“There was no chore wheel, no folksy singalongs to a bongo beat — just the agreement that living intentionally with others was better than blithely tolerating roommates, that great New York tradition.”
This weekend’s New York Times Sunday Review section featured a lovely opinion essay by Catherine Lacey, who is the author of the novel Nobody is Ever Missing. The multivalent title, “A Way For Artists to Live,” tells the story of the creation of 3B, a bed and breakfast in downtown Brooklyn, which Lacey owns cooperatively with other writers, artists and musicians.
Four years ago, Lacey answered an ad in Craigslist looking for creative types who were seeking to create a living arrangement that would allow them to work just 10-15 hours a week to cover rent, food, and utilities, freeing up time for creative pursuits. Initially she “wasn’t sure [she] was the communal-home type,” but she was also “in a phase of considering what type of person [she] might be.”
The owners worked together to fix up the down-at-heel property; today, Lacey writes, all of them can clean bathrooms and cook frittatas almost in their sleep — and she wrote a novel, too. But more than that, she found a rare sort of community: while “cleaning, painting and hauling junk,” she and her housemates had
“those sorts of long talks […] ended with the feeling that we’d just written a book aloud together.”
A beautiful description of the best sorts of life-giving conversations — no?
Though I’m beyond the age and stage in life when this sort of arrangement would suit my needs (and those of my family) Lacey’s story appealed to me in a different way. It’s been less than two weeks since the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College, and, as most attendees will tell you, it is deeply invigorating and inspiring to spend time with — and break bread with — other people who do the same sort of (usually) solitary work that you do.
That, in a way, is its own kind of shelter — its own kind of nourishing.