Deer Rock Intentional Community

[Excerpts presented at Sheltering Ourselves - Women´s Learning Exchange ]

The Dream

On days when the news reaches levels of depressing that warrant general alarm and the signs of change make the horizon take horrifying shapes recognizable from logic and history, on those days the dream of escaping to some utopia of your own specification is so clear. After all, the deterioration in the social contract between citizens and government that we´re witnessing must be evident to other seekers. As the inhumane attitudes encountered on the everyday street become the norm, the desire for solidarity and refuge with souls of like mind grows in intensity. Is it a survival mechanism? The sanity of radical action becomes so appealing, more than the risk of losing what shambles remain of social relations. Day by day that risk diminishes with the diminishing benefits and growing liabilities.

Social justice exacts such a high price from those who pursue it. Mechanisms that gave citizens more direct control over the abuses of government, such as jury powers to judge the fairness of laws and their application, have been eroded. Protocols within government for problem solving, even Robert's rules of order have degenerated into gamesmanship exercises. The most primitive commercial concepts have invaded social spheres that were once committed to health, learning and reform.

So when a friend not long ago said that, in fact, there are utopian experiments in considerable number being worked on all over the US, it was the beginning of an odyssey to determine what such endeavors were like, where they were, who were the members and whether they were viable enterprises, these intentional communities.


The Search

A trip to the library produced a volume titled Communities Directory: A Guide To Cooperative Living that offered up-to-date information on over 500 North American intentional communities and others on other continents. Published periodically by the Fellowship for Intentional Community, the descriptions and images were mind boggling in their diversity... environmentalists of all stripes, all religious persuasions including conventional, newage, none and all, artist and craft colonies, myriad experiments in governance and economics.. urban and rural, just forming and some approaching second generation.

The next stage was to write to those that seemed to match the dream, research the surrounding geographies, economies and people, til we narrowed our search to variables that required visiting. Each seemed to have some formal agreements that members subscribed to, a set of operating procedures and finances as well as the physical realities of people and resources like land, structures and/or plans to pore over.

Our variables centered on new vs existing, neo-hippie vs new age. We were seeking a level of involvement that was pioneer village not intensely intimate, a degree of freedom in economic and spiritual affairs but consistent with simplicity, environmental and social commitments. Existing communities offered a sense of security that appealed after visiting the meetings of a local group that was just forming only to watch the group disband for lack of agreement on timing and sequencing. But the taste of excitement in deciding community direction with so few past constraints, being part of the group´s fundamental choices, learning how it was all done, held more promise than ´coming in late´.

We visited several relatively new groups, some more close knit, some much more insular. One was modeled on a successful old hippie group in the beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of VA, giving the basic structure some added viability. The group were neo-hippies and very low-key and thoughtful but the finances were definitely shoestring and encumbered by a substantial debtload. Decisionmaking was all done by consensus and there was an air of both peaceful consciousness and intense concern for meaningful survival.

They had been meeting for almost three years by then, two years to work out the group´s principles, their operating practices, their legal status as a non-profit, their fund-raising for the downpayment and their land search.

Once they had found the land, began the negotiations on how to use the existing facilities, what to convert, how and when, who could take responsibility for various roles, who should move onto the land, what sequence to proceed, what county requirements needed to be met, which neighbors were hostile and how to generate the income to cover the payments.

The early days had drawn a large group together but the toll of constant stress and suspense as well as the volatile personalities of the more dynamic founders had whittled the group down to a handful. The largest single exodus was the result of a cohousing group that started up closer to the city. The lure of an option whose hazards were less imminent?


Deer Rock Inc.

The reality was that this was a debt-burdened non-profit, holding a beautiful, but somewhat neglected piece of real estate and committed to somehow guaranteeing that utopian principles would prevail, short-term as well as long-term. The financial ramifications of buying into this operation were not inconsequential.

DeerRock GroupHouse

Coming to DeerRock Together
Participatory Community Finances
DeerRock Orchard



Sharing, belonging,
networking and consensus.
What's doable.