During our first morning at Cloughjordan Ecovillage I was struck by the natural beauty of the landscape—the houses, interconnected meshes of reused materials, passive timber frame design, stone, and stucco are set amongst the tannic pines, sturdy oaks and abundance of wild flowers. It is, indeed, serene here and the pace of our modernized, technological lives seems to slow. I’ve been observing a mosaic of life so unlike my own: the sun rises, the grass rustles, crows caw as they fly over the village amphitheater, labyrinth, and small boys playing ball. My mind has not been jumping from sharp fragment to anxious fragment. It is quiet. I am not used to this.
I find myself tangibly laughing—the kind that makes my stomach hurt. It reminds me of when I was little, how I would measure the day’s worth by how much dirt I had under my fingernails from playing. I have found myself not only engaging with other students but with a few of the ecovillagers as well. Mary, an ecovillage resident, told us, “The best thing about living in our ecovillage is the people, and the worst thing about living in the ecovillage is… the people.” Her wisely humorous words stuck with me because they do not idealize life in an intentional community nor community in general.
Our time living within the ecovillage has brought our small community of students closer together. Having two teams cook for the group was a chaotic joy that required us to listen and respect one another as well as have a fair amount of flexibility. While we walked to the market, I saw a number of ecovillagers outside enjoying the evening. I was surprised to see children playing together in nature, given that in the United States, many children at the elementary age are playing their Gameboys and watching T.V.
While composing our group’s meal out of locally sourced Irish food, my team members adjusted methods according to each person’s needs, whether it was making vegetarian burgers or gluten free pasta. Much like how Úna explained living in the ecovillage, our time working together was not easy, but immensely rewarding. And I thought, “Hey, maybe this is what it is all about: connection.” As a species we have become so detached from the earth and… each other. I have come to question whether our driveby coffees, microwave T.V. dinners and consumer culture can fill this void, or whether our consumer culture—advertised as the key to happiness and materialistic fulfillmen—is, ironically, the driving force of the void itself.
Cloughjordan Ecovillage is not perfect—their solar panels do not work for financial reasons, village proposals take a painstakingly long time to pass due to indecision, and not all villagers actively participate in all ecological practices and responsibilities. But no place and no person is perfect. Cloughjordan is making what I perceive to be a valiant attempt to reconnect with our humanness—our place in nature as an individualistic but profoundly dependent species on each other and our environment.