I awake in the arms of one I love, in a room that is still dark. I was woken by birds starting to feel the changing air that signifies the approach of day. I leave the bed and move to a small space I have set aside for writing and spend some time before sunrise capturing thoughts and words. The house is warm, and there are plants around my workspace. Just before the sun fully breaks over the horizon, I go outside. Here there is a small path that leads to the village’s heart, where every morning some of us gather to meditate and do yoga. We embrace quietly, and then move into our own spaces, movements and thoughts together, but separate. As the sun rises, more children start to flow into the space, some joining in, some disrupting it with their noise and chatter. There is a communal kitchen to one side, and other adults, of all ages, and children start to come for breakfast.
Instead of joining the communal breakfast, I choose to go round to check on the parts of the village that I take especial care of – some areas of the gardens, some of the goats and chickens. I then go back to my small home and make a breakfast which I share with my partner: today is my day of childcare. Once every couple of months, I take responsibility for the care and education of the 20 village children who attend our educational programme. My own kids are grown, but in this way I stay connected both to learning and to other generations, and they benefit from my experience and knowledge, and they connect to me, and all the other adults in the community. I’ll be continuing the reading that they’ve been having with other adults – we had a handover and planning meeting with last week’s team to ensure both continuity and change. Then, as usual, we’ll spend some time in the communal kitchen ‘helping’ to prepare the midday meal for those who want to share it, before an afternoon of learning about astronomy through dance and play, my special contribution.
I go and visit my daughter, expecting her first child. She lives in the village, but in a part that is dedicated for younger couples and families, always thrumming with activity. I listen to her day, her worries, but she’s heading to the poetry, so I walk through the village and into the surrounding woodland for a dusk walking meditation. I reflect on how this small village has matured and grown in concert with the changes across this nation, how everyone now lives in a village like this: some are in city blocks of flats, where the communal kitchens and laundries and living areas have made more space possible for gathering and connection. Some are in large farmsteads, other villages are centred around particular industries. Ours is a diverse community, we trade our excess produce, and provide training on the various skills that people in our community have, sharing our knowledge in exchange for goods and services we don’t produce here.
The technology we use, for example, is barely recognisable from what existed 20 years ago. Rather than individualising, it is used collectively. We share devices like washing machines, so that fewer are needed, but they are built to be robust and long-lasting. Nothing is seen as disposable – not people, not goods. In our community are two or three people who specialise in mending different things, our blacksmith, our electrician, our seamstresses, but everyone can mend a bit, everyone can sew a bit, and we have days of coming together, once a month, to mend what is broken and trade what we no longer need.
The washing machine that is in my complex, a group of four houses who share some amenities, is, as most are today, a thing of beauty. It was hand-made and while it cleans as well as mass-produced items of a few decades ago, but was made slowly, and made to last. It is designed to use saponifiers from the wattle trees that grow in the nearby forest, but I notice we’re running low on supplies so will make a point of gathering some more tomorrow. There is no unemployment, because instead of producing goods quickly and with fossil fuels, we produce goods more slowly. It takes more time, more work from people, but the idea driving society is that it serves life, rather than life serving an absurd abstract ‘economy’. It is just one example of how technology has changed. Many of our systems are automated, but they are designed to take away from the repetitive, de-humanising tasks that nobody wants to do (like hand-washing clothes!), and allow people more time, and resources, to engage in creative, meaningful work, like building a washing-machine.
It’s a full day for me, my usual days are more solitary. Normally, I enjoy the evening gatherings of dance, discussion, music or theatre. Tonight there will be poetry reading by some of the teenagers, followed by some music, but instead I retire home to enjoy some peace, the sounds of the music flowing past as I sit outside, reading and thinking.
There is a lot more diversity in life today. We celebrate difference by living it – diversity not just of religion and colour, but diversities of ways of finding meaning in life, diversities in the rhythms of life. As an older woman, almost in my 70s (!), I find that I go to bed earlier, I need more time to myself. But I do that as part of the community, part of a whole. My children and grandchildren are on hand, and I feel useful, beautiful, and that I am slowly moving towards wisdom. My stories of the old days are listened to by the youngest as though they are scary fairy-tales of how close we came to disaster. We’re still healing, we’re still engaging in monthly cycles of repairing the damage done, but the future today is hopeful, and the present is healing. I’m looking forward to aging here, in this world we have created, and one day returning to being part of the earth from which I came, knowing that my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren will have lives full of wonder and beauty that I am only beginning to understand.