When I moved to Bend in 1999, my impression of Higher Ground was of a vibrant group of families whose children play together and parents who were friends and helped with each other’s kids. In retrospect, my experience at Higher Ground is much different from what I expected when I first got here.
Over my 10 years here, friendships have ebbed and flowed. Many acquaintances have become friends, and then close friends. And some acquaintances have stayed acquaintances. So much like the rest of my life. In my experience, Higher Ground does not make instant friends, but it does make forming friendships easier, especially when I participate and am vulnerable.
STOMP! is an annual music and performance festival at Higher Ground, featuring a variety show that brings the community together. At first, my role was getting my two boys to participate and reminding them to practice. Since then I have done two chemistry demonstrations and played a duet with my youngest son. Also, I’ve been in three amateur dance troupes led by a neighbor who’s a professional choreographer.
My main and deepest connection with the community is Friday morning breakfast. This is a time to connect, share, and listen on a deep level. It meets my needs for connection, being heard, and friendship. And it has helped me to become a better listener which has helped relationships outside of Higher Ground, too.
I try to be cognizant of giving more to the community then I take, because I know in the past, like when I was going through my divorce, I took more than I gave. And when I give more, I get more.
It was late August in Bend and the afternoons were hot but the nights were growing cooler. As I walked the narrow path between our houses and past our neighborʼs clothesline I thought about how I hadnʼt had time to hang my clothes lately, we were too busy packing and preparing to move. But the smell of the dry pine needles or the quality of the warm air brought me back to the previous summer, when Liz first offered me the use of their line, almost as soon as we had moved to Higher Ground. We hardly knew her and Mike by conventional measures, but we were immediately like close friends. This was a recurring theme for the year. As was the joy of hang drying my clothes in the sunshine and having that much more opportunity to see friends while I did it.
After a year, we realized Higher Ground wasn’t a perfect fit for us, but we were so inspired by this community. It is a wonderful way to live and I loved the feeling of belonging to something beyond my immediate private property. Every time I walked up to the common house and punched in the code to unlock the door, I felt special because I was part of this place. So, thank you, Higher Ground for being such a sweet experience and a vast improvement over normal, you motivated us to take this personal experiment further! If we donʼt find something truly amazing out here, weʼre happily heading right back!
My husband Ron, our twin daughters (then 2), and I came to Higher Ground in 1995. We had been living what we thought was the dream, in a log cabin on four acres east of town with a view of the mountains and pasture for horses. It was beautiful there, but I was a young mama, at home with my babies all day, and I was lonely. We saw a flyer for a pot-luck dinner for folks who wanted to talk about creating a co-housing community. We really didn’t know if there would be any other younger kids in this group. I remember that being a big gamble for us in making our decision. But Ron and I both felt a spark that first day. We started coming to all the planning meetings, many, many meetings held in the old part of the common house. Soon, some of us were holding sleeping children, and others were still nursing. The mood was idealistic and adventurous and a little bit scary sometimes. We had very long discussions. We really didn’t know each other.
As time went on, we learned how to work together, and how NOT to. There were times when we had interpersonal stuff, but we never really questioned if we had made a good choice. The way Higher Ground has evolved is better than we imagined. Our children thank us frequently for having raised them here in a place where they could run and play in a pack and could feel safe within the boundaries of Higher Ground. They learned about community and cooperation, what it takes to grow a garden and feed a village, and how to make manifest an idea and have so many adults around who are interested and supportive.
Some time ago, when the first flock of children started to leave to live their lives, it started to feel a bit dry here. We looked at each other and saw ourselves a bit older, wondering what was going to happen. But now we see quite clearly and with so much joy and wonder, that it is the amazing group of newer families and singles that will carry the enthusiasm alongside the older ones.