An Unreal Estate: Sustainability and Freedom in an Evolving Community

An Unreal Estate: Sustainability and Freedom in an Evolving Community

An Unreal Estate: Sustainability and Freedom in an Evolving Community

An Unreal Estate: Sustainability and Freedom in an Evolving Community

Synopsis

In An Unreal Estate, Lucinda Carspecken takes an in-depth look at Lothlorien, a Southern Indiana nature sanctuary, sustainable camping ground, festival site, collective residence, and experiment in ecological building, stewardship, and organization. Carspecken notes the way fiction and reality intertwine on this piece of land and argues that examples such as Lothlorien have the power to be a force for social change. Lothlorien's organization and social norms are in sharp contrast with its surrounding communities. As a unique enclave within a larger society, it offers to the latter both an implicit critique and a cluster of alternative values and lifestyles. In addition, it has created a niche where some participants change, grow, and find empowerment in an environment that is accepting of difference--particularly in areas of religion and sexual orientation.

Excerpt

It’s a strange thing that so many people just love that
little piece of dirt so much. and it’s not really much
different than any other hundred acres.

Jef, 2006

Lothlorien is unreal estate.

Tuna, 2006

Andrea, who has been a Council member at Lothlorien Nature Sanctuary, once attempted to convey the experience of her first festival there in an essay for an undergraduate English class. Her assignment was to write a detailed factual description of a person, place, or object. Usually a good student, in this case she was considered to have failed to obey the directions and received a D−. the instructor refused to believe that the place was real.

When I read Andrea’s paper I found the teacher’s skepticism understandable. Lothlorien provides such a marked contrast to its surroundings that a description of it could stretch anyone’s imagination. Two themes in particular stand out for me in her writing, themes that have come up again and again in interviews, conversations, and survey responses about this piece of land, especially when people describe their first impressions. One is a kind of visual enchantment, including, for example,

The candles, tea-lights, and tiki torches that line every path, that light up
this heavenly body called Lothlorien, like the Milky Way. All this light
converges in a pinnacle of fl ame at Thunder shrine … At night it is a
magical space, lit with an immense fire. (Andrea Chesak, 2005)

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