Nothing quite like being jolted out of bed early in the morning by a fire alarm instead of my usual alarm. Especially in a big old house in a city where there have been numerous bad fires in big old houses. Once I was fully awake I was pretty sure it was a false alarm. We’ve had a few of those lately because something is out of kilter with our alarm system. Still, the idea of heading outside into the 20 degree weather in my pjs did not sound like fun.
But, as I ran into sleepy housemates in the hall something interesting happened. Annoyance turned into amusement. We all looked pretty funny. It was a false alarm. Sharing the irritating experience took some of the sting out of it. Pretty nice to have laughter instead of the whining I might have otherwise engaged in. One more plus of living in community.
Bill and I are finishing up a week back in Florida, mostly all work for Bill, some work for me and some time with friends for both of us. I wondered what it would be like to revisit where we used to live. While I still have no regrets about moving to Boston, I do see the beauty in this place. One of the great joys of being here has been connecting with friends. I have sometimes bemoaned the way our various moves have left us with a certain lack of roots.
This trip has confirmed three things for me: Bill is where I am most deeply rooted. Boston is a great place to sink geographic roots. And we have deep roots with the people we’ve come to love and appreciate in the various places we’ve lived. I’m thinking especially of our friend, Judy, who generously turned over her home to us for the week even though she was on the other side of the country. And thanks, Marti, for shuttling us back and forth to the airport!
Now that we’re five months into our second year at Beacon Hill Friends House, we’re making some changes in how we reflect on the experience. Up to now, we’ve been writing the occasional essay about life in the house and our evolving transition. We haven’t been as faithful to that process as we had hoped. We’ll continue to write these longer essays on occasion, but going forward we’ll try posting brief thoughts or things we notice about living in community, transition, exploration and aging on a much more frequent basis. We think this format will provide a better feel of what life is like in an intentional community. We hope you’ll enjoy it.
Appreciating how big a room looks with none of our stuff!
A Year in a Room is all about transitions, and we have a new one to report: Our move from the third floor of Beacon Hill Friends House to the second.
For a variety of reasons, Carol’s doc suggested she figure out a way to sleep in less sweltering temperatures. The BHFH electrical system does not accommodate regular air conditioners — no big deal unless you’ve experienced Boston’s summer heat and humidity. A little Internet research turned up some low-powered A/C possibilities. But the BHFH residency manager, Ben, had a better idea: Move to the second floor, where the ceilings are higher and the temperatures lower. And a room was available.
“Get rid of this thing”
Easier said than done, of course. Halfway down the stairs with a big bookcase, one of the movers we hired had a question for us: “Did you have this thing built in the room? Because there’s no way it’s coming down these stairs.” Continue reading
Some residents of Beacon Hill Friends House call it the house of love. Sometimes when we’re feeling warmed by the care we show one another, it means just what it says. Other times, when tensions are high, it’s used sarcastically. For me, house of love means a commitment to enter a school of love whether life is warm and fuzzy or fingernails-on-a-blackboard. It’s all about learning how to keep expanding the circle to include more and more, learning to love whom and what is in front of me instead of wishing they were different.
In her book, My Accidental Jihad, Krista Bremer describes the development of her relationship with her husband, Ismail, a Libyan Muslim. She is honest about the ways their cultural differences grate. She reports him telling her that Mohammed once said that the most difficult jihad people must fight is within themselves – against intolerance and self-absorption.
That’s what the house of love is all about: Learning how to let go of my intolerance and self-absorption. And there’s nothing like living in a diverse community to make me confront it. Take a small example. We have a dish sanitizer (called the Avenger). I believe the rack should be loaded logically, putting likes with likes so more will fit. I can become quite grumpy if things have been put in helter skelter and there’s no room for my dishes. I’ve even been known to reload it to make more things fit because my preferred way of doing it is most likely the right way. It took a long time before I could hear another housie’s concern that loading the sanitizer rack too densely might make it heavy enough to hurt someone’s back when they put it into the machine. Continue reading
Some of our friends and family enjoy describing our living situation at Beacon Hill Friends House as a hippie commune. Anyone who’s spent any time at BHFH knows the reality of the place falls far short of a houseful of flower children.
Except last weekend, perhaps, if you paid a visit to the public restroom by the dining room during our annual barbecue for more than 100 friends of the house. There, displayed invitingly on a low table by the door, was a basket of condoms.
In our day, Carol and I were big believers in condoms. But never so much that we offered them up to visitors like so many tissues in a box or candies in a jar.
I realize that condoms are in many ways a healthier gift than jelly beans. And that makes the community tension I’ll describe all the more interesting. Continue reading
When we moved to Boston a year ago I had no intention of retiring. I thought I would cobble together some work and do some writing. To an extent I’ve done that, but it’s way less work and way less writing than I imagined. And, if you look at the amount of money I’ve earned, you’d be tempted to say I’ve retired.
I have also given myself lots of free time. I’ve enjoyed reading more books, exploring a new city, making new friends, becoming a part of a community, traveling extensively and having time to attend to the neglected parts of my life like exercise. So, it’s tempting to call it a sabbatical. But can it be a sabbatical if I don’t have a job to go back to?
After staying in Airbnb places in Detroit, Budapest and Vienna, it’s been interesting to experience the other, host end of the service. Beacon Hill Friends House has two guest rooms now listed on Airbnb, and the listing is generating lots of visitors.
Apart from occasional duty greeting a guest when our residency manager, Ben, is away from the house, encounters happen mostly in the kitchen. Breakfast is included in the cost of the stay. The breakfast table conversations are intriguing on several levels. Among them: the visitors’ stories of life from whence they’ve come, more often than not overseas. But it’s also fascinating to hear their reactions to the house, the neighborhood and — in the case of international visitors — the country. We’ve had recent visitors from Australia, Uruguay, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Spain, Colombia, Pakistan and Austria. Continue reading
Ok, I admit it. For the most part I am a slug. I’ve never been athletic. My favorite hobbies include activities like reading, gardening, cooking, knitting and crafts. I do like to be out in nature, so hiking and biking have appeal. Gyms generally make me feel like a hamster in a cage and I can only get through the experience by dosing myself liberally with my favorite music.
As a younger person raising children I was forced into a certain level of activity. In my 65th year it was another story. Florida’s heat and humidity amplified my tendency to avoid moving.
Current research links a sedentary lifestyle to a host of medical conditions that only worsen with age. Mental acuity as one ages also appears linked to physical activity.
I became worried that I would age more quickly if I didn’t make some lifestyle changes. But, slug that I am, lifestyle changes don’t come easily. Sometimes I have to trick myself into them. Continue reading
Kitchen manager Myles Louis Dakan created this fancy when-the-coffee-was-brewed app based on a suggestion from a friend who’d seen something like it on Pinterest. Useful in a house of 21 people, where the first pot is often brewed before 6 a.m. Just twist the top cup to indicate the time. No batteries required.