hope and keeps them together-besides the peanut butter? For many it's the land itself, a back-to-nature, almost neo-pagan faith in Mother Earth. May 1-socialism's day of solidarity-is Land Day at the commune, with dancing in circles around a maypole. Celebrations-the summer and winter solstices, the equinoxes in fall and spring-are pegged to the cycles of nature, not to any redemptive winds of history. Time, like the seasons, goes in circles, serving up what's familiar instead of some thing new. Tomorrow promises to be just another today. On a chilly Wednesday night someone builds a bonfire on the crest of the hill just outside the music room. Drawn to the blaze, a dozen men and women pound on drums with a mesmerizing beat. As the flames light up their faces and sparks flit like fireflies into the darkness, the hours slowly disappear-and so does the beer. After a while the drumming peters out, then stops. Someone asks what time it is. But no one is wearing a watch. O WEBSITE EXCLUSIVE Find more 65760 images, field notes, and resources on intentional communities at nationalgeographic.com/magazine/0508. Barry and his daughter, Saoirse, are slowly adapt ing to a new arrangement: Rachael-his ex-lover and Saoirse's mother-recently paired off with another man. "I used to tell people how to deal with this sort of thing, says Barry, "but it's different dealing with it yourself." No one goes it alone at the weekly drum ming circle (below), where the bonfire is warm, the beat primal, and the world "out there" can seem broken beyond repair. "This," says one member, nodding toward the cir cle, "is what the end of civilization looks like."