WORDS & MUSIC: MAMA CAUGHT FIRE
It was a sticky summer afternoon when the seed of this tune came to me. I was home by myself, feeling tired and lonely. I laid down in my bed, hoping that a nap would relieve my mind of the thoughts that had been ruminating.
While in between a state of awake and asleep, I heard a chorus of people singing “we all live in the same house” over and over again. It was so loud, it brought me back to consciousness. At first I thought it might be coming from the stereo in the other room. But no, it was a message from within yearning to be heard.
Upon embarking for our trip to Ohio, I shared this folk melody with Molly and Julia. We discussed how the simple phrase, “we all live in the same house” has many layers of meaning. The most obvious one, and the one we sing about in the verses of this song, emphasizes communal living.
When writing this song, we asked ourselves what a community like this would look like and how it could be a solution, within our reach, to the changing climate. Certain images came to mind.
We imagined a multi-generational family that lives off the land. They grow their own food and cook meals together. They care for one another; the older siblings watch out for the younger ones and the neighbors are an extension of the family. Mama teaches the kids about wild plants: how to use jewelweed to soothe itchy skin, how to cook dandelions, watch out for invasives, and avoid poisonous plants. In this, Mama passes down knowledge to her kids, teaching them the practical skills they need in order to be self-sufficient and live in harmony with their environment.
It was easy to envision this way of living from the front porch of Molly’s family farm, looking out at the vegetable garden. However, each of us seemed to imagine communal living in a pre-industrial context. We wonder how, rather than reverting to an older time, we can bring these timeless practices into our lives now. What does it look like to live communally today? How do we, from our duplexes and one-bedroom apartments, cultivate communities that care for one another as a daily practice? How do we have a relationship with the land when we live in the city?
While this song takes place in a rural setting, it is our hope to see the same values carried out in a more urban setting as well. We challenge ourselves to put down our phones and get to know our neighbors. To grow herbs on our doorstep, learn about which weeds are edible, and slow down enough to share a meal.
“We all live in the same house” also acknowledges that all living beings share a home, our planet. This is communal living on a larger scale. The impacts of our actions extend far beyond our immediate environment. For example, the consumptive behavior of the American people is a major contributor to climate change, yet those who suffer its harshest effects are on the other side of the globe. Conversely, our interconnectedness allows for us to mobilize in the face of climate change. If we could all remember that earth is our common home, we would feel the responsibility to care for it.