Today’s guest post is by Mickey Mangan.
At one point in my first six months as a transplant in Cincinnati, I lived on a property with five people, a cat, a dog, a rat, nine chickens, and two goats. No, I was not out in College Hill working as a farmer at Bahr. I was in Mount Auburn, commuting a quick two miles every morning by bicycle to my job at the Chiquita Tower. My housemates had all found one another through a shared interest in environmentally sustainable living. At the Earnshaw Ecohouse we enjoyed fresh eggs from the chickens and free labor from the goats, who were happy to clear our backyard of its invasive yet delicious honeysuckle. Kids from the neighborhood would come over to hang out with us, helping out by catching the odd escaped chicken. The ones who behaved would sometimes get to use our Wi-Fi, on the occasion that they had gotten their hands on an older sibling’s phone.
The Ecohouse is just one example of an Intentional Community here in Cincinnati. There have been movements built around the concept of living intentionally, often accompanied with words like “mindfulness,” “sustainability,” and “social justice.” If these words describe your values, and you enjoy sharing space, then you might just be interested in bailing on your condo and joining an Intentional Community.
My first exposure to intentional community was last year, when I spent the month of January as an artist-in-residence at a cooperative in Berkeley, California. During that eye-opening time sharing meatless meals and meaty conversations, I accepted a job offer in Cincinnati. I had only a few weeks to figure out where I would live and, not knowing a soul, I took to the internet to explore what Cincinnati might have to offer in terms of community-driven shared living situations.
My search led me to the Earnshaw Ecohouse. After applying online and interviewing by Skype with the homeowner and one of my future housemates, I happily moved in on a brisk Sunday in February 2015. That night I enjoyed dinner at the Mac House, sister community of the Ecohouse. I still feel very lucky to have had such a warm welcome to the city I still call home.
In most ways, there is nothing extraordinary about what an intentional community tries to achieve. It’s just people living together trying to get more out of life. The common thread that weaves between all the various intentional communities I’ve encountered is that members strive towards a common goal. Whether the goal is something measurable, like off-grid living, or less-so, like the contemplative harmony of a monastery, an intentional community always acknowledges the goodness inherent in people coming together.
Cincinnati is particularly fertile territory for intentional community houses. In Norwood, the recently established Merton House hosts monthly community potlucks and weekly contemplative meditations to live out its values of simplicity and faith exploration. Residents of the Enright Eco-Village in Price Hill connect across multiple homes to cast a wide swath of community health and biodiversity. And the aforementioned houses in Mt. Auburn are home to a crew of the most energetic, generous, and joyfully radical people I’ve met.
I no longer live at the Ecohouse, but I am forever grateful for the unique connection it gave me to the neighborhood of Mount Auburn and for deepening my appreciation of our environment.
Living intentionally can seem like an unresolvable paradox. After all, who ever was born on purpose? But even if life only happens accidentally, community cannot. The houses I’ve mentioned are spaces organized to enrich community, and I see them as microcosms of the larger fabric of this city. I urge you to explore them to see how they work together to achieve great things in small numbers. If we all participate, there’s no reason Cincinnati couldn’t be the world’s first Intentional City!
For more information on the intentional communities mentioned, follow these links: