I have met my totem spirit on this trip: Eskimo, an eight-year-old dog. When Eskimo lived with Jackie and Crunch Stepp on their boat a few years ago, he got hit by a truck on US 1, broke his shoulder and his scapula, had a pin installed, and these days is a mellow soul seemingly unaffected by that trauma. I can relate to the trauma and aspire to the mellowness.
Jackie and Crunch are a young couple from Tennessee who met when living in neighboring communes. They fell in love and lived in an intentional community until a schism led them to leave. For three years they lived on a boat, traveling Florida’s warm waters and the Bahamas, and enjoying the extended community at River’s Edge Marina, their home base in St. Augustine. But they long to return to Tennessee and start their own intentional community. So, they invested in a house and hope to build equity toward purchasing a piece of land in their native state.
“We have notebooks where we each write what we envision. How many people do we want? How will our commune be organized? What is required for membership?” The idea is very present in their lives. In the meantime, they invite all manner of folk, long and short term, to share their home. Jackie’s brother Stephen lives with them more or less full time, a friend Travis was staying for a few weeks, yet they also invited me to sleep on the couch.
Six years ago, Jackie and Crunch committed themselves to each other. Crunch’s vows emerged in the spirit of that moment. Last year, mostly to please Jackie’s parents, the couple had a formal wedding. “It felt so fake.” Crunch didn’t like having to write vows in advance, go through prescribed procedures. “I don’t think I’m from planet earth. I don’t get this planet. I’m from somewhere else, sent here as some kind of probation.”
Crunch works for Roto-Rooter and is weeks away from getting his plumbing license. Jackie was a tour guide in St Augustine and now works in the Old Trolley offices. They see these endeavors as stopgap measures in service of the larger plan. Yet, the spirit of communality drives their daily life. In the morning, everyone moves through their large kitchen, making coffee, fixing lunch, cooking omelets, chatting, listening to wake-up rock’n’roll with an energy far beyond what a solitary couple on a Monday morning.
Eskimo and I sat in the corner and observed the activity. We appreciated the food and drink that came our way, thankful that our broken bones are so well healed.
How will we live tomorrow?
“I see mass extinction and hard core crazy things you won’t want to publish on your blog. If you’re talking tomorrow, I’m all for one day at a time. If you’re talking tomorrow tomorrow, we’re f@#ked.” – Crunch
“I think it’s a difficult question. There are so many people, how can I create a ‘we’ out of seven billion and growing? Every day we’re accelerating faster and faster than our little monkey brains can handle. We have to get to smaller groups.
“The biggest contributor to climate change is population growth. We have to find a way to work that out. I’m not going to be the one that will figure that out. I want to create my own space, for my own family, sharing space and resources and communication. If I can move toward that with my own family, then it can spread out to others.” – Jackie