The Haultain Commons

By Rainey Hopewell

Hello, Oaklandish neighbours. My name is Rainey Hopewell. I live with my partner, Margot Johnston, in the house tucked directly behind the Haultain Common, between Avebury & Asquith. This year, the Haultain Common will be nine years old. So surprisingly radical in its inception, the Haultain Common seems utterly common now.

City Council's growing interest in growing food on public land has piqued our curiosity to check in with ourselves about the Haultain Common, and reap the harvest of our learning about growing food on public land.

Here's the nutshell version of our learning:

• Although there are some exceptions, in general, boulevards are fine places to grow food. Even a modest boulevard can produce an impressive and satisfying harvest, if there is enough sun & water.

• In a culture where private property is deeply entrenched, we're still often reassuring and encouraging folks that anyone may harvest food grown on common land.

• We still cherish the consistent opportunity for city folks to learn how to share food generously and kindly. This is a vital skill to nourish and tend, in case harder times should come.

• And, as with much else regarding North American human interest and behaviour, community attention to the working needs of the Common waxes and wanes: now here, now elsewhere. This has been the hard part of maintaining the Haultain Common. Now that the Common is nearly a decade old, it appears to exist independently of maintenance. Even though it actually needs quite a bit of tending, few folks now offer to help, or respond to our invitations to do so. And we have yet to be asked who pays for the water.

So, is a common garden worth the effort? Unequivocally, yes! For despite the current dearth of community help, the Haultain Common remains one small manifestation of an immense social movement sweeping across western civilization. A Google search for "the common good" this week showed 125, 000,000 results. Clearly, human interest in the common good is alive & well. It appears that perhaps legions of us yearn to reclaim our ancient understanding of a commonly-held inheritance of life-sustaining forces.

These are the forces of earth, air, fire and water; of light and dark; peace and quiet; seeds and knowledge; medicinals and healing; the gene pool and DNA; light & sound waves; the ancient forests and tumbling waters; the wealth of the past and the hope for the future.

We know that all these life-sustaining phenomena are under assault. Many of us yearn on a cresting swell for "something different," even if we don't know completely yet what the content of that difference would be. The Haultain Common is one humble experiment with something different; something much older than contemporary society's corporate structures encourage & allow.

How is it possible for something so small and humble as the Haultain Common to be part of something so huge as a world-wide movement? Perhaps this is merely what world-wide movements are: for each of us, merely the choice we make within each moment. For all of us: the harvests those choices grow, whatever those choices may be. Wander on by sometime, knowing you are welcome. See you around the Common! Peace with Earth, with love from Rainey & Margot

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