I am very much in love. I have been at Dharmananda now for just a couple of weeks, but there is a timelessness about the place that has pervaded any sense I may have had that this is the case. Instead, I feel as though I have lived here for long enough to know it as home. Which is handy, because I have no other place that I can sincerely call home now: Perth is a distant memory; Melbourne was a phase; and Brisbane was only ever a stepping-stone to moving down to this part of the world, to a place very much like this.
I have been welcomed warmly here, even lovingly. The people here are very open and happy to share their lives with a newcomer like me. After all, all but one of them were newcomers to this community once themselves, so they understand what it’s like to be in my position. There are, all up, a couple of dozen people here. Many have been here between 20 and 30 years, so there is a very settled feeling about the place: a feeling that perhaps contributes to the timelessness of it. And although everyone here shares much in common – as need be in any harmonious community – they also tread remarkably disparate walks of life: among the inhabitants here are educators, students, builders, health workers, social workers, planners, consultants, retirees and dunny builders. Yet, as everyone is expected to contribute several hours a week (including Fridays and Saturday mornings) towards keeping the place going, nobody has a full-time job. Nobody is on the dole either, in fact for many years that wasn’t even permissible here. Now it is, but only in extenuating circumstances.
Me, I have no income at all at the moment. But I have very few expenses either. There is my car, but I don’t drive it much. Then there are miscellaneous expenses, but I really don’t get out all that much. I have no need to, everything I need is here. Food is abundant and of a high quality; the company is superb; there are myriad ways to while away the hours; and there is plenty of exploring to be done through the rainforest that covers the bulk of our 250 acres.
I need to be here six days a week anyway in order to fulfil my part of the bargain. In return for the fine food, great company and a roof over my head, the community asks that I contribute six half days of work, which is only fair. I’ve willingly accorded with their wishes, and have the blisters, cuts, bites and bruises to prove it. A mate of mine in Melbourne calls me a shiny bum because I spend so much time at a desk, and I was reminded recently that I’m a bit of geek. Well, the bulk of us at Dharmananda are a bit geeky, but at least we’re working geeks. And I don’t spend any time at a desk now: the one in my room is too small, so I do my reading and writing elsewhere. My computer’s still in Brisbane, where it will likely remain for some time yet, so the only time I sit in front of one is when I’m using someone else’s, which is conveniently limiting.
Yes, I’m very much in love with my new home. I understand that this is the honeymoon period, especially considering I’m constantly reminded of this by the other people at Dharmananda. But the way I see it is that if it’s been good enough for them to stick it out for as long as they have, it can’t be all that bad even when it’s at its worst. We’ll see.
The point is that I’ve never felt so comfortable so soon in so many people’s company. I’ve never been more satisfied with my existence or felt so at home so quickly. And the course my life is taking has never been clearer to me than it is now. I’ve been wanting to do exactly what I’m doing for a long time now, and the only question I’ve been asking myself since moving in is the rhetorical, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
I don’t know how long I’ll be here, and it doesn’t really matter. It may be a couple of months, it may be a lifetime, but all I know is that it feels as though it’s exactly what I should be doing right now. And you can’t ask for more than that, can you? (Well, you can, but that’d just be plain greedy now, wouldn’t it?)