Guest Post: Hello / Goodbye

Today’s post was written by one of our founding members, Anne, who has decided that her true home is in Nova Scotia, but was kind enough to write a post about what had brought her to us.

Please note that any text in italics is mine, whereas the plain text is Anne’s.

photo credit: MichelleM @In Michelle’s Kitchen

If you have ever made popcorn on the stove in a pan with a glass lid and watched the kernels begin to pop and then pop faster and faster and soon fill the pot, you have had a glimpse of what my brain feels like from the inside. Ideas heat up and explode over each other all the time. [coolest popcorn distraction ever]

I first heard about cohousing around seventeen years ago, through a network called Sustainable Maritimes. I was subscribed (and still am) to its listserv. One day a notice came round about an event in Halifax, funded by CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp) and organized by some folks in the greater Halifax area who had heard about cohousing and wanted to create communities.

These folks, perhaps?

I think it was a two day event. I invited a forward thinking municipal councillor to go with me, and off we went. Follow through has never been my strong point. I realize now I ought to have been at the council meeting where she reported back on what we had learned.

Ronaye Matthews from British Columbia had been flown in to enlighten us. She is one of the folks who run Cohousing Development Consulting.

We learned about the process of getting Quayside Commons up and running, the difficulties, and the clever ideas like getting funding for some sustainable aspect of the community.

Quayside has been happily inhabited for 17 years.

We learned about process cards and practiced using them.

We heard about what people in Nova Scotia were hoping to do.

We learned about Roberts Creek Cohousing, formed by people who were, and were not, living on BC’s Sunshine Coast.  They did a lot of groundwork by email. Their neighbourhood is not around a courtyard, my ideal, but is little houses on little roads in the woods. They built their own sewage treatment system which they then turned over to the village.

A 3-minute walk to the main commercial centre of Robert’s Creek, and less than a 10-minute walk to the ocean.

At one point in the question period in the first session someone in the audience, from Antigonish, the town in Nova Scotia where co-ops are at the epicentre of community development, said,

“Well, we have been doing co-ops for decades!”

And then we went through a lot of back and forth about what makes cohousing different from co-ops, and the different ways communities in BC were structured legally.

I came away thinking,

“It’s Anne’s world!”

I had lived in many different shared situations: Rochdale College, a big house with a shared kitchen, a small house with two families and many kids. And I am a hermit, who loves company, so the idea of private homes and shared common spaces completely fills the bill.

I have done one too many loads of dirty dishes and gone out, only to come home with groceries ready to cook a meal and discovered a kitchen even messier than before I had cleaned it. And, I have never been good at having that conversation. And, I have walked out on messes I have made, too.

Comedian Justin Cousson apparently fought the “messy kitchen/roomie” battle with art.

Since that sudden, intense immersion in the cohousing concept, living mainly on my own in a very rural area, I have lurked on the list-serve, bought and read and given away a ton of books about cohousing, and talked far too much about it to people who really wished I would draw breath and let them say something.

I have a popcorn pot full of thoughts and imaginings about intentional communities, which I first heard about in grade ten social studies. I wrote an essay about some community in New England for that class back in something like 1964.  (Anyone else wondering if it was Caroline’s?)

I love the evolution of the Ecovillage at Ithaca, and think that Cape Breton might really be revitalized if we invited people to come to the island and followed that model, instead of letting our farm land be cut up into cottage lots.

Community Supported Agriculture, with cohousing neighbourhoods around the farm land, how brilliant is that?

Anne brought curry & raita to our last potluck. I can attest that she should cook for me more !

Cooking is more fun if I am cooking for a crowd. Sharing meals. helping out, being able to walk to a workshop or exercise room, seeing kids playing, it all looks so rosy.

And I believe Concorde will exist one day.

But really, my heart and home is in Cape Breton, in the home built for my great-grandfather’s sister.

Ottawa is a great city, and will be even better when the cohousing idea takes hold.  I wish you all the best on the journey towards the common house, and hope to visit one day.

If you are reading this on the Concorde website and wondering, “Would I like to meet these folks, and maybe even live with them?”   I’d say,

“Go for it!”

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