Cohousing and the Return to Communal Living - Karin Hoskin

Photo of  Wild Sage Cohousing : Adam Johnson

Photo of Wild Sage Cohousing: Adam Johnson

The intentional part of intentional communities is that we choose to know our neighbors.
— Karin Hoskin

I know many of you, like me, dream of decamping the modern existence to live in the solace of the woods or on a bucolic homestead—just as many of our Uncivilize guests have done. But many of you also may not yet be able to fully commit to that dream (like me) or perhaps don’t even want to commit to that dream; that what, in fact, you are searching for is a more connected human existence in the 21st-century city or town in which you already live. To you, I introduce cohousing, an intentional community-on-the-rise best described as a modern and sustainable take on the village (or commune) of yesteryear. 

And to give you the rundown, I introduce Karin Hoskin, executive director of The Cohousing Association of the United States, who lives with her husband, two teenage kids, mother-in-law, two cats and two dogs in Wild Sage Cohousing in Boulder, Colo. Wild Sage is a community of 91 people living in 34 homes on an acre-and-a-half of land surrounded by nature and open space; but as Karin explains here, the possibilities for cohousing are as diverse as their settings and the folks who choose to live there. (There’s a mixed-income bike-sharing condo community in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood and a rural cabin community eight miles west of Fairbanks, Alaska!)

Here’s the episode breakdown:

  • How Karin came to live in cohousing and with her mother-in-law

  • When did it become so uncommon to live with extended family?

  • “There were always people in, people out”: Karin’s upbringing with dozens of cousins in the farming Midwest

  • Cohousing, explained, and the difference between cohousing and other intentional communities

  • What it’s like to raise kids in cohousing, from babyhood to the teenage years

  • Why you don’t have to be an extrovert to live in cohousing 

  • Karin’s thoughts on the future of urbanization and the rise in communal living

Want to explore cohousing communities or learn how to start your own? Check out the wealth of resources on the Coho/US website or attend the upcoming 2019 National Cohousing Conference, May 30-June 2, in Portland, Ore. (At last check, tickets are still available. The conference also includes tours of seven Portland cohousing communities.) You can also connect with Karin and Coho/US via FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Editorial note (5/6/19): A small portion of this episode has been edited since the original episode that aired on 4/25/19. The change was made due to privacy concerns, and in no way alters the meaning or context of the original interview.

Photo of  Wild Sage Cohousing : Adam Johnson

Photo of Wild Sage Cohousing: Adam Johnson

Photo of  Wild Sage Cohousing : Adam Johnson

Photo of Wild Sage Cohousing: Adam Johnson

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan.

Re-creating the Village - Rachel Natland and Chris Morasky

Top: Photos of Chris Morasky, Rachel Natland via  Wisdom Keepers . Bottom photo:  Elements Gathering .

Top: Photos of Chris Morasky, Rachel Natland via Wisdom Keepers. Bottom photo: Elements Gathering.

I had to go way off into the wilderness for a long time and really live apart from people before I realized that I actually do like people, and that I actually really love people—and that what I really don’t like is the way that people often treat each other. And that it’s because we have been born into a society which is so very strange and so very different from what is normal for our species, if we look at the long history of humanity.
— Chris Morasky
A lot of the things that happened to me as a child would not have happened to me if I was in a community that could have caught me.
— Rachel Natland

For 99 percent of our human history, we lived in small, likely egalitarian societies—tight-knit hunter-gatherer bands of a couple dozen people deeply reliant on their community and on the surrounding environment, for their survival. So where does that leave we present-day humans, now navigating an increasingly virtualized and individualized world amidst the dizzying urban constructs (not to mention vast social inequality) we call modern civilization? In a word: searching, to return to the fold of community and nature in which our species evolved for hundreds of thousands of years. 

My guests today, Chris Morasky and Rachel Natland, know that search well, and for decades pursued it on disparate paths: Chris, as a wildlife biologist who lived for more than 20 years in the wilderness and became one of the foremost Stone Age skills experts in North America; and Rachel, as a single mother who overcame her own inner-city childhood of abuse and addiction to become a spiritual mentor. Four years ago the rugged survivalist and the urban community-builder met, and the rest is history—and the future: Now a pair and living in Portland, they are restoring ancient egalitarian wisdom to the 21st century via their Wisdom Keepers school in Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest. Hear their incredible life stories that brought them to this remarkable moment in time, their poignant vision for the future, and how they're re-creating the village with their don't-miss Elements Gathering in the ancient sequoias. Hope to see you there!

Here's the run-down of our conversation:

  • Planning their upcoming Elements Gathering: A week-long village experience in the ancient sequoias

  • How Rachel brought herself up out of the inner city and broke the cycle of abuse and addiction

  • Chris: “I believe that children choose their parents”

  • The disparate paths that brought Rachel and Chris to the world of rewilding

  • The epiphany moment that sent Chris on a 20+-year-long journey living in the wilderness and small communities of British Columbia, Idaho and Utah

  • How Chris navigates life intuitively, and tapping into “our instinctual connection to the perfect system of nature”

  • Why Chris left the wilderness for Los Angeles

  • Overcoming the illness of modern society, and how to get the most out of our lives

  • Rachel’s calling to the West, single motherhood, and classism

  • How Chris and Rachel met

  • Community, autonomy and rugged individualism

  • Why they left LA for Portland, and what comes next

  • Our egalitarian history, technology and exponential growth

  • Wisdom Keepers

  • Rewilding, space exploration, and Chris and Rachel’s thoughts on the future

You can learn more about Chris and Rachel, along with their current class and workshop offerings on the Wisdom Keepers website, as well as on Facebook. Want to go to Elements Gathering this year? Don't wait, tickets are going fast! (You can also check out the event virtually via the Elements Facebook page.) 

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan. Want to chime in on this episode or have an idea for a future show? Connect with me via my Instagram page, I’d love to hear your thoughts!