Rewilding of the Heart in Co-Parenting Community:

by Marcus Gardner
Forming Communities
To be determined, right now Viroqua, WI. Prefer Northwoods.

We are a family of three. Annika and Marcus, both 39, spent much of our 20s-30s living in intentional communities. Winter (3) is a silly, dancing, climbing, questioning, talkative, intense young girl who recently survived cancer. We seek to live something more than the workaday, isolated nuclear family lifestyle. We live near Viroqua, WI in a rustic, partially off-grid log cabin, but have lived in many scenarios, from Northwoods wigwams to Berlin, Germany.

More than anything, we seek to share our daily lives and – currently our biggest long-term project, the process of raising children – with others.

We value connecting with nature on its own terms; that we gain at least as much by adapting to wild nature as do when harnessing nature to our purpose. We spent large portions of our lives learning to immerse ourselves in nature in ways similar to our indigenous ancestors. But that means we, like those ancestors, value connecting our means to our ends, and these days that doesn’t only mean being able to harvest and process wild rice, make a bow drill fire, build in wigwams, braintan deerhides, forage, fish, or hunt deer, but also knowing how to maintain and repair one’s own technology, build modern structures, and make use of whatever resources become available, be they food, water, or building materials.

We view childrearing much the same way. Rather than applying pedagogical ideologies, we see each child as pre-programmed to find his or her own unique way to adulthood. We parent (unparent?) attachment-based and free of coercion as much as possible. We understand the manipulative effect that shame, praise, bribery, and punishment can have, and instead of relying them, we try to build relationship with the child to know what she needs. We yearn to find a small group of adults and children who want to re-learn how to let kids raise themselves and each other, rather than manipulate and hover. We grow together in this process by sharing honestly, working through conflict, and discussing ways our parenting can improve.

Our vision for community was inspired by the year Marcus lived primitively in the Wisconsin Northwoods, non-stop, with 42 parents, singles, and children. While we don’t necessarily need or want to live wholly primitive, we do share that vision of all adults interacting with the children on a regular basis. This could mean sharing daily meals, working on projects alongside one another (giving the kids a chance to be a part of adult life, instead of being separated from it,) and also that the children would be able to have their own children’s culture to learn from one another without unnecessary adult intervention. In this vein, we are especially interested in adults and children who lean less towards the institutions of full-time work and school, and more towards part-time work and homeschooling/unschooling – so that that time spent in the community isn’t just an afterthought. We are not absolutist, but flexible to see what works, what others bring in, and the needs at the moment (e.g. forest schools or other hybrid options.)

Imagine waking up (for work, a personal or group trip, or just to hang out) and having 2-3 adults join you, helping you along the way with childcare, your breakfast, shoveling your car out of the snow, and whatever else. You check in throughout the day to coordinate on logistical needs, share emotions, or just for companionship. And at the end of the day, everyone story-tells at the evening meal. In our experience, the challenge of *having* to interact with each other for our personal needs is what pushes a group to become truly intimate and high functioning. We understand the inevitable discomfort/figuring out of boundaries that this brings up, and see it as a necessary part of the community-building process, and conscious parenting a gateway to healing and preventing legacies of childhood trauma.

We see multiple routes to achieving this, whether it be renting/buying a single large household, or having tiny houses centered around a central (daily-used) community house. We find living by abundant, healthy wildlands and water to be more beautiful and satisfying than living in town or in an agricultural area. Because of our deep connection to the Northwoods (Wisconsin, New England, and Europe), we are both more drawn to northern climates (also due to climate change concerns) and have been browsing options in Wisconsin and New England, though we’re open to other possibilities.

Reach out to us if you’re interested in exploring how we can move forward with this vision. Since we enjoy continuously learning and growing in community, we are not looking to fit people into our mold, but welcome dialogue and the contributions of each individual. We also welcome suggestions of existing communities, land, or e.g. 4+bedroom houses (at affordable prices) if they seem a fit.

A few more details about us:
Annika is German and has an exceptional drive to care for people and the earth. She has a BA in social work and currently works in the field as a therapeutic mentor. She has led group wilderness immersions in the past, with many years of training, and has also worked in education with all ages – focusing on social skills and nature connection. She has lived in either shared households, group wilderness immersion experiences, or an intentional community for most of her adult life. She has a passion for researching and learning about matters of health, when needed, and is drawn to learning new skills with a practical purpose and ingenious touch (e.g. turning a wool sweater into longjohns, etc), woodwork, building, anything DIY, singing (especially vocal improv), and relationship skills. She loves sustainability and does whatever little she can to reduce climate change, be it elimination communication, canvassing for Bernie Sanders, or activism around plastic pollution – always hoping to find more effective ways to make a difference. She thrives in networking and collaborative projects, and enjoys swimming. She also speaks multiple languages (English, German, French, Spanish.)

Marcus is from New Hampshire and spent the majority of his adult life living in either wilderness immersion programs, guiding them, or living in intentional communities. He’s drawn to new skills that he has little to no experience in, which he dives into teaching himself (by experience) until he’s ready for something new. Among his past exploits, he’s braintanned 100 deer hides in a year, butchered (and ate) an entire roadkill moose (and dozens of deer and other animals,) built a hybrid modern wigwam and a couple tiny houses, attended the Scott Peck-inspired, Community Building Workshops for a number of years, edited one documentary and filmed another, and written a 500-page memoir. His latest is learning to sail the sixty-year-old boat he recently refurbished. He has a passion for social dynamics, and how we as humans struggle to belong and often compensate through identity systems. Marcus has a very in-the-moment way of connecting with children, playing with them outside the boundaries and belief systems we adults often cling to.

We eat a omnivore diet with as much whole, organic, and wild food as possible, with some exceptions. For matters like COVID we research scientific studies to assess changing needs and risk.