It is a luxury to have never had to lock the front door. I don’t even have a key for it, in fact. That is part of the beauty of Maine — the trusting simplicity. Having traveled the world and lived in five different countries in three different continents, I have decided this is where I will spend the rest of my life. I hope my children and their children and their children’s children do the same.
If they do, I have some ideas that I have gathered from other people and places that could make their lives easier.
First, I will tell you about my street and my plans for it. There are 18 houses on my street. Each house has a lawnmower and 16 of the houses have snowblowers. There are also 18 lawns. Of course, there are many more items, but for now let’s just consider the lawns, lawnmowers and snowblowers.
Using the tried, trusted and universal principle of “Do unto others as you would have done unto you,” I shall begin by inviting all my neighbors to my home to eat together. At our gathering, I will call the guests to order and introduce my plan.
And here it is. I will build a large shed on my property and suggest to my neighbors that we use it to store a community lawnmower and community snowblower. We will buy high-end products from the proceeds from the sale of our individual lawnmowers and snowblowers.
I will also suggest that we draw up a roster and those who are willing and able will be invited to sign up for their communal duties. I will also volunteer to be the default mower and blower.
Should my plan be met with approval, I will make the suggestion that each neighbor give up one-third of their property for the community garden. If each neighbor gave up half an acre, that would make nine acres of land. We would produce enough food for ourselves and have plenty left over that we could barter for firewood and other products or services.
Not wanting to put anyone off, I will end the meeting with two final suggestions. It is that each household should make a list of house projects that they would like done over the course of the following year. These can include projects such as re-roofing, building extensions, sheds, converting lawn to garden, and so on.
We will meet twice a year, on the summer solstice and the winter solstice. We will enlist volunteers, draw up rosters and also note whether any of our neighbors need any special help or assistance.
I have seen these practices in many countries around the world. For example, in rural France and on the kibbutzim of Israel. I have lived and worked in this manner and I know that the people who live in this way are happier, healthier and have more money and time available for themselves and their families.
These ideas are not new. However, they are universal and we humans lived like this for tens of thousands of years, basically until the material world and the claws of capitalism began to tear at our humanity.
I’m ready for a change and I hope you are, too. I will inform my neighbors of my plan and the date of the first meeting at my house — December 21, 2011.
Chris Mares of Orono is the director of the Intensive English Institute at the University of Maine.