An evening in November. Above you, stars peek out of a darkening sky misted with smoke. Tonight, like most nights now, you sit cross-legged by the fire. Next to you are your loved ones, one of whom begins telling the story of the day’s harvest: acorns, wild turkey, and mushrooms, all gathered on the communal land you call home. Across the flames you hear their voice but also the promise beneath it—that this food will be shared among you, ensuring your survival for another lunar cycle, deepening the growing bond between the tribe…
Sound good to you? We thought so too. That’s why we began Wilder Waters here on 150 acres of forest in central Maine—a real community, based on our ancestral birthright to a deep connection with each other and the land. A community where we share food, but also other types of nourishment: songs, stories, and rituals. Where the economy is based on reciprocity rather than extraction. Where the nuclear home is replaced by the community lodge, and life is lived according to the principles knit in your bones.
Interested in joining? Check us out here.
Wilder Waters community guiding principles
These principles are listed in no particular order. They are all important, and the numbers applied to them do not indicate a hierarchical role in community formation and maintenance. These are goals to guide one particular community and may not be applicable to all communities around the world. Additionally, these principles are subject to change and be added to based on the community member's collective minds.
1. Participation. This is opposed to production. It involves being part of the ecology of place, rather than actively modifying place to produce goods. It is an eco-centered mindset, rather than ego-centered one. Participation involves relying on the Earth’s abundance and using natural (i.e., ecological) methods of interaction, rather than solely trying to elevate the land’s ability to produce. While agriculture and animal husbandry may be a key part of the community’s ability to produce some of its food, this is not to be the sole way nourishment, medicine, fabric, and other important needs are obtained.
2. Egalitarianism. All people in the community (and beyond) are equal. This involves equality amongst the genders, ages, and roles within the community. Related to this is that all people in the community are sovereign.
3. Consensual decision making. Because all people are equal, all people have a say in the decision-making. Of course, with topics that are well-known and well-studied by some people it would, for the advantage of all involved, benefit from having those people speak to the issues and nuances involved. Elders do not govern, they adjust consensus.
4. Reciprocal gift economy. This involves the sharing of food, medicine, and material items among community members. Such an “economy” does not necessarily involve A gives to B and B gives back to A (C or D may eventually give to A). It does involve a complex web of sharing (especially harvest sharing) among the members so that all are provided for. This is not to say that there will not be personal items that are private and kept to each person. Reciprocal gift economy can include the gift of fiat currency to help those in need.
5. Personal work. This relates to making effort toward improving our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves. We recognize that our upbringing and immersion within an unwell society has created issues that need to be addressed. A community cannot be healthy if the individuals are unhealthy. We must be good listeners and compassionate speakers. We must also have some personal resilience so that minor issues don’t become large problems.
6. Ceremony. A healthful community engages in ceremony, rites of passage, and expressions of gratitude. These range from daily rituals to once-in-a-lifetime events to recognize and honor our human and natural communities.
7. Shared goals and fate. The community is bound by a sense of common purpose. The knowledge that all work for the same goal creates unity and inspiration. The community is also linked by a common fate. Members who have contributed will not be abandoned due to health issues and the like. This is not business networking, but caring for each other throughout our lives. It also involves some sharing of necessary financial commitments (e.g., property taxes, road maintenance).
8. Village and population. The community will only be comprised of a certain number of households that will ensure that the land is not overworked. Low population density is a key trait of eco-centered communities and allows for private space when needed.
9. Self-reliance. Part of successfully reaching community sovereignty is understanding that items required for living need to be obtained and crafted from the local landscape. When this is not feasible, obtaining raw materials from as nearby as possible is considered the next best choice. The community will always have interest in moving as far back on the industrial chain as possible (e.g., if fabric for clothing cannot be made, then purchasing fabric produced in an eco-conscientious method is preferable to purchasing completed clothing). Such a goal necessitates knowledge of primitive and traditional technologies.
10. Land held in common. The land is the most important item that is held in common (through some method) by all the people of the community. We need to cherish our land and create our own stories and songs for the land.
11. Peacemaking. Problem resolution and a return to the previous relationship is the stated goal of peacemaking. This stands in contradiction to the methods employed by contemporary society, which is an assignment of blame and payment of damages (and the resulting destruction of the relationship).
12. Generational sustainability. The community is forward thinking and evaluates the impact of various practices on future generations. This necessitates special attention be given to the care and education used to prepare the youth and the adults for an eco-centered living. It also is an important consideration when the community interacts with the world and economy that lies beyond. Those material goods that must be purchased from other parts of the world should be produced in the softest manner possible using green technologies and honest social accounting.