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.