The house

I want a big, old, rambling house with a sprawling backyard and a vegetable garden. It’ll have a big kitchen, a big dining room, and a porch with lots of places to sit, perfect for entertaining. There will be fruit trees and a fire pit. We’ll have cats and chickens. It’ll be somewhere in New England, not too far away from my parents and sisters and cousins.

In the house, I’ll live with my husband. He will be someone with whom I feel absolutely secure. It won’t just be the two of us, though: we will live in community with a few friends, an intentional community. A room will be designated as a Christ room, a place for people in need. The house will always be full.

The house itself might be the Catholic Worker, or maybe we’ll have a separate building, or maybe we’ll convert one of the run-down mills in an aging New England town into a sprawling Worker house. There is so much need here: the opioid epidemic has done horrible things in small Vermont towns.

I know this world and these people. I have gone to school with them. I have accompanied them in North Adams, MA, working at a food pantry and supporting a disabled woman who was forced out of her home when her trailer park flooded in Hurricane Irene and then the wealthy town refused to build more affordable housing. North Adams is a poor, opioid-wracked town where my mom went to high school, but it’s also next to Williamstown, MA, where I went to an elite college. I felt that I was caught between two worlds: the elite academy and rural New England. I wasn’t poor, but I knew so much more about the complexity of rural life than my college peers from the cities, who were dismissive and derisive toward the people in North Adams and the other towns around us. I’d never felt quite at home in my small town, but I’ve been thinking more and more that even if I don’t remain in Castleton, VT, my own hometown, I am called to live and work among the rural poor. (Strike a balance: some distance from the particular people in my town but not distance from the land and the issues of this place.)

So we will have a Catholic Worker house, a Catholic Worker that primarily serves women. We will provide meals and clothes, as well as connections to social services. I will offer pastoral care. We will allow activists to meet in our kitchen. There will always be coffee and tea. We will worship together, too, praying the hours together as a home.

Our friends will visit us, from everywhere. It will never be lonely. We will try to live ecologically just lives. We will argue sometimes and it will be hard, but we will do our best. We will live with difference of opinion and belief.

I’ll write, too. I’ll write articles and books and poems. And I’ll ride my bike. I want a simple, community-filled life. I want to build something hopeful, but I can’t do it alone. The thing about this vision that feels most impossible is finding people with whom to make it real. My friends are scattered across the world and we live transient lives. I want to put down roots.

7 thoughts on “The house

  1. This is beautiful and compelling.
    It’s incarnational.
    It’s life lived well: with simplicity, holding complexity, in community, with consciousness and justice, enfleshed in daily practices.
    Your writing and your vision remind me of Dorothy Day’s “The Long Loneliness,” especially the book’s postscript.

    The second and third-last sentences represent a sudden turn. “The thing about this vision that feels most impossible…”
    What you write is legit. It’s a practical concern.
    I’m brought to the broad valley filled with bones. I remember what Sheila shared yesterday about the *impossibility* of this situation: Ezekiel is brought to a mass grave, where people have been dead for decades, and God says, “Prophesy here.” Sheila called it “ridiculous.” It is.

    I wonder if the part of your dream that feels most impossible is the very part where God will breathe and bring abundant life in totally unexpected ways.

  2. So here we are, fools for Christ. Send in the clowns. Oh, that’s us. Abby, wherever it is you put down roots and juggle the tasks of everyday living, as your dream unfolds, may the circus come to town bringing surprises, laughter, perhaps a high wire act, and just maybe an elephant or two . . .

  3. Reading what you wrote, Abby, opened up my breathing; I feel an incredible spaciousness in what you describe. Your vision is the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God (although you also address the suffering of your wider community.)

    I echo Luke in the joyful realization that it is God’s specialty to give us the gift of love in our life and community. It is God’s promise that we were made for love and togetherness.

    Your fear to remain with your parents would be valid if you felt you were stagnating there; but instead you describe yourself as comfortable (in your last post). How does living in your hometown right now connect with the vision you describe here?

  4. Abby,
    this sounds like a community of which I would love to be a part. It resonates with my dream and feels so warm and healing. It also is a vision that seems so necessary for the times in which we live. What part of your life right now feels like a place you could start to nurture this dream?

  5. Such a beautiful, true, study, solid, vision.

    “I am called to live and work among the rural poor.” These words leapt off the screen.

    I hear resonance between the vision you have laid out here and the experience you described as a student spending time in the ministry center in last week’s post. Your desire for community is so clear. “We have all known the long loneliness…”

    In your lament that your beloveds are scattered and lead transient lives (as Luke said, it is legit, and very much resonates with my experience as a fellow millennial), I wonder if there may be a way as you pray that that concern/lament/impossibility might become a wondering, a curiosity, an Annunciation-style “how can this be?”

  6. Hi, Abby. Your world sounds idyllic. I love your idea of living in community with family and friends you know and love. And serving the rural poor. I am wondering why you want the distance from your own hometown. How does that strike a balance for you?

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