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Secret for a Day

The morning after the super bowl more than half of Twin Oaks woke up without knowing who won the big game.  You might correctly assume that since these people live in this egalitarian, rural, income sharing ecovillage commune they might not prioritize this national event.  But this is not the whole story.  Quite a number of these members who don’t know the result are actually very excited about the game and are looking forward to watching it.  Let me explain further.

Twin Oaks has a long-standing “no live television” norm.  There is no place in the community that you can just flick a switch and suddenly view broadcast television (or even live cable television).  There is, however, a whole subculture of television and cable watching members, who draw from our huge archive instead of watching things live.

super bowl stadium.jpg

Apparently, it was here

But sports are somehow different.  People mostly want to watch sporting events as they are actually happening.  I’ve never completely understood this. I will leave it to some sports enthusiast to enlighten me as to why this is important.  And Oakers want to watch the Super Bowl; they want to watch it in their home, they want to watch it with a bunch of other Oakers.  So to get all of these things a few years back we stumbled onto a solution.  Watch the Super Bowl a day later.


secret - finger over lips

Tell no one


This clever fix has its own problems and at the top of the list is that there are a couple of dozen Oakers who do not want to wait. They visit outside friends or nearby communes which don’t have such restrictive norms around the television.  And basically, the whole rest of the community agrees that they have to keep the game a secret for one day and especially not say who wins.


Is TV a social toxin?


Back in 2004, we were less into sports.  I remember walking into the Morningstar kitchen and asking the dozen assembled people “If I were to say ‘Janet Jackson’s left breast‘ how many of you would know what I was talking about?”  No one did.  Perhaps I got lucky that morning, perhaps the commune has become more accepting of major sports events.



Stepping Stone Commune


Architecture shapes culture, so a guiding principle of Cambia is, if we can make it beautiful, we do.  Architecture is unique as an art form because it integrates function with form. This includes landscaping and outdoor play spaces.

Stepping stones have multiple functions; for example, they can protect clover, especially in the winter. The form also affects our local culture: when you walk on stepping stones, you are called to a child-like stance.


You can walk with your hands hanging down by your sides, and what tends to happen is that your arms raise up to maintain your balance.  The stepping stones can draw you into being playful and childlike.  As your hands go up, you are more likely to skip.  As you start to skip, you are more likely to smile.

trampoline and snow.jpg

Kelpie, Sappho and some big nose guy on Trampoline with snow

Cambia also boasts a trampoline.  The trampoline draws kids from the surrounding communes.  Cambia recently replaced our broken one, in an assembly effort which was guided by a gaggle of giggly kids.

The German modern architect Mies van der Rohe is famous for two sayings, both of which are applicable.  “Less is more” is the argument for minimalist architecture to achieve simplicity, using white elements, cold lighting, large space with minimum objects and furniture.


One of Mies’s iconic creation.

The second aphorism is “God is in the details“, expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important.


Cambia is a handcrafted commune, in sharp contrast to the grandmother commune, Twin Oaks, just down the road.  Twin Oaks is a large place which includes industrial spaces, warehouses, tofu production facilities, rope machines, gang drills, and sawmills.  All the spaces are closer and on a more human scale at Cambia.  Some of the art is tiny and temporary.

seed mandal.jpg

Ella sorts seeds into a mandala

Handcrafted means focusing on details: doorknobs from twisted branches, floors of pebbles and clay, tiny signposts, salvaged redwood around the hot tub and hyacinth pool.  It is these and dozens of other tiny aspects that makes this stepping stone commune so precious.


Other Blog Posts about Cambia:

i make what you make [fiction]

It started as a revolutionary coaching service. The PANYC project was going from Virginia to NYC almost every month and there was a desire to offset the costs of this travel by having regular Virginia based PANYC staff do things in the city which generated income and ideally which were portable. Ogtar had the idea first. He placed an ad on Craigslist which said approximately:

Revolutionary Coaching Advice $100/hour. What is it that you really want to do with your life? How do you move out of your current rut and into a trajectory which gets you where you really want to be going? Fill out this short, simple survey on RevolutionaryCoaching.Com and we will give you one on one, face to face advice on how to get there. First hour is free.


The first hour free part nearly bankrupted him. Applications flooded in. Because Ogtar wanted to do a good job, he had to do a lot of prep work for before the first meeting. This would include, of course, reading the client’s applications, but Ogtar would take it much further. He would research their stated desires, studying their personalities online (facebook stalking and the like), and even develop an understanding of the areas and topics the clients were excited about. All this before meeting them. He was usually several hours in before he gave away the first hour.

Then Max came along. Max was a development banker on Wall St and made obscene money. Max was very bright and very stuck. His relationships did not work, his work felt like a grind, he had manic tendencies which were lurking at the edge of his event horizon, he did not know what to do. A friend of Max had had an amazing session with Ogtar, who was unusually good at giving people advice that seemed both appropriate and daring. Max’s friend recommended Ogtar to Max and they hit it off famously. It might have been the mutual affinity for strange dystopia comic books or perhaps some slightly kinky anime style. Whatever it was, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Ogtar helped Max unravel his troubled romantic life. Ogtar coached Max into ditching his job and getting one with fewer hours, one which was still challenging and did not have the values mismatch of development banking. Most importantly, Max could feel the danger of madness receding the longer he worked with Ogtar. The two of them talked philosophy daily.

One day Max cut an unusually large check to Ogtar. “I did not work this number of hours,” Ogtar protested.

Image result for big check

“I calculated it in a different way,” replied Max. “It is what I would have been paid for that number of hours. I don’t have any good reason to compensate you less than I am paid.” And with this dangerous thinking a bit of a movement was born.

Of course the idea of equal compensation for people based on time is neither novel or new.  But the right combination of social media and interesting initial offerings, combined with existing well developed barter and peer to peer services and was a huge hit.  Some doctors, nurses and nutritionists stepped in and provided health services for a fraction of their total work time to cover especially acute health needs.  Other trained professionals from plumbers to lawyers were quickly followed by a myriad of other workers.

There were offshoots, groups which took the name in a different and literal sense, in which cross training and extensive wiki-knowledge bases permitted people to share skills and physically manifest the same thing that someone else in the network could train them to do.

Designed to make it easy to take care of workers and project cooperators, the software naturally formed union like organizations which were short on rhetoric and long on organizing results. Soon was banging on the doors of organizations which had historically treated their workers ill.

 Image result for unions

Dream Alliance

One way to think about community is as an antidote to the problems of contemporary society. A strong case can be made that deep sharing mitigates most climate disruption contributors. We see that highly intentional community helps heal some people’s mental health challenges. But the real allure of community is something larger.

If we look at living together and sharing our lives as a long lever for creating culture, then isn’t it possible to design a community in which the members become well harmonized and deeply mutually supportive? Community asks the question “How might we come up with a way to live together in which amazing, healing and transformative things are accessible to the people who live this way? How could we develop a set of rituals and communication patterns which helps members of these communities manifest their dreams? And if this is possible, what do we know about these types of successful cultures already so we can experiment with them?”

One of the things we know for sure is we can not be supportive without being communicative. And the more we can trust, the more we can share what we find to be true, the more profound our ability to advise and ally with people.

Cambia is reviewing how we dream and vision. The community is small and reforming and old traditions are being reconsidered by new members as well as founders with new eyes. For me the piece of greatest interest is the exploration and manifestation of personal dreams. I believe this is a rich place for meme craft and hopefully deep personal satisfaction.

We are tinkering with the parameters of a dream alliance. The basic idea is simple, I tell you my dream and invite you to support it and then we switch roles. If you don’t have a dream, or it feels incompletely formulated (“i want more music in my life”) then your ally will guide you through an exploration to help refine and define it more.

If your dream is ambitious (“we need to deconstruct industrial capitalism”), your dream ally might help you identify the next piece (“let’s start a worker coop”). If your dream is sprawling (“i want to get people to think!”), then perhaps your ally makes you look on a focused part (“let’s start an inspiring book club”).

But more important than suggestions from your ally is a willingness to help manifest. “I would cook and drive for a local Food Not Bombs chapter, if that was your calling” or “You need to stop Trump, I will go door to door with you before the next election”. Or perhaps simple logistics “I’ll watch your kid while you meditate/exercise.”

I was excited about this thinking and I brought this rough idea to the Thursday night book club at Cambia. We are reading Charles Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible”, one chapter each week and talking about it. And after my enthusiastic description of dream alliances, Craig was uninspired. “I am not excited about exploring people’s individualistic dreams, what would make this interesting to me is if we were seeking and building our shared dream.”

This is consistent with Eisenstein’s thinking. That we need to move past dualism and find a new story which connects everything. Craig gets this, which is why he has been pushing this book, and the concept of InterBeing. InterBeing, as close as I can tell, is a sort of secular enlightenment, where you feel and react from a place of being connected with everything and seeking some type of harmony with it all.

I don’t get it. I am a dualist. This is slightly challenging to the book group I think. Perhaps it is a bit like having a libertarian in your anarchist discussion groups. You are all talking about getting rid of government, but are way out of line when it comes to what happens next.

And even though I don’t quite get it around Interbeing, Craig’s challenge feels like a friendly amendment. There is something very powerful about seeking our shared dream together. The alliance is richer, when it is our dream instead of you supporting mine in exchange for me supporting yours.

And I am again grateful for Cambia which thinks these are the questions we should be pondering and energy well spent exploring and cultures worthy of our efforts to design them. I think a carefully constructed dream alliance could be super memetic. And that is my personal holy grail.

NYE – Sorry, you can’t come

There were three different parties last night as warm ups to tonight’s New Years Eve event at Twin Oaks.

  • Acorn’s Annual New Years Eve Eve
  • Cambia’s “Quite Party” and hot tub
  • Christian’s Going Away Party in the Compost Cafe

Acorn had a small sober party with a new puppet show by Purl and live music by Acorn artists.  There was a vast cash of cookies from a members prolific mom.

puppet controls man over moon

Just as i was driving the last (but early) shuttle away from Acorn a minivan full of Oakers showed up and tilted the party just the right way.

Because Acorn did not want to be over run by all the unknown (to them) guests who are already here for the Twin Oaks New Years Party, they understandably asked that their New Year’s Eve Eve guests be folks who had been there before.  But this left us with the high class problem of needing another “open” party for all the lovely guests who are already here.

Cambia stepped into the breach.  Since many of these unknown (to Acorn) guests were Craftees from Tufts who were already staying at Cambia or Simple House, it made sense to have the party here.  There are a dozen Craft House affiliated folks coming to these events.  If you are wondering why all these students and ex-students,  the current manifestation of the feeder school strategy.


i slept in Tracy Chapman’s closet at Craft House

Three Generations of Feeder Schools:  The idea is over a decade old, but we never have been able to pull it off with any longevity.  The idea was to find a cool school, a college or university, where clever progressive students  were already enthused about students coop  communes and select this option over corporate America, because it was more fun and lively, despite the terrible pay.

It started with GPaul who was at Saint Mary’s and excited about the communes.  Over time 3 other St Mary’s grads became members of Acorn or Twin Oaks.  But then we sort of lost contact with the school.

We then did an infamous TOAST gig at McDonough prep.  Three different members/interns came out of this visit, all of whom happen to be here for this New Years Eve party.

danile tofu dress.jpg

McDonough Grad and NYE costume model – Daniel.

We deepened our relationship with the Craftees this fall by attending the Honk Festival largely with them.  It was then we started lobbying the Craftees to come to New Years.  I thought “Let’s add a bunch of young, sexy, colorful, non-conforming, high energy, artists and musicians into your party mix” – What could go wrong?

The last party I attended last night was Christian’s going away party in the Compost Cafe.  This is a tiny smoking lounge off the main courtyard at Twin Oaks.  The space is so small that 6 people can barely dance in it and we have well over that at points.  This was a loud, excited party, with Christian spinning his favorite classic tunes and lots of singing, not all of it on key. 

My room is filled with most lovely guests, now after too long, but too lovely a day, i will go find a suitable couch.

Below is the program to the most elaborate New Years Eve system of parties we have ever attempted.  Don’t ask if you can come, you can’t.  If you were not already planning on attending, this is not your year.

NYEE & NYE Celebrations – A cross-community NYE project

December 29th

7 to 9 PM Transparency Games – TCLR at Twin Oaks – This is a facilitated collection of exercises which are designed to help people reveal more about themselves, build empathy and trust with others in the group.  These games are simple like “if you really knew me _______” and “i have a story about you” and participants are always at choice about being involved.

10 PM meet at Cambia –  Applied Dumpster Diving Workshop:  Maximus will lead a group of intrepid dumpster divers to Short Pump and the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods dumpster. Dumpster techniques will be critiqued on a 28.6 point scale. (extra points for creativity).

December 30th

2 to 4 PM at Acorn – Regenerative Agriculture Workshop:  Rachel from East Brook Community Farm will present on ECBF’s efforts to repair soil and reverse climate change.  To rebuild soil takes more than simply avoiding pesticides.  Presentation and questions and answer.  Acorn asks that people attending this workshop either be FEC affiliated or have an Acorn host.

4 to 6 PM in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Consent Workshop:  The Louisa Communities have a strong Consent Culture orientation especially at parties.  This workshop is designed to help participants at these parties understand fully and participate comfortably in saying what is true for themselves, protecting themselves without apology and connect intimately and/or romantically in a way which is safe.  Anyone who has not been to a consent workshop before or who is new to this idea is strongly encouraged to come.

5 to 7 PM at Cambia – Video Editing for the Revolution:  Maximus from Cambia will facilitate a discussion and presentation of community-focused video making and distribution.  How to edit videos effectively and inexpensively.  Making a youtube channel boosting its popularity.

Dinner at Cambia 7 to 8 PM – a big meal in a little place.  Dumpster and donated food expertly prepared will feed as many people as show up.

8 PM to whenever at Acorn – New Years Eve Eve party at Acorn:  If you really want to enjoy the New Years Eve party you need to pre-game for it by staying up late the night before at a different lovely event and then sleeping in the next day.  [The TO NYE party goes unusually late for the communes].  Acorn throws a New Years Eve Eve sober party which has all the kick of significant festivity without the alcohol.  Come enjoy live music, puppet theater, dancing and more with the anarchists from Acorn.   If you have never been to Acorn before you are encouraged to go to the quiet party at Cambia instead.

8 PM til whenever – Quiet Party at Cambia:  Cambia is hosting a number of people who are new to the area and some long experienced folks as well.  But don’t confuse “quiet” party with not fun.  Cambia has been the host for numerous interesting and enjoyable events.  Stories, party games, and other kid friendly activities will go late into the night.

December 31st

10:00  to noon at Appletree at Twin Oaks –  Canadian EcoVillages

Jacob is from Manitoba and started the EcoVillages.CA website, newsletter and network. He has been involved with Myriad Village in Manitoba and has toured extensively examining sustainable intentional community solutions and has presented an EcoVillages 101 workshop in various places.  This will be a more advanced workshop, looking at sustainability successes and obstacles, especially in Canada.

10-:30 – noon Bijou at Twin Oaks – The Last Day Singing Soirree facilitated by Cleo & Craig in the Bijou

Let’s get our voices hearts and minds in tune and in rhythm for the New Year! Craig and Cleo will lead songs about cycles and seasons, beginnings and endings, changing and returning. This is an inclusive vocal convergence. If you’ve got a song to share in this spirit, come ready to lead it.

1 -3 PM TCLR at Twin Oaks – Foolery Presentation

Spot (X Acorn, X Woodfolk) is a multiple who practices and shares comic arts often with a political twist.  This Foolery workshop has an emphasis on Fetch u, personification, paradox and paraphilia.  This workshops starts with presentation and then moves to question and answer.

Who is fooling around?

1 -3 pm Bijou at Twin Oaks – Co-Authoring a More Beautiful World, with the Imaginarium Consort

This workshop will be a brief yet memorable foray into the art and science of co-authoring our lives. With stimulating prompts, queries, conversational interludes and communal reveries we’ll exercise our higher callings. By boldly expressing our aspirations we’ll build alliances and generate the courage needed to bring forth a more beautiful world in 2018.

The Imaginarium Consortium is a group of activists and gadflies drawn from four central VA communities. We’ve been meeting weekly for 3 months to discuss Charles Eisenstein‘s book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.This workshop is an expression of insights and inspirations we’ve gained thru our reading and conversations.

1 to 4 at Modern Times at Twin Oaks – Art Bike Workshop:  Converting broken bikes into something fun and beautiful.  Kunle from Boston has created dozens of art bikes and will facilitate this workshop.  Come and stay for any amount of time and create something beautiful or bizarre.

I understand Kunle’s art bikes are even more outrageous

4 to 6 PM at Cambia – The Future of Urban Communes:  There are Point A influenced communities which have started in DC and Queens.  How do we support these new entities and where does the effort to bring income sharing to east coast cities look next?  Baltimore? Boston?  Philly?  Folks from the Point A Circus will wrangle an engaged discussion about how to move forward.

4 to 6 PM in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Consent Workshop: This workshop is a repeat of the one the day before.  The Louisa Communities have a strong Consent Culture orientation especially at parties.  This workshop is designed to help participants at these parties understand fully and participate comfortably in saying what is true for themselves, protecting themselves without apology and connect intimately and/or romantically in a way which is safe.  Anyone who has not been to a consent workshop before or who is new to this idea is strongly encouraged to come.

high temperature warning

6 PM at ZK dining hall –  Full Circle Community Intro:  A forming new income sharing community committed to elder care adjacent to Twin Oaks?  This is more than a dream a few of us have had, this is increasingly becoming a reality and if this is a project you are interested in or want to join, come and talk with Corb and Aurora over dinner. Participants will be encouraged to share their visions of building a Full Circle Community

6 – 7 PM at ZK dining hall – Angel Training

So you want to be an Angel?  Angel’s make sure everyone is comfortable and happy at the party.  Angels wear wing arm bands, when they are on duty.  Angels work as a network and take care of three types of problems.  1) A party goer is having a bad time and need to talk to someone and perhaps chill. 2) There is an altercation and the Angel may separate people or take someone out of the party space.  3) There is an emergency which requires driving.  If you can do anyone of these three tasks for some part of the party, come and get oriented and get your wings.  Angel work is labor creditable.

Angels move the problems of the party

8PM in Temple of Oracles (Tupelo upstairs North Wing): Ritual casting Sacred Space. In this ritual we’ll set intentions for what we hope the party will bring us and will cast sacred space and grounding energy for the party. Open to all who like ritual, singing and being intentional.

8:30pm until late: Temple of Oracles (upstairs North Wing)

The intention of this space is to foster self-exploration, and create a quiet space for reflection (in the bustle of the Twin Oaks New Year’s Party) where anyone can consult the oracle, formulate a question and get external mirrors that help clarify feelings, thoughts, fears, resistances, hopes, dreams, intentions and future plans.


8 PM until whenever at Tupelo at Twin Oaks- New Years Eve Party at Twin Oaks:  With a bit of luck this party will change your life.  Perhaps it will be at the kissing workshop or connecting with someone new in the cuddle loft.  Perhaps you will be transported by the music of our talented DJs or the live shows in the Music Room.  Including puppet shows at 8:30 and Handpan.  \  Perhaps the theme and decorations will teleport you to exactly where you need to go.  You might finally get to express yourself at the 2 AM burlesque show.  Or the Infinity Room will allow you to see yourself in the midst of all things.  All manner of experiences and exotic treats await you at one of the reliably best parties of the year.


Kissing Workshop – Cuddle Loft 11 PM?  Janel will facilitate this tutorial on technique.  Bring a partner on not and lower your inhibitions.  And this is a high consent space, so no surprises

Burlesque Review – 2AM main dance floor – Belladonna will MC a burlesque review.  Party participants are strongly encourages to don their sexy undies and be prepared to strut and shout.  If you are interested just come and if you want couching or more info find Belladonna at dinner at ZK on the 31st

Open Mic – We are blessed at this event with a number of folks who live or have lived at Crafts House which is connected to Tufts University outside Boston.  Crafts House manages a free art space on campus and is rich with artists and performers.  They will run the Open Mic in the Music Room, beside the Infinity Room

January 1st

Whenever you can make it after the party.  At Tupelo – Clean Up:  Start the new year putting back together the residence which hosted the previous night’s bash.  Don’t worry that you don’t know the place or where anything goes.  Helpful Oakers will direct you and make you feel useful and righteous for having returned to normal the house which was converted temporarily into a most fantastic space.


Brunch:  at the ZK dining Hall at Twin Oaks [Time not confirmed]


1pm Closing ritual in temple of oracles (tupelo north wing -upstairs). We’ll ceremoniously close the circle, reflecting on our gifts and lessons. Then we’ll devoke and clean up.


2 PM to 4 PM at Acorn – Can pirate radio save the world?  Come explore the limits of internet media and radical propaganda.  Belladonna Took is the host of What would save the World? on Radio Free Brooklyn.  How to operate a radical radio show without a budget.  How to promote your podcasts and land interesting interviews.  What are the limits and possibilities of pirate radio.  A lively and interactive conversation.


4 to 6 PM at ZK dining hall at Twin Oaks – Funological Review:  What makes a good party?  What could we do differently in the future to make it be a better party?  What aspects were pulled off well and what got forgotten or underworked?  Did it change people’s lives?  Did people fall in love or decide to quit Babylon?  Come review the event and help figure out how to build the better party.


7 to 9 PM at Cambia or perhaps in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Crafts House Performance:  The gifted and talented kids from Crafts House at Tufts will do an edge exotic theater piece for the delight and thought-provoking amusement of the local communards.


January 2nd


10 AM to noon in ZK at Twin Oaks – The Future of Commune Life Blog:  This prolific blog has been running for over a year, producing 3 blog posts a week of visual and written works from all the FEC communities.  Who are the new writers and editors for this potentially potent piece of digital media.


1 to 3 PM at Cambia – East Brook Community Farm:  The newest FEC community in dialog is expanding its membership and its successful CSA business.  Come learn about this new rural commune and opportunities for working there this spring (and beyond).





A love letter a day

One of the best parts of living in community is getting to design the local culture.  I am spending a lot of time at Cambia Community these days which is just 2 miles from Twin Oaks, where I hope to become a dual member (but that is a different story).

Every morning at 8:30 we are getting together and plan our day.  One of the things we organize is who is going to write a love letter that day and who are they going to send it to and a bit about why.  The community has committed to writing at least one every day.

love letter flying away

Love letters are an underappreciated form of communication.  i have written suggestions on how to write them.   And i am happy that Cambia has embraced this new tradition.

We are using the broad definition of love letter, where anyone you feel strong affection or appreciation for is an acceptable recipient.  Thinking about someone who we have not sufficiently expressed appreciation for is one of the tools we use to figure out which letter should get written next.

love letter airplanrea

Who should you write today?


7 magics

There is an ontology of magic I developed a couple of decades ago, which I never wrote about.  The idea is that there are three sets of magical spectrums, representing 7 different types of magical presentation or mechanism.

High versus Low Magic:  When you are designing a ritual or spiritual event you have to decide how much you are going to prepare.  Is this event rehearsed?  Will there be costumes?  Will there be elaborate sets or complex props for your event?  The more you prepare, the more pageantry, the more visual and auditory elements to your event, the higher the magic.


damanhur ritual

High Ritual at Damanhur, Italy


skipping stones

Low magic uses what is around

Dark versus Light magic:  The easy way to distinguish these types of magic is by answering the question “Does this magic take power over someone else?”  If the answer is “yes” then you are some type of dark magic.  If you are doing something to someone without their consent, this is not cool.


Light magic works in cooperation with whoever it is operating on.  A prayer to heal someone (who wanted to be healed) would qualify (assuming your religion does not freak out at the idea its sacred acts would be considered magic).

Hard versus Soft Magic:  Soft magic is when you make some type of request or cast an intention, that is possible, but perhaps improbable.  Here again, many prayers would qualify.  Hard magic is when your actions are breaking the laws of physics.  Psychic surgery would qualify as hard magic.



Magic can happen in a lab

Telepathy might qualify as hard magic, teleportation or telekinetics definitely would.

Pop Magic:  The last form of magic is not a spectrum at all.  Popular magic is tricks or illusionism.  This is a different type of event with gravitates towards high and hard magic characteristics.


floating girl

Seeing is believing

Perhaps it is less about types of magic as it is descriptions of magic.

Older posts:

Pomegranates and Pillow Fights: Contemporary Pagan Solstice