Five years ago in February my father died. This is the eulogy i gave at the Harvard Memorial Church on the day of his funeral.
I disagree with people for a living. My father was one of the most agreeable people you ever met. And yet it was from him that I learned, if you wanted to be in the conversation, you need to listen deeply and to be able to reflect back what someone else truly believes.
I break the law as part of my work. My father was the most law-abiding man I ever met. And it was from him I learned that you need to have an unwavering moral compass, so that whoever meets you knows what you believe in.
My father built highly functional schools and elegant houses. I stop the construction of inherently dangerous and unnecessary nuclear reactors. It is from him I learned that my role is to serve in the building of a better world.
My father’s father was a large man named “Tiny”. He died when my father was a boy and I believe this helped make my father a careful and cautious man. I was fortunate to have a dedicated and supportive father for 5 decades and I am convinced this security helped make me comfortable taking chances.
When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror before days which tend to be busy and long, as my father’s were, I sometimes see the mirror image of the man, who despite being different, was one of my most important teachers.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
“The dumpsters are never empty in Freegantown, Freegantown, Freegantown.” Is the refrain from the first musical number in this epic piece of Twin Oaks Children’s theater.
This short gem was captured in a low resolution video. But you can get the witty dialog (including the pitch for more bandwidth). It should be pointed out that Rowan (Tall Guy) is playing a role inspired by me, or at least inspired by my head-achy guests (from Nero who burned part of Acorn, to Jason who drove some people a bit crazy).
As background, freegan is a dietary preference which chooses to prioritize recovered food (typically from dumpsters, but it could be other places where it has been discarded like farmers markets) over other dietary constraints. The root is from “free”, which is usual cost of dumpstered and other recovered foods. More radical freegan philosophies go well beyond free food and boycott the entire money economy.
And now for the video:
If you are in the area (Charlottesville/Central VA) and you feel like you have some sense as to what community life is like, you should come see the Sunday Jan 26th performance of Freegantown (if you have not already missed it, this is likely today for you).
Willow (who’s full name is Willow Star Falcon-Flansburgh) plays the villainous ex-communard who goes off to work for evil corporation Traitor Joes. His name is Dark Star in the play. This 30 minute performance, complete with a start up song with Evan on ukulele, is the best kid theater i have seen and some of the best theater to come out of the commune.
I won’t spoil the plot which teases all manner of commune customs and practices and includes blatant calls from the kids for more bandwidth in the community. But I will say this performance is a bit of insider ball, if you know nothing about the communes, about our pocket dramas around guests or our practices around dumpstering food, you will miss some parts of the story. None the less i would encourage you to come.
i will post more pictures (Hawina took some and Sky will tomorrow – all the Star parents are super proud this evening) and possibly get up the video of it. Aubby did and amazing job writing mostly and directing the piece. Ezra wrote and performed the musical accompaniment.
So be there ZK dining hall Sunday Jan 26th high noon – show starts on time. There is no charge for this performance, and if you wanted to leave a donation, that would be great.
Zadek and i are the two cross overs. The younger home schooling program at Twin Oaks is called Unicorns. Kid as young as Elan from Acorn (age 1) come and as old as Zadek (7?). There is a lot of sandbox, drawing and playing-with-toys time as well as read-aloud books, words for the day and simple reading & writing exercises. Christie (an accepted Acorn visitor who has not arrived yet) put it most flatteringly.
I’ve been to dozens of pre-schools and day care situations, Unicorns is the only one which is doing it right.
Heroes is the fantasy role playing home education system that i am the games master of. I play this game with Zadek, Kaya, Evan, Willow and Rowan (ages 7 thru 17). They adventure similarly to a Dungeons and Dragons game, but when they role poorly for the outcome of an event, they can get another role by answering a question right. In the last game, Rowan’s character (Pesca the fallen god) actually died because Willow did not know what the Prohibition was (Evan did, but that was not enough to save him). Kaya’s character (named Sapphyre) was about to be married to Pesca, so she followed him to heaven so they could hang there. It is that kind of game.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest] (Past homeschool mom of 2 daughters from birth until they entered college.)
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
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]