Temporary and Permanent Communities of Scotland - Toward Community

Temporary and Permanent Communities of Scotland

Volunteering for a native re-wilding tree charity in the Highlands of Scotland.

A Scottish traveler and activist shares his recent experience of community microcosms.

“…I never felt at ease, and was quite happy to make a sweeping passing judgement on those sweet old hippies just wanting to retire in peace. Can a community die of old age?”

It feels like this has been a long time in the making. ┬áThere were a few mini drafts I wasn’t happy with and then I simply ran out of time. If quarterly is three months then this is more of a thirdly review and that simply means I have more to write about and less space to do it in.

My main problem at first was that I couldn’t possibly think of what I had done communally. For me community has always involved the stereotypical version or travelling with people, and being back in Scotland I couldn’t imagine when I would come across these ways. In the end I did of course and much more. My time recently has been about seeing community in so many unexpected ways and not at all in those I would have thought of originally. It was the aspects and stages in communal evolution I enjoyed observing though. There’s a lot to learn from every moment.

I start with my time volunteering for a native re-wilding tree charity up in the Highlands of Scotland. I call it volunteering but in truth it was glorified wwoofing, which probably suited my needs. I learnt so much about trees and about native re-wilding projects, and while interesting, now is not the time. This though was probably my most communal in the last six months. We were six people in a house and we had to get on, which we did generally but it was interesting to view interactions and how one new person coming in could completely change the harmony of a place. It made me think of how the same can happen in long term communities; how one persons parasitic self-interest can have such an enormously detrimental affect on the collective morale. By the end of our time we were desperate to leave and while that was partly down to having enough of the goldfish bowl; escaping bullshit was certainly high on the agenda. What do communities do long term though. For us all was temporary and if you had a problem you could just leave, but had that been our home there would have been some serious actions needing to be taken. For me it simply reaffirmed the complicated side of communal life that I have seen previously and which has in the past put me off that way of existing. How does that compare to the ‘real world’ then, because seemingly it is easy to avoid people by simply shutting your door. But what kind of life is that. It could be that I was just experiencing an intense version of sharing accommodation with people, a normal thing done by millions everyday, but is something so distant in my memory that I have created some kind of glorified communal experience out of it. Either way, it was interesting to observe something that at times felt like a social experiment; people really can be shit to each other.

The charity I was working for had links with Findhorn, the shining light of community in this world and in particular just outside of Inverness where it is located. I had heard of Findhorn when travelling around Australia and then later discovered my mother had gone there a few decades past. To go there with a group connected with the community was therefore a great way of seeing the place I thought. My highlight of the day was the free cake the charity bought us. The rest of the time we explored a flamboyant retirement village which now has house prices far higher than anywhere else in the area and unsurprisingly a rapidly ageing population. Is this the future of communities, an eccentric hub of rich geriatrics eating expensive cake while sitting in drum circles and humming? While I don’t doubt it has bought a great deal to the local area, I never felt at ease, and was quite happy to make a sweeping passing judgement on those sweet old hippies just wanting to retire in peace. Can a community die of old age?

This is were I should have written my quarterly review but somehow got caught up in that unfortunate habit of working for a living. I taught English for a month and while I really enjoy teaching; I certainly don’t want to spend nine hours a day doing that for the rest of my life. I also lived at home and as my parents were away the whole time, got to experience living alone for the first time in years. I liked the space but I sometimes missed having people around and was more than happy to avoid returning to solitude if the opportunity arose. I imagine that if I were to live alone I would be out and about more often than not. It is hard finding that balance, I have realised over the years the importance of my own time and space, but I really enjoy being around people. The importance of human interaction and the happiness it can bring should not easily be dismissed, there is a reason the old hermit in the cave is slightly crackers. My search for perfection is therefore still going strong, that dream balance which continually alludes me. My own personal space in a communal environment? Most likely that would do it for me, but what is it in reality. The present incumbent of my dream is my new van, who hasn’t been granted a name yet, but who I think is female. Is she the answer, probably not, but she’ll certainly go a long way to helping me enjoy the journey. Let’s see if I can find some passengers. I’ll let you know how I get on in three months, or should that be four?

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William Home

William Home is a Scottish traveler and freelance writer. See William's Website

5 thoughts on “Temporary and Permanent Communities of Scotland

  • 22nd August 2015 at 11:49 pm

    I agree, community can be an elusive concept at times, and I’ve definitely had that kind of experience working seasonally where it was great but you are so ready to leave by the end of it! But like you say, that meant we didn’t have to deal with any of the niggling issues that were causing problems, as you could just leave. How do communities deal with that in the long run?
    What charity did you do the tree planting for? It sounds amazing :)

    • 9th September 2015 at 9:50 pm

      It was for a charity called Trees For Life. I think in the long run you are simply forced to make some tough decisions and you have to face these issues head on. Of course it depends on the type of community and how it is organised, the type of problem and who is involved, as in what their role in the community is. The truth is though that there is no right answer as each and every situation is unique and needs to be dealt with as such

  • 8th September 2015 at 1:16 pm

    “if I were to live alone I would be out and about more often than not” i really like that one. however i adore my lonesome. it is so prestige. so necessary. i get so much patience, strength, and admiration for the self.. when being by my own. i comprehend that humans are social creatures. i guess all of us have that need to belong for a long time, to bond our spiritual selves, without having to feel those negative feelings such as fear of judgement and mockery . in israel there has been a tradition of communist communes, farming together, sharing their whole life together. you might have heard of these Kibbutz places. most of them already fell apart. maybe because of the individualists caring for their opinion that was lost in a place like this, or their own share of money that was shared with everybody, could be same reasoning you gave to that problematic matter. with all do respect, whichever the cause may be, i reckon there are too many humans and far too much freedome for that kind of lifstyle to continue for more than a period …. <3

    • 9th September 2015 at 10:07 pm

      i take it that you mean a community needs some kind of rules when you refer to ‘too much freedom’? It very much depends on the intentions of the people and the community. One argument used against anarchism is that there would be a lack of rules and laws and society would break down into chaos as a result, whereas with true anarchism people don’t need someone to tell them what to do because they are acting unselfishly with the right intentions for the group already. I have been in squats and rainbow gatherings, which I would class as temporary communities, and they work as such because often the people involved act in very individualistic ways. But then it is all constant transformation anyway, so everything is temporary in its own way.

      And the first part about living alone and solitude, I guess I have yet to find the balance between being alone and taking the time to find company, and being in company and finding the time to be alone. The extremes of lonely misery or the intensity of constant interaction having few positives. Another thing unique to each and every person

      • 9th September 2015 at 10:08 pm

        I just realised that’s you laila you beautiful ray of sunshine, how I love you so!!


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