written by Hillary Bernhardt, New Hampshire Team Video Coordinator
“Property has its duties as well as its rights.” ~Thomas Drummon
One of the most fascinating aspects of this experience has been the beautiful and amazing people that we have had the pleasure of stumbling upon. Two kind and unique individuals, Amy and Jonas of Elliot, Maine deeply impacted us all. We actually met them as a sort of happy accident after our housing in Portsmouth, NH fell through. With the help of our team’s “Guardian Angel” and shining star of a contact, Susy Mansfield, we learned that we would be able to rest our sweaty heads and hang our helmets at their beautiful home.
Upon stepping onto the property, I immediately felt an inescapable sense of joy pulsing through my bones. Amy and Jonas both welcomed us with warm smiles and expressed their anxious anticipation of our arrival. Although we were merely strangers, bonded only by a serrendipitious alignment of the stars, their genuine warmth and hospitality towards us could only be matched by that of lifelong friends. Jonas was kind enough to give us a tour of the land, their home, the barn/guesthouse we’d be staying in, and the fire pit that they had set up in the woods.
He spoke in a careful, poignant manner emphasizing the key points of the land and the philosophy behind it. “We feel stewards, more so than owners of this land,” he told us. This statement particularly struck a cord with me, as the common western notion of owning land is always something that I’ve felt slightly uncomfortable with. Not to sound like a “penniless hippie” protesting outside of Professor Farnsworth’s laboratory in that classic episode of Futurama, my philosophy has always aligned with the idea that “You can’t own property, man!” To me saying that you own the land is just as ridiculous and narcissistic as saying that you own the air or the water, or any of the other amazing elements that Earth has graciously given us. Land is not ours for the taking, it’s not ours for the commandeering, the colonizing, and eventual destruction that has become written into our psyches as the norm for human beings. If you own the land, do you own the worms and plants and all of the creatures that inhabited the land long before anyone even stepped foot on it? It was incredibly refreshing to hear this and to see right before our very eyes, line between the privately owned and publicly accessible that they appeared to be blurring.
Interestingly enough, Amy later told us that out of all of her places of residency (ranging from a yurt in the woods to a city apartment) she had never lived on a piece of property this large and therefore felt an inherent need to share it with the community as a whole. Her and Jonas both purchased the land with this shared vision in mind.
Jonas explained to us his vision of turning the property into a real community gathering site and how he and Amy were already doing that by hosting community dinners, bonfires, consciousness-raising movies and discussions, and even a latin music festival. Jonas also stressed he and his wife’s commitment to working with the land rather than against it. The bees that they had been keeping and harvesting the honey from were originally a swarm in one of their trees. They weren’t clearing land for garden plots, but were relying on where the sun decided to kiss the soil for where they would in turn decide to grow their crops. After growing up in a treeless suburb where composting and chicken-keeping were completely unheard of and actually against neighborhood regulations, I found this kind of symbiotic homesteading relationship with the land to be incredibly refreshing.
While we didn’t stay with Amy and Jonas all week, we did get the chance of stepping back onto their property with them for an excellent evening of home-cooked local food and in depth conversation. Amy was quick to put us to work in the kitchen and we were happy to help. While we made our communal meal, Amy regaled us with her tales of college activism and travels across the globe. She pointed to a yellowing newspaper clipping, the edges frayed, but the title concerning a group of young activists’ arrest still remained loud and clear. When we asked her about it, she excitedly responded that it was her in her college years and she kept it up there as a daily reminder to never stop fighting oppression.
The next morning, while we were sitting in the kitchen, admiring the array of crystals and artwork that decorated their home and wafting in the aroma of their French- press shade-grown coffee, I couldn’t help but to think about how lucky we were to be residing with these two amazing beings that showed such an innate compassion and humanity towards each other, their land, and all who seem to cross their path. “This house is just surrounded by such an amazing energy,” I told Olivia. “Everywhere you look, all you can see and feel and taste and touch- I don’t even know how to describe it- it’s just…good vibes.”