It’s a beautiful, ramshackle Eden tucked like a secret into the shade of the city limits. The itch to rip off my shoes and sprint bare-butt through the field begins to spread like a rash.
Sprawling across seven acres along the northwestern edge of Tryon Creek State Park, Cedar Moon exists as a sort of anachronism—something out of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Approach the compound by foot—a mile and a half through a thick forest where trails splinter and direction is easily fumbled—and you feel as though you’ve stumbled onto a lost colony. The only real signpost is a gnarled cedar branch that looks like an elephant’s trunk. There, take a hard right onto a lightly trampled path, and when you see the skeletal remnants of “Robert the Native American’s” sweat lodge, you’ll know you’ve reached the commune.
Of course, if you lack a sense of adventure, it’s probably quicker just to drive.
Southwest Boones Ferry Road runs right past the farm’s well-hidden gravel driveway. In fact, from Bell’s front door, you could lob a hand-harvested cucumber at the stream of minivans speeding home to Lake Oswego. From a sensory standpoint, the constant sound of revving engines kind of ruins the earthy solitude, but it underlines the whole point of this socio-environmental petri dish: Sure, it might be easier to disappear off the grid, into the backwoods, and extend a middle finger to society at large, but as far as effecting real change and offering solutions to ecological concerns, visibility—and, more important, approachability—is vital to Cedar Moon’s mission.
’We’re building a new culture here, which is what we need to do to change the world.’
“Accessibility is very important to us,” says 32-year-old Kelly Hogan, a nose-ringed mother of two, as she doles out cupfuls of blueberries to a group of children. “It’s great to get people out here and engage them in activities so they can see that we’re just human beings who are really working hard toward a goal: honoring the earth, living as sustainably as possible, and being true to ourselves.”
Considering today’s circumstances, it’s not a bad example to have in our midst. Because as rising gas prices and near-biblical shifts in weather patterns have, thankfully, pushed environmentalism from the realm of the kook into the mainstream, “going green”—even in Portland—has begun to reach the point of cultural saturation. Sure, you can have a 4,000-square-foot home—as long as you have the energy-efficient dishwasher and use compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Or so goes the green marketing message. But buying a hybrid car isn’t exactly going to stop the polar ice caps from melting.
“Sustainability in Portland often seems limited to high-tech green technology,” says Bell, who, at five years, has one of the longest tenures among commune residents. “But with the farm, we’re able to live in a way that has a direct impact on the city. We’re building a new culture here, which is what we need to do to change the world.”
That’s why the community’s fishbowl ethos is dedicated to longer-term solutions. Hogan would argue that things like recyclable structures, a garden-to-table diet, and, yes, reusable poo are the most effective and permanent solutions to our global crisis. And whether you reach Cedar Moon by foot or by car, its residents are more than happy to show you how you, too, can save the world.