A day visit with a unique community in the small town of Cotati, California.
Frog Song Co-Housing in Cotati California was the last community I visited in my journey before the van broke down on me. In the midst of everything that was happening, I never did get around to sharing my experience with them, which is a shame considering how welcoming and generous the members I visited with here were to me.
I remember encountering a few of their members walking down the street before I had even made it to the residence. They were centrally located in town, a fact that granted both pros and cons to the group: they had the opportunity to rent units to local businesses, bringing a profit to the co-housing structure, however it was inconvenient in the fact that they sometimes got stragglers trying to cut through the grounds after leaving the bar late at night. The members were dressed rather eccentrically and laughing with joy as I encountered them. They gave me directions to the unit I was looking for and went on their way, leaving me to wander down the pathway on my own. I noticed as I walked through that most of the other individuals didn’t seem to be the eccentric type off the bat and seemed to be going quickly about their way… unaware that a non-member was among them. I found my way to Peter’s place and we began my tour.
He walked me through the grounds and showed me all the different housing units and taught me the different names for each area. We walked through a workshop, a music room, a guest house, and the kid’s play room. We walked past a playground and a jacuzzi tub along the way as well, however my favorite part of the tour was the garden. It was a beautiful array hosting a wide variety of food products. The garden opened up to a long valley where the kids could run and play and the community could hold events such as baseball games and picnics.
We stood in the valley as we spoke about the community’s start back in 1999, and their eventual move in-date in 2003. He explained the logistics of the community to me, including volunteer work days, community meals, and email boards for gatherings and inquiries for assistance (for example needing a ride to the airport or advice on soil type for a plant). He explained that most members are pretty good at staying involved and helping out, but like any other community there are slackers. A unique trait I noticed in this community was that they were actually accepting of the fact that there will be slackers instead of being upset about it. ‘I wish everyone contributed and did their share, but it is what it is and we do fine without them’… was the basic opinion I picked up on through members at Frog Song.
Peter dropped me at David’s house to speak with him about his previous intentional living experiences and travels for some time before coming back around to walk me to the dinner he was sponsoring in my honor. Here I was able to see the community in action. The dinner team that evening came before the group and read aloud the menu in a very playful way and a few of the children came before the group to speak about the results of a fundraiser they recently held. During dinner many members came to introduce themselves to me and offered me advice and insights for later in my journey. I really enjoyed my time sitting and chatting about travel, politics, veganism, and Buddhism with the group.
After dinner I had the rare privilege to interview a much younger member of the community! An incredibly intelligent and fascinatingly extroverted young boy shared with me his personal experiences growing up in a co-housing community. He was incredibly articulate, my paraphrasing of our conversation comes no where near the elegance and grace he portrayed as he spoke with me. He explained to me that he moved into the community from a regular housing structure a few years back. He still sees his old friends, but really loves living in community! He gets to play with kids of all different ages, there are always activities and sports to be played, and he loves being part of this big, supportive family. He only wishes he could have lived here sooner! He tells me all of this as he zips around the play room, sharing all the best spots with me. He left the biggest smile on my face of anyone I have ever interviewed.
And finally, I met with the last member of the community for my day. This David happened to be one of the first members of the community and was able to give me the run down on much of the history and logistics. I enjoyed getting to know the ins and outs of the community with him, however there is one point he brought up that sticks out the most to me due to his sheer honesty. He tells me that, contrary to popular belief, intentional communities are not a wonderland! Visiting communities for a day, a week, or a month gives you this idea that they are smooth operating, happy-go-lucky places with it all figured out. It seems like you could move in and every day would feel like your living in a utopia. That is precisely how I felt after visiting my first share of communities, and it’s how many people participating in intentional living will imply their daily life is like. David explained that he felt the same way getting ready to move into his first community as well. However, it can be a real headache! You are living and cooperating with a large amount of people from diverse backgrounds with interchanging wants, needs, and values. There are many hiccups, debates, and conflicts to work through. It is not a utopia, nor a wonderland. However, it is worth it in the end in his opinion.