As I step onto the Twin Oaks property, a fragrant wave of October air fills my lungs. My eyes absorb my surroundings: broad leaves overhead beginning their transition from green to orange to red, cows gently mooing on nearby hills, and serene, smiley-looking people walking down dirt paths. A wonderfully weird sensation washes over me. Have I been here before? What sort of déjà vu is this?
The truth is, I have not been here before. (At least, not in this lifetime!) Nonetheless…it feels so… familiar. Like a home I’ve left but can’t remember leaving. Like chords of a song, beloved in childhood. Or like looking up into a maze of stars on a warm summer night. Twin Oaks is something like that. Coming here is something like poetry, something beyond the logical and the rational. Something beyond the mainstream notions of what life “should” be.
Twin Oaks is an intentional community in rural central Virginia, founded in 1967. It’s the longest-running and most well-known of all the egalitarian communities in the United States. Members of Twin Oaks (approximately one hundred people) live by the values of sharing, cooperation, nonviolence, equality, and ecology. Many members avoid the term “commune,” due to some lingering negative connotations with the word; however, that is exactly what it is. A commune. A communal way of life. Members are like family: they share income, they share their days, they share their dreams.
I’ve been visiting Twin Oaks on a three-week visitor period. I’ve worked and played and lived. I’ve tended the greenhouse, bottle-fed baby calves, worked in their organic tofu factory, harvested peanuts, facilitated Reiki healing sessions, made homemade pizza with wild mushrooms, and gotten lost in the breathtaking river and trees. It’s been incredible.
I’ve been pondering how to summarize my experience, and realized one of the less-popular definitions helps me to describe how I feel here. A “commune” is a mode of communion, a way of communicating in a very personal or spiritual way. Indeed. Twin Oaks is a place of deep, intimate communion: with the land, with the animals, with the plants, with the Earth itself. It’s a place of opening. A place of expansion. It’s a place where one meets and is, finally, met. It’s a space of air. It’s a story of love.
When I leave in a few days, I will leave more humble than I came. Twin Oaks has been a powerful mirror. It has helped me see myself more clearly. And, in that sense, it has much in common with a lover. Twin Oaks has been this beautiful, intense, intimate, and in some ways challenging entity that has helped me perceive some of my more hidden, pernicious character weaknesses (areas for growth!) and has also helped me strengthen the gifts, skills, and passions I naturally possess. It has reflected both the positive and the negative aspects of myself—a dynamic, of course, that hasn’t always been easy!
I came to Twin Oaks with the intention of adventure, and that is what I have done. Along the way, I have shared walks, work, smiles, silence, hugs, songs, and snuggles with dozens of beautiful souls. In short, I have communed with a new kind of lover. And that lover has just begun to be explored.
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