“In life, a person will come and go from many homes. We may leave a house, a town, a room, but that does not mean those places leave us.” — Arik Berk
This Memorial Day weekend I returned to my childhood home. As a family, we celebrated the birthdays of two young men, grandnephews, the next generation coming up. The next day we planted flowers for my mother, their great grandmother, whose knees no longer bend, or are able to stand erect again without pain.
My nephew Quinn joined me as we dug the freshly turned earth, making holes for the red impatiens, two plants per hole, each hole four inches apart. This is the same lesson I shared with his sister Gemma last year. How to plant flowers as a family. After dropping the impatiens in the hole, we returned the dirt with the garden spade, pressed firmly around and on top of the root balls, or used our hands and touched terra firma.
Sister Tami was planting a border around the deck in the backyard with grandnephew Jace, one of the birthday boys. She said he had a natural talent for gardening and commented that he had a green thumb. Jace, seven years old, looked at his thumb quizzically and emphatically replied, “My thumb’s not green!”
His sister, Nala sat beside her mother Casey and planted marigolds around the wishing well. My sister, Kelly, planted flowers in wooden barrel pots in the side yard, while my mother visited and supervised. Dad’s job was to place the gazing balls, yard ornaments, gnomes, bird baths, garden tiles, and the kissing Dutch boy and girl in their rightful places. He watered and fertilized the freshly planted flowers.
While I planted the last border of alternating pink and red impatiens along the flagstone walk, I listened to the conversations of my family members, sharing stories, giving gardening tips, and passing on traditions to a new generation. Sister Tami posted pictures on Facebook with the comment that the family that plants flowers together, grows together.
It was a beautiful day, sunny warm weather, blue skies and cool breeze. It was made perfect by sharing the day and flower-planting tradition with each other. I was grateful that I could return to my childhood home, and my family would be together as we passed on a holiday activity to the next generation. My heart was filled with memories of times past and hope for the future.
Yesterday & Today
This week marks the year anniversary of moving into my current home. Last year at this time I was packing the final series of plastic totes and wardrobe boxes, confirming movers and scheduling internet, cable and utility services. When I packed, I reviewed my life, deciding what material things I needed to hold onto and what to let go.
Moving is an emotional, physical and spiritual experience. Each of my moves was connected to a life change of some kind, a relationship status, a job, or change in finances.
As I write now, I’m listening to the thunder roll in and the sky release the rain. My home abuts a bike path and cyclists are pedaling quickly to reach the safety of their destination. I have a window on the world with Lake Monona to my left and the University of Wisconsin campus to my right. Across the railroad tracks are a mix of converted warehouse lofts and new apartments. It is a vibrant neighborhood.
Out my window I watch the runners, and the early-rising medical students,and late-returning high tech workers. I can see the dog walkers, graduate students, the young and the empty-nesters. My writing desk allows me to watch the sunrise and moon set, and the seasons change. My home is my refuge, a retreat, and base camp. I venture out into the world and return to my safe place.
Today & Tomorrow
As I look ahead to my future and consider how and where I want to live for my Third Act, I’ve become committed to the idea of living in an intentional community of like-minded individuals and to age in place. I have an interest in creating that community, becoming a founding member of a co-housing project. To that end I’ve joined MESCoH, Madison East Side Co-Housing and sit on its first board of directors.
MESCoH is a small, yet growing group of individuals who come together every two weeks to build the foundation of the co-housing group, draft bylaws, determine decision-making processes, reach out to other interested parties and potential partners, work with developers, project managers and consultants, architects, neighborhood associations, and potential neighbors and businesses. We are seriously considering the Union Corners project in Madison, Wisconsin. Following is our vision statement:
Madison East Side Co-Housing (MESCoH) is a group of individuals seeking to establish, design and create an intentional community of homes and common spaces on the East Side of Madison, based on the co-housing model. We are exploring several potential locations for our co-housing community, including the proposed development at Union Corners. Members of MESCoH have expressed interest in such features as green building, walkable neighborhoods, community gardens, outdoor common areas, and street design featuring traffic calming.
MESCoH invites like-minded individuals with shared values and a commitment to participatory decision-making to join us as we develop our vision and mission statement and move forward to create a welcoming and diverse community that is affordable, intergenerational, LGBTQ and senior-friendly, and dedicated to preserving the quality of life and vibrancy of our east side neighborhood.
To learn more about MESCoH and the Union Corners project, how to become a member, and information for meeting dates, locations and times, join our listserv, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please join us at any of our upcoming meetings.
To learn more about co-housing in Madison, Wisconsin and background on the Union Corners project, click on: LGBT-Friendly Co-Housing.
UPDATE: MESCoH evolved into a new cohousing community. The Union Corners site fell through and a new cohousing project is underway in the Atwood neighborhood on Winnebago Street. For more information, visit CohoMadison.