Twenty-one years ago, Heather Thomas put a thousand dollars down on a dream. Heather was a single Mom with two adolescent daughters who wanted to live in what is called an “intentional community”. She had spotted a notice of a meeting for those interested in cohousing and joined the group. Her two girls, Jill and Lise, were horrified. They called her new group a “cult”.
Then in 1997, Heather fell in love with an old friend who had a farm in New Zealand. Despite the money she had in the cohousing venture, she moved her family to the other side of the world. Lise finished high school, got a job, and returned to Calgary in 2005 with the intention of renting a place, working in the local restaurant scene, and saving her money to finance ever more extensive travels. In May of 2017, she needed a place to live. A friend told her that her Mom’s “cult” had evolved into the Prairie Sky Cohousing Co-operative, and there might be a room she could rent there.
By that point in her life, Lise Rajewicz was putting down roots in Calgary. Like her mother two decades earlier, she felt a vague dissatisfaction with how isolated she was from her neighbours, so when space became available for September 1st, she grabbed it. “It’s been pretty much a life changing experience to live here” says Lise after ten months. She has embraced the community, and the community has embraced her.
On a visit to Canada to see her girls, Mom finally got a chance to see the fruition of her dream. “One of the neat things we did as a group was a planning and visualizing workshop with a group of architects” Heather recalls. “So we talked about the space and what we imagined and they produced architectural drawings. The drawings had dogs and children and vegetation and everything and when we arrived and came in here it was like that drawing! There were people out gardening, there was a kid playing, dogs walking through and the place was green and flowering and it was just like that drawing had come alive.”
Now both Heather and Lise are excited about the possibility of setting up a new home base for the family at Prairie Sky. Lise and her partner would live there full-time, with room for Heather and her husband when they visit from New Zealand, and for her sister Jill, who lives and works “up north”. And the concept of cohousing allows for that. “Why do we live so far away from the people that we love?” asks Lise. “We don’t have to, and cohousing allows us to be more creative with the way we organize ourselves and the way that we choose to live. I really can’t imagine not living here. I can’t imagine living any other way now.”