i currently live in an interesting place. It is a place where people live together cooperatively, we share things and we basically trust each other. It is a kind of place which the media likes to claim is impossible. i promise it is not.
My first day
i woke up to the sun shining fairly high in the window
i have not gotten a clock for my room
i have mixed feelings about acquiring one
but i have nothing schedule for this morning
Tycho mailed me a color xerox picture
of my head D-locked to the bottom of a bus at a Berlin action
i stuck it up on my wall along with a poem
she wrote about the real Heisenburg principals
and i wonder a bit when i will be a full-time activist again
i threw my wallet into a sticky drawer in my dresser
we don’t use money here
my left pocket felt empty
going thru bags and boxes for other pictures to decorate my new room
(last night, i removed the puppy pictures on my wall -
the previous resident was 6)
i found a key ring with a few keys
i threw that in the sticky drawer
another antique – no locks here
i thought i would weave hammocks for my first work
since we do a lot of that here
the shop was empty
most people had taken the jigs outside to work in the sun
but i wanted to listen to an old Bruce Cockburn CD
from the large hammock shop library
so i slipped one of the many headphones
and did almost an hours work
shuffling my feet to “lovers in a dangerous time”
i e-mailed for the rest of my first official morning as a member
not creditable, of course
E. Europe & New England nuke stuff, fundraising, love letters, the usual
i grabbed one of the many “free bikes” and pedal to lunch
(basically the Am*dam white bike idea, only here it continues)
there is fresh lettuce and strawberries from our garden
(i had forgotten that strawberries actually do taste like something)
i choose the cuscus with broccoli and black beans
grab a glass of milk from our happy cows
i leave the bread and tofu (both of which we make) behind
Hawina and i sit in the sun at one of the half dozen picnic tables and eat
we are surrounded by perhaps two dozen dinners – ages 1 to 70
Sassafras, one of our youngest members,
crawls up onto the table and seems vaguely interested in my strawberries
she is so young, i think it is the color more than the taste which beckons
i play hackisack for a couple of minutes before i split
i have gotten much better since being here
still in the low tier compared to most folx who play here
but respectable enuf for me to feel okay
jumping into the games which spark up
perhaps every other sunny day
i walk down to the courtyard,
because my bike with a basket has disappeared
and while there are others, i have bunch of papers to carry
and there are none with baskets
Deborah is teaching me labor assigning
a complex, elegant and archaic art
which manages to take the requests of almost 100 people
the needs of all of the various business and households
and fuse them together in a nearly all volunteer system
we schedule community meetings and milk moves,
the popular garden shifts and dreaded dish washing
there are requisitions for hot tub dates and pagan sing alongs,
the team constructing the new warehouse,
pillow shop, rope production, sawmill, elderly care
sewage treatment plant monitoring, school bus drivers,
road cleans, health team mtgs, building maintenance, cooking,
recycling, visitor orientations and dozens of other activities
after 4 hours and a dozen notes we are finished
(tho Deborah worked it for a dozen before i showed up)
of the perhaps 300 assignments
only one “serf” shift is unfilled
(this is a kitchen or house cleaning)
almost all volunteer – i am amazed
then i spend an hour teaching Deborah
how to use a spreadsheet
it does not matter that the motivating reason she wants to learn
is so that she can sort songs and performers
for the small library of songbooks
which live in the compost café
our smokers lounge and live music hot spot
we are in the café when Kana shows up with pizza
our cheese, our tomato sauce, crust from scratch
and our former happy cows are ground up on top of it
my vegetarianism is waning here
Kana is a wild old man with a gray streaked father christmas beard
he spent some time in a monastery
i would not be surprised if they threw him out for laughing too much
now he is one of our regular cooks
makes beautiful walking sticks, which Deborah and i sold at a fair
and plays a mean guitar and sings with a gravelly voice
never thought i would appreciate country music
He has come down in one of the 3 or 4 golf carts we have
for people who have trouble walking the long distances around here
while he is delivering the pizza and chatting
Calypso (one of our few dogs)
eats most of his rice pudding which was in the golf cart
there is some chiding and laughing
At dinner small wooden signs mark the pizzas
“No dairy”, “No Onions”, “Meat” and more
i sit at the regular Thursday polyamory discussion
(what i used to call “open relationships”)
the group has been over a dozen people
but dinner did not get promoted this time
so just four of us chat
about the forming regional poly network
and whether it will work on the issues and support
or if it will be more for sparking new romances
Melissa brings up group intimate agreements
as she was part of at another community in NYC
just as the conversation gets interesting
we have to break up
i have a 7 PM movement support meeting
and i don’t want to be late
a video about the School of the Americas (SOA) is shown
(the newest residence has a nice video hall,
where there are movies and some taped tv shows
show three nights a week -
there remains no “live” tv anywhere on the community
one of the handful of prohibitions
which has lasted 30 years)
the short video is compelling
and several communards were arrested at SOA last year
there are plans to go again in November
and to continue lobby work for the upcoming house vote
we spend most of the meeting talking about
which projects we will support with our few thousand dollar budget
which is divided between supporting members activism
and giving money to existing groups
(tho the tax resistance protest we are involved with
gives about $10,000 mostly from Twin Oaks resistors to non-profit groups
but it is separate from movement support).
we cut several requests slightly
but fund most of what was requested,
likely creating a cash pinch later in the year
Marione will do prison trainings for women,
Stevik does tax resistance and gay support stuff,
Ione will meet a conservative rep and bark about SOA
Hawina is interested in the hunger group RESULTS
Nexus wants to go to a conference on communities and space travel
i will drag nuclear issues onto the agenda
we talk about restarting the letter lobby
i mention the success with stopping the FDA’s
proposed “organic food” standard
200,000 letters of protest – some from here
we finish with a quick evaluation
because i am a new member
i can get 2 hours credit for movement support
in the future this will be volunteer time
the movement support creditable hours
are generally dedicated to activities more direct than meetings
i walk thru the darkness back down to the courtyard
for my date with Alex
she is organizing one of the communities conferences
which is just about to start
we talk about using one of the expert outside facilitators
from the communities meeting
to run a Twin Oaks meeting we are having on business planning
she fires off an e-mail and packs up her work
we walk up to her room and decide to lay on her roof
looking at the stars we talk about idealism in the community
i want to take over her job as recruitment manager
and she has some concern about targeting young people
to bring our population back up
(we are down about 15 people from last year)
but most of our chat is more personal
we discuss the rumors
which have started
because we are skipping around together holding hands
but she is tired
so we crawl back into her window
and i realize i have forgotten my Tupelo “serf” shift
so i head back to my residence and clean the house till midnight
with the stereo blasting Ani
i try to decide if these crumpled crayon drawings
are trash or precious child masterpieces
[mostly my art patron side won this tussle]
(one of the reasons i choose live at Tupelo is because it has no “quiet hours”)
it has been a long day
but i am very satisfied
it ain’t paradise
but there are some similarities
Paxus at Twin Oaks Community
14 Bisons in Burma 1998
Karin wrote: ”I am starting to feel like a person who works too much and has become no fun whatsoever… I need an adventure! A really inexpensive one… One where I won’t be too cold for too long… Anyone?”
Lots of people wrote her back, because she is exceptionally lovely company, but my offer swayed her.
I wrote: “We would scoop you up in Boston on Friday, take you to North Hampton, Saturday NYC (and sleep no more if we can get you in), Sunday in Death City and Monday at the commune.”
And it almost went like that, except traffic and other distractions kept us out of North Hampton and we did not arrive at Acorn until after midnight on Monday.
Just outside NYC, we stayed with Teagan and Arrow, , who were fantastic hosts because along with the comfortable place to stay they were engaging company. Arrow is deep into expanding and developing the TriState biodiesel company he founded and runs. Expansion means the network has grown to 5000 clients from whom they pick up used cooking oil and convert it into vehicle fuel. Developing means they are heading towards fuels grown from algae.
We inspected open source 3 D printers which use almond paste as their media shown off by their not-quite mad scientist friend. We fell in love with Teagan and Arrow’s charming kids Teah and Tria, who made it hard to leave.
Theater is rarely done as robustly as the site specific immersive interactive event called Sleep No More. We wandered this set, pondering the Macbeth inspired performance. The performance also sparked several communications about the next generation of theater. Can we attain a high level interactivity between audience/participants and ensemble staff? Can interactive theater be a creative engine for new urban communities?
There was so much more, but stuff beacons. More later, perhaps.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
The middle history of Thanksgiving is curious. I am not talking about the poorly documented 1621 encounter between natives and colonists.
Thanksgiving as the holiday we know can be credited to the Christian feminist Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale has largely been vanished by the history books, but was an editor, activist, author, autodidact and lyricist. She helped discover and was an early promoter of several great writers including Oliver Wendall Holmes and Edgar Allen Poe. She wrote the lyrics to Mary had a Little Lamb. She edited a highly influenced magazine at the time for 40 years (an unusual occupation for a woman at the time). She also lobbied 5 presidents to create Thanksgiving, ultimately succeeding with Lincoln. Her intention was to create a Christian holiday that was recognized nationally, in this she failed despite Lincoln’s highly pious speech announcing the holiday.
In light of this and a couple of days late, i wanted to laundry list a few things that i am highly thankful for.
High functioning body – somehow with very little sleep and a poor feeding regiment i have energy to do all the engaging things i do.
Exotic and complicated family of choice – I don’t know anyone who has a successful poly family by design from before conception. Perhaps they are out there and i have not run across them. But having more than two parents plus a community is the way to raise a child. And i am thankful that this is what my life looks like.
Flexible and model life in community - My community work scene (like everyone who would like at Twin Oaks and Acorn) is extremely flexible. i can run away occasionally for adventures, i can work mostly on things which i am really inspired by, i can do several different types of work each day and generally do. And i can change my work scene if i tire of what i am doing. This is lovely.
Political freedom to dissent – I have friends who are activists in Russia and Egypt and honestly i dont think i could do it. I could not function with the constant low or medium level fear that i was going to get dragged away and possibly disappear. I have lots of critiques about the US, but it does permit me the broad political freedom i need to be a critic of the state.
Affluent class background and white privileged - at the risk of getting lectured by someone who feels like i don’t understand it well enough or am not doing enough to correct the oppression it represents, i am thankful that i don’t have to worry about being questioned and harassed by every other cop who passes me by or the dozens of other insults afforded non-whites in this often subtly racist culture. I don’t pause before i charge through a ritzy hotel lobby or ballroom, despite my preposterous appearance. I get that this privilege is unearned, i get that it comes with significant responsibility to push back on this oppression, including deep self reflection. And i am still thankful for my station.
Every gift is an obligation. I have a lot of work to do, give my good cards. Work i am happy and thankful to do.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
My father was an unusually honorable man. He tried to steer me this way. He explained to me once that he would not go out and eat lunch with his secretary unescorted. The reason was not that he was concerned any romantic or otherwise inappropriate activity might take place, but rather that someone else seeing them together might think this was happening. In the summer of 2000 i wanted to get closer to my father so i took an internship job for his architecture firm in Boston. i did some analysis of the company website, wrote a report and was overpaid for this work (the money actually went to Twin Oaks – which was easy to do because i was living with my parents with very few costs).
Over the summer i got involved with my dad’s part-time secretary, Jaz Tupelo. She came to visit me a few times at Twin Oaks. And one day while she was walking through the woods to a work shift on a crisp morning, she said to herself, ”I can go back to Boston rush-hour traffic or walking down this beautiful path could be my alternative commute. I think i will move here.”
She did not arrive with the name Jaz. It was selected at a naming party. And as these parties sometimes go, the person who is being named does not have the same first choice as the group. Both Jaz and i were vying for Emma, there was even a tug of war in the hammock shop between the last two names – Emma and Jaz. We lost.
Jaz came to Twin Oaks, but her first love was music. After a year of regular commune life she decided she wanted to work for the local NPR channel in Charlottesville as a DJ. Turned out that the group had chosen the right name despite our initial objections.
So here is the corrected version of the story from Jaz herself. i like my version also, so i am leaving both in.
The origin of the name Jaz is much more interesting, I think…and you can either rewrite your post to reflect this, or add my notes in as part of the post, or as a postscript. It is how I tell the story of my name.
My birth name is lovely and unique and always pronounced incorrectly, when it’s remembered at all. There was already someone at Twin Oaks with a name similar to mine, and we were already starting to get each other’s mail. Finally I said, “I just moved to a commune: what better time to come up with a new name?” My mother, who was not happy with my decision to move to a commune, was even less happy that I was allegedly ditching the lovely and unique name she chose for me. “What are you going to name yourself, Jasmine Peaceflower?” she snarked. I told a friend this story, and she added “Jasmine” to the list of suggested names. During the naming party, Leila suggested we change it to “Jaswomyn,” and then Tom suggested “Jaz. With one Z.”
“Jaz” actually got voted down. The two remaining contenders were “Emma” and “Satiya.” I had been leaning toward “Emma.” But when the moment of truth was upon me, it just didn’t feel like it fit me, really. So I exercised my ultimate veto power and chose “Jaz.” That’s the important thing to remember…that I did choose “Jaz.” Just as I chose my path to Twin Oaks, and I chose my path to the radio station – where the name turned out to be an incredible asset.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
If we are honest, we must confess that we are in the business of trying to change peoples minds. If the intentional communities movement is a model of what some part of what a better world looks like, than we (the people who speak for the movement) are some kind of ambassadors. Alternatively, you could call us propagandists.
adder, Billy from the amazing Baltimore Free Farm project and i all arrived in Ann Arbor for the North American Student Cooperative Organization (NASCO) Institute. There will be about 400 attendees including “faculty” (like the three of us who are presenting) at this years event.
What we have been doing on and off for long while now at these types of events is create fingerbooks that are event specific. Typically these include descriptions of some of the income sharing communities, some stuff about the movement in general and descriptions of workshops we are involved in.
When we are lucky, there is some space set aside by the event organizers for guerilla or wildcat workshops. These are ones which are scheduled by presenters, but not recognized by the organizers. They happen at the venue, they are related in topic to what is part of the general conference, but they are not “officially” part of the event. NASCO set up one small class room for guerilla workshops, we occupied it for half of the workshop slots, frequently having to roll over into the adjacent classrooms, because our unofficial workshops were quite popular.
Sadly, the folks from the Midden could not come to NASCO this year. But when they heard about the guerilla workshops, they got much more excited about next year. The joke was that we would take over the 4 classrooms which surrounded this years guerilla workshop space and offer 24 unofficial workshops at next years institute (4 workshops times 6 slots) and the prolific folks from the Midden would offer 6 of them. Below is my fantasy of what some of this full alternative conference at NASCO 2014 would look like:
Urban Dark Green Ecovillage Thread
1) Squatting and Salvage
2) Dumpster philosophy and practice
3) Shared House/Shared Campaign
4) Hitchhiking and train-hopping
Applied Commune Thread
1) Income Sharing and Cottage Industries
2) Radical Resource Sharing
3) Consensus and its Discontents
4) Viral expansion of the communities movement
1) Building Better Memes
2) Funology and crafting the better party
3) Trust based cashless systems
4) Make sharing the new religion?
Healthy Relationships Thread
5) Love Letter writing
- “If Hillary is elected, I will move to Texas and succeed from the United States.”
- “You work with homeless people? Don’t you get tired of how entitled and draining they are on our economy?”
- “Any woman who works in a titty bar is looking for her daddy.”
- “What do you mean the entire pay scale of men goes down in a profession when a chick enters the male dominated workplace? Y’all have had equality for awhile now.”
- “You like girls too? Fuck yeah a threesome!”
- “Racism is bullshit, I see reverse racism all the time.”
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
I am a sociophile. i really love to be among people – both strangers and those i know.
I went to the Transformus regional Burning Man festival a few weeks back. i went with Mac and some other Acorners and Sky from Twin Oaks.
It was Mac’s first transformational festival event and she was completely enchanted. We were doing different things and for the first couple of days; i actually felt a bit lonely at points. Add to this that my ex-lover Kate was at this event. Kate and i had a major motion picture romance, big attraction, myriad actions and events under our belts together, turbulent untangling. A big part of me craves this type of tightly connected, take-on-the-world romance. Looking for this type of partner is what i call the search for Princess Charming.
On the night of the burn i ran into my old friend Michael White, who was being daring with life choices. He had given up his lucrative software consulting work to chase his dream of starting up a company which made sound vests. i wore a prototype of the vest at Transformus – which made me feel like i was a living base speaker. i could easily see a market for these among serious party goers, of which there are many. But it was Michael’s daring thinking of taking BM cultural elements into the urban environment and his imaginative proposals for new festivals that really got my imagination firing.
And then i had my transformational moment at the transformational festival. i realized the whole search for Princess Charming is probably the wrong adventure and even likely a distraction from the many compelling things i want to be doing now. It was time to fire Princess Charming – or more precisely downsize or eliminate this job position.
There was something liberating about this idea, and something scary and quite new for me. I have been blessed with brilliant, capable romantic partners for most of my adult life. Besides feeling well loved and challenged in these connections, having a central partner is often a break on my most reckless and self-sabotaging behaviors. Giving up on this type of relationship was going to mean more work and taking more responsibility, which i was not excited about.
When i talked with my various advisers i was a bit surprised by the results. ”About time,” said Rez who i am trying to tempt out of his high paying job into new community starting adventures. He felt like my princess pursuit was in the way of other things which were important to me. Tree pointed out that it would change the way i showed up socially, which it certainly has.
At the communities conference i saw how it changed the way i interacted with powerful women that i was attracted to. i did not try to enchant them or even as deeply figure out who they were to see if the Princess Charming job might be a good fit. Nor did i focus unusual attention on potential partners who were available for this role and thus i spent more time with people who were just going to be at this event and then might not seen again for a long time.
And of course this is not something i control as much as i might like to think i do. Romantic relationships come at you often when and from where they are least expected. So while i am not actively looking, i will leave the job description on file, in case the universe has other plans for me.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
The Star family does monthly family adventures. Sky, Hawina, Willow and i go off and take a hike, or romp thru a park, or play board games in a cafe and most importantly to Willow, we eat at a Chinese buffet.
After some hunting, we discovered a new Chinese buffet in Richmond yesterday and in a rare quiet moment Willow asked me.
“Why dont you like Sushi?”
“i am not into raw fish.” i replied.
“This is a modern myth.” My son instantly retorted. ”Sushi is now made with cooked fish which is served cold.” i was surprised at my 11 year olds understanding of contemporary exotic cuisines.
A few moments later Sky came back and confirmed that sushi is in fact still made with raw fish and then i was surprised by my sons complete willingness to speak confidently about things which he is making up.
Twin Oaks was founded with behaviorist concepts inspired by the fiction story Walden Two. In this book, the way members of the fictional community were inspired to do unpopular work (say cleaning toilets) was by giving a slight premium to the number of labor credits they received for doing this drudgery. Similarly, for work which was popular or considered easy (like cooking or child care) the person doing the work would get less than full credit. For normal work, you get one labor credit for one hour of work. For the first few years of the real community Twin Oaks existence, a similar system of slightly differential labor credits was used.
Then a funny thing happened as the community grew. When we reached about size 40, it turned out that there was no such thing as universally unpopular work. Nor was there work which we had way too many volunteers for (except one on one child care). So what ended up happening was even the smallest premiums would cause labor to flock to the drudgery and even the smallest penalties would cause us to lose our work force for desirable labor. This forced the community into the philosophically desirable place of evaluating all work the same. Something which is now the cornerstone of the egalitarian community movement.
Someone sloppily posited that romantic relationships in non-central polyamorous groups should be equal. i barked back. Perhaps there are some equal rights, but there is nothing like equal attraction, attention or commitment. Romantic relationships are not (in this way) like egalitarian communities.
Central to my thinking about polyamory is that you would not actually choose an additional partner who you wanted to treat “equally” to one you already had, because typically you are looking for different needs or desires to be met by a new relationship and these are key to creating the different treatment and attractions. These differences will nearly inevitably lead to significantly different types of emotional connections and relationships. Comparing them is difficult, pretending they are somehow equal is a fools errand.