I moved into this house a couple years ago, and I’ve been trying to understand why. Why seek out community in this brave new age? Why endure the tedium of business meetings, the unpleasantness of inexplicit conflict that erupts when ignored for so long? Why deny yourself solitude in such a noisome world? Maybe practical support, longing for connection, a bold striving towards coherence between valuing and living into, subsidized rent, etc. Maybe I moved here because I’d become lost or maybe because I felt I’d lost important parts of myself, where I felt like home was, a sense of belonging, a prolonged sense of having forgotten something like a mystery object in your suitcase on the way to the airport. Or maybe I’d seen what it might be like to consider myself connected to something that stays. I moved into this house because I was doing hard things in grad school nearby and needed sanctuary. I moved in because I’d felt and seen a phantasmal outline of love. I moved in because I missed my family. I moved in because there was a garden. I moved in because I thought maybe I could start believing in something big like God or second chances. I moved in because I was afraid of waking up and coming home to a lonely, indifferent silence and a delayed grubhub order and the derisive laugh track of a sitcom and the sudden realization that I’ve gradually lost so many years of life. 

Homes aren’t buildings but geographies of our most intimate dreams according to Bachelard, physiognomies of old wood doorframes and cracked plaster and floor plans that don’t make sense. For instance, a lamp in a dark room is like your own personal star. And have you ever noticed yourself in a comfortable bedroom on a cold, snowy morning and how much warmer your room feels simply because it snowed so much? Have you noticed how much more deeply you dream on a snowy morning? My room is far off to the side on the second floor, and it feels like a small hermitage with the blinds drawn. And when our box from the farmer comes in summer, my heart feels bigger and like everything is growing, and the trees by the porch look taller. And there’s a bathtub in a bathroom contained behind three sets of doors. In its water, with only candlelight, time is suspended, no longer chronological, but something beyond that, at the end of things or maybe the beginning. Maybe I moved here because I needed an imagination or a map or a timeline. 

When lost, the best way to be found is to move toward high ground and stay put. My first year was dizzy, mostly just getting by, stooped over warmth and familiarity, solitary, staying put. People move into community because things are hard. Life is really, really hard. If you go about life a day at a time, as hackneyed as that sounds, it’s a bit easier, especially if your day is constellated with a few obligations like a class or a work shift or a meal with housemates. A lot of that first year was spent getting by a meal at a time. And some of them were quite good. And they become interesting when you realize that you can tell so much about a person based on how they think of food and meals: a source of utilitarian nourishment, an experience at a restaurant, a chore, a ritual, a memory of travel, an identity, a joy. And interest gives way to curiosity. And it’s so much easier to keep living when you’re curious. So maybe I moved into community because I’ve been hungry. 

Maybe I moved into this house because I really love people, their shifting and varied selves, their opening to and slouching towards an unidentifiable presence, a longing for beyond words. That’s why loneliness is really, really hard – the sense that something is missing and forgotten

that you can’t name. It’s hard when you’re haunted by the sense that something has been left behind. I find people up close frightening, and I’m pretty frightened of the sorts of hurt that can happen in relationships. But the way people defy knowledge is beautiful. And the way fear of hurt gives way to love is beautiful. When someone unfolds before you, you don’t find yourself simply knowing more. Rather, you become aware that there are still so many ineffable and confounding aspects beyond what they say or how they appear. And you start to find bits of yourself in them – essentially that they’re just as desperate and suffering, gladly hiding and longing to be found, blind to themselves, and as worthy of forgiveness and love as you are. Maybe I moved into community because I needed a full length mirror. 

About a year ago, after getting by a day at a time, hard things were happening where I worked. I couldn’t do all of this on my own, even a day at a time. Some things are so hard all you can do is sit in a car with the engine off in a winterized underground parking lot and weep. I needed people to grieve with – to grieve the ways life is really hard, the parts of me that had died after hearing stories that are hard to hear. I needed to learn from others how to sit with myself silently, to listen. I needed to have people who’d encourage me to take walks. I needed a life big enough to hold onto stories that would be unethical to forget. And instead of finding ways to go numb, I started finding ways to be with others and make friends. I started to feel the sides and feet of love, the wild hot blood of hope. 

I moved into community because I wanted to feel something again. I wanted to feel the slick black walls of a cave inhabited by the winged rats of fear, the green slime of unease, a claustrophobia that keeps you moving. I wanted to feel the teeth and claws of an untamed beast that devours complacency and unsettles all we have in exchange for changing you totally, fiercely, wildly. I wanted to feel the spit of lake waves on an evening with a moonrise and the sense of missing an old friend. I wanted to smell the woodsmoke of a fire at night and the burning of a dream, the gravity of how light bends around a beautiful face you’re inexplicably drawn towards. I wanted to feel run-through by passion. I wanted to feel the breathless cold of a morning sunrise when the radiators broke down. It’s hard to feel anything at all when all you feel is the numbness of being fearfully alone. It’s hard to move on when it feels like something is left behind. So I suppose the first step is to feel lovingly alone in the presence of others. Maybe the first step is becoming so empty and so alone amongst others that all you feel is the fact that you’re alive, that it’s good to be alive. Then maybe you start to feel how others are very much alive, that it’s good they’re alive beside you. 

It’s spring now, and I’ve been here for two years. 

The rhythms of community life have become somewhat routine, the people familiar. I can navigate our strange floor plan with my eyes closed at night, which I do often so I don’t become too awake while leaving my room. In community, I’ve found a family again, and I’ve also found my old family again. I’ve been rereading my favorite books. For the first time in my life, I’ve written songs. Every morning, I look at the tree outside my window and pray. I suppose that’s where I’ve located God, particularly in a low hanging little branch that looks like a hand. I’ve been locating God in lots of places: light on the waves in the lake at the Point, the sidewalk flowers on the way there, the silence of the moon and stars seen so clearly at night in the

Indiana Dunes, the songs of migratory birds that return each morning and also each spring. It’s also easier to locate God in people. God is a full length mirror. God is an untamed beast. God reminds us to pack our toothbrush. God makes us able to love again. Over these years here, there has been a shift in me – a pull towards love and being loved and loving, towards a benevolent emptiness, towards finding myself situated in a world where there is light on water every day and stars each night. In solitude and total emptiness, I am not wholly alone. Instead, I’m contained somewhere in a room behind a door on the second floor of an old house on 56th & Woodlawn. 

I think ultimately this is why I moved into community – a slow pull towards not being so alone and not so numb to life, towards imagining unknowable things, towards carrying suffering that is shaped into loving, loving and working towards justice in my personal and professional lives. We need places and each other to have a home. In the aspect of God that has a heart, there are homes for each of us. So I’m coming to understand that we are all homes to ourselves and each other – that’s what community is at its essence. Simply put, I guess I moved into this community because I wanted a home.