Compared to that of mainstream America, life at Alpha is simple. We heat principally with wood, and do not have some of the amenities that are frequently taken for granted, such as broadcast television. But we live comfortably nonetheless, and on a fraction of the resources ordinarily required. Hard work is a way of life - even a way of expressing ourselves. The day begins early and ends late, but there is always time to pause and appreciate the people and land around.
To own land is to be steward and partner to part of the planet - both a privilege and a responsibility. Over the past two and a half decades, the land here has taken on increasing significance as we learn to recognize and understand its cycles and currents, and in this process, experience a growing sense of place. As we come to know this land and learn to pay attention, we find that the Earth itself will suggest appropriate functions, whether for agriculture, for development or simply to be left wild. Such different sources as the Native Americans, Rudolph Steiner and our friends at Findhorn have influenced our learning of the appropriate harmonic role in relation to the earth. We garden and farm organically, raising many of our own vegetables; over the years we also have produced an abundance of fruit, honey, eggs and dairy products. Our diet is primarily ovo-lacto vegetarian, and dinners together are a lighthearted family ritual.
It takes a lot to keep things going on a homestead: food production, preservation and preparation, building maintenance, auto care and repair, housekeeping, accounting, shopping. Although people at Alpha are occasionally employed at "outside" jobs or free-lance work, most community work occurs in communally owned enterprises. We deliver mail under contract with the U.S. Postal Service. Over the years we have had a number of Alpha enterprises, such as construction contracting, custom tractor work, and farm-based businesses, including commercial dahlia raising, cut flower and mail-order tuber sales. A major endeavor is Alpha-Bit, our cafe/bookstore/gift shop in Mapleton, a nearby town. Here especially, we seek to provide a community service in a centered, nurturing environment; and at the same time, to foster cooperative values in the world simply by being visible there.
We also have fostered cooperative values more directly. One community member has established a career and gained international recognition facilitating large meetings and teaching consensus decision making. Our support of this work has included hosting five-day workshops at Alpha on consensus and facilitation, and more recently, two of us have begun to take a more active role as support staff and consultants-in-training. We do expect each individual, however, to be open to moving with spiritual values as part of living.
Expressions of spirit at Alpha have covered a wide range: Quaker meetings, yoga, drum circles, Sufi dancing, shared readings and discussion from different traditions, and celebration of Earth-centered, Jewish and Christian holidays. Over time we find that spirituality has become more implicit than explicit at Alpha. We speak of spirit less than we did in Alpha's early days. Yet it still is clearly present among us - in the holding of hands before dinner, in a song shared, in a moment of silence before meeting, in the way we seek to treat each other. One might say that our group "spiritual practice" is actually to express, moment to moment in our work and our relations with others, qualities of cooperation, respect, nurturance and helpfulness.