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Davis, California

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Round living

If Bilbo Baggins attended UC Davis, he’d no doubt live at Baggins End, also known as The Domes. Bilbo could have been my neighbor, too, because Baggins End is where I call home.

Baggins End? What the hell is that? Oh! Are those the freaky white igloos between the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) and West Village that dirty hippies live in? I heard the people living there aren’t allowed to eat anything they haven’t grown in their garden, don’t shower and poop in buckets. The igloo things — Domes, I guess they call them — don’t have kitchens or bathrooms, either.

Yep. All true. I poop in buckets and haven’t showered since I moved in. I also enjoy eating babies.

Alright, alright. Either you are overwhelmingly gullible, chuckling to yourself, or are blatantly confused. Let me dispel those myths (all of which I have been asked about before).

Those wacky igloos are called Domes. They are made of fiberglass and insulated with polyurethane foam and were built by students as an experiment in alternative living back in the 1970s. There are 14 domes total, and 13 are occupied by two students each.

Domes residents — called Domies — do regularly eat food from their gardens, but still frequent Trader Joe’s and the Davis Food Co-op. There are indeed some Domies who shower less than the compulsively-American once a day, but I doubt you have to look far to realize that this is hardly a Domes-exclusive trait. And as far as pooping in buckets goes — we don’t currently, but you should Google the Humanure Handbook. It’s pretty cool.

So, maybe some people living at the Domes, including myself, are a little weird, but this is not the unifying trait amongst us. After all, weirdness is subjective to our own norms. Watching television is weird to me, but it may not be for you.

What unifies those at Baggins End is the desire, or willingness, to live cooperatively. Cooperation permeates our daily lives. Living at the Domes has taught me that as quickly as I can get hot and bothered, I can cool down and resolve conflicts. Communication is the most important skill I’ve learned in my life thus far, and I learned it the best way — by actually doing it — here at the Domes.

Domies also agree to cook dinner for each other four nights a week, lend our hands at twice-a-month work parties, take responsibility for a community chore and attend twice-monthly meetings.

At these meetings, we use the esoteric hand gestures popularized by Occupy and only pass decisions with 100 percent approval. We decide on issues ranging from whether or not to host a bumpin’ party, to building an entirely new structure on the property.

The end result of consensus work is for everyone to feel they have been heard and considered. Hopefully, going through such a process will accomplish a task while also building trust in the community.

Trust? Sounds like some hippy-dippy bullshit to me …

If trust is hippy-dippy bullshit, then I consider myself beshitted. I’ve found no place else I can argue with someone until I am in tears one night and vigorously bump and grind with them to R. Kelly’s “Ignition Remix” the next. When your life is this intertwined with other folks, it gets real, fast.

Keepin’ it real is based in trust. How can I be real with you about my opinions and feelings if I don’t trust that you will respect and honor them?

Building trust can be done with cooperation. But cooperation is not an answer, it’s a process. Not a what, but a how. It takes the form of whatever is shaping it.

While meetings and work parties offer Domies a scheduled time to cooperate with one another, the real work of cooperative living is day to day. It is communicating about the minor annoyances to avoid snowballing frustration. It is listening instead of speaking. It is learning that you still need to learn more and rejoicing in that humility.

Living in the Domes is wondrously silly, reliably loving and entirely frustrating at times, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. If you’ve ever been in love with a place, then you’ll understand the feeling I had when I returned after being away all winter break. My chest began to swell, my lips grinned and I exclaimed to myself, “I’m dome!!”

If you have any other questions about round living, feel free to contact ELLI PEARSON at erpearson@ucdavis.edu.

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