pictures from Rejoice
Hi all, I’m Caroline from the community formerly known as the Midden (long story, for another time.) I’ve been visiting Compersia since the Twin Oaks Communities Conference 9/1 – 9/4. TOCC was pretty great even though it rained hurricane rains on us while we camped in the woods. But I built a huge fire in the pit once the rain slowed and everybody got to huddle and dry out and make merry. The theme of the conference was Racial and Social Justice, and a lot of people walked away with a new deeper understanding of the ways that inequality and white supremacy is encoded into the fabric of our society. We learned ways we can be aware of this and begin to dismantle it. During the conference I went to visit Acorn, and got to reconnect with Rejoice, who allowed us 3 city kids to join her to feed and water the cows and goats. We visited and scratched the head of her beloved Cow and Cow’s offspring Trogdor. We fed goats, we trampled through fields of poison ivy, we jumped a fence.
I’m interested to possibly become a member here at Compersia, so I thought I’d swing by and experience life here for a couple days. Hence, they let me take over their blog post. (Muahahaha!!) No, I really only have nice things to say. Except maybe about the dishes. Which I’ve been told bubble up from flat surfaces, and you have to wipe them away into the dishwasher, and 30 minutes later, more will just spontaneously bubble up from random surfaces, only to have you scrape them away, and repeat this pattern ad infinitum, until you die. Luckily, I don’t particularly despise dish duty any more, and so found a way to make myself useful. Another way to be useful? Declare yourself a jungle gym for the children! Definitely popular among the under 4-foot crowd. M, one of the children, and I had a great conversation one evening about the usefulness of typing as a skill. It may sound boring to the outsider, but was actually quite engaging. Typing: it matters.
On Wednesday, Compersia hosted a rousing concert by David Wax Museum, and oooOOOOEEE, that was good fun. They played guitar, accordion, fiddle, the jaw bone of a donkey, and maybe a ukulele?? I may not know my stringed instruments, but I know a foot-stomping good time when I hear one. 35 people came and listened. The children threw flowers. The adults danced and chair-danced. I, for one, can’t wait to hear their Spanish-language album, the one song they played from it set the room on fire!
Thursday afternoon I saw a 10+ point buck (male deer) with a fawn wandering through the back yard, and shouted for everyone to come see. The kids were like, “meh,” and apparently the adults don’t like the deer because they eat the garden. But I was floored because it was a majestic beast.
On Thursday evening, my last night here, I offered an iRest Yoga Nidra session to all interested parties. 4 folks had time and interest, and we covered the living room floor with yoga mats, blankets, pillows, and soft things, and did a deep relaxation session. iRest Yoga Nidra is a research-based transformative practice of deep relaxation and meditative inquiry. It’s currently being utilized in VA hospitals, hospice, homeless shelters, and schools. Research has shown that iRest effectively reduces PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and chemical dependency while increasing health, resiliency, and well-being. Yay healing! Yay deep relaxation! Yay for the post meditation cuddle puddle!
If you’d like to read more or listen to a 20 or 30 minute pre-recorded session by the psychologist who developed this practice based on Kashmir Shaivism, check it out here: https://www.irest.us/projects/irest
That’s all for now. This commundard is over and out. If you want to learn more about the Midden in Columbus, OH, check out our brand new blog to read about our adventures: http://radicalcooperation.wordpress.com
AKA Caroline Midden
AKA Imperator Furiosa
People ask regularly if there are spaces for new members at the income sharing communities. This is a current update on the space availability of the various communes in the US with ways to contact them and relevant guest/intern/visitor policies linked. This information changes with time, so it’s best to check with any community you wish to visit before scheduling your trip there.
Cambia (Louisa, VA) Yes, there are spaces. Cambia is actively promoting its sustainable environmental education program and has space for both interns and new members. This 2016 intern announcement is also current for 2017 and 2018.
Mimosa (Louisa, VA) This reforming new community (formerly Sapling) is interested in new members but is currently working on completing housing to provide space and thus cannot currently accommodate people for more than short visits. Feel free to send them an email.
Twin Oaks (Louisa, VA) is near its population cap, and continues to accept people for membership, currently if you were accepted you could join right away, but there is some chance we will return to a waiting list soon. Twin Oaks does not currently have intern spots available.
Twin Oaks also hosts an annual communities conference. This year it is Sept 1st thru 4th (labor day weekend). If you are seeking communities, this is a great place to discover a bunch of them at once. And here are 7 reasons it is a better place to spend your time than Burning Man.
Ganas (Staten Island, NY) is looking for new members. While technically not an income sharing community over all, Ganas is supportive of the Point A project and the expansion of the communes movement. There are occasionally job openings at Ganas but right now Ganas is looking for paying members.
East Wind (Tecumseh, MO) is full and has a waiting list, but is still happy to have folks come and visit and like Twin Oaks you can apply for membership and be put on a waiting list. Because East Wind has a gender imbalance it actually has two waiting lists, one for males and one for females. There is currently a male waiting list of about half a dozen men. A woman who was accepted now would be at the top of that waiting list, and after three women are accepted, one of the men can be offered membership from the male waiting list.
The Midden (Columbus, OH) is in transition away from being a commune and towards being a NASCO group house in Columbus.
Twin Oaks fiftieth anniversary was last week. I didn’t go.
My friend, Aurora, who was there told me that Rudy, one of the Twin Oaks founders, spoke and said that when Twin Oaks was founded (in 1967), they thought a revolution was possible in their lifetime and one of the purposes of Twin Oaks was to show how people could live after the revolution.
Another founder, Kat Kinkade, wrote (in her book, A Walden Two Experiment): “When we first came here we knew nothing of farming or any other way of making a living, other than working for wages in the city. Some of us had never even done that. What we did know is what kind of world we wanted to live in.
“…the central idea of the Community has not changed. We are still after the big dream–a better world, here and now, for as many people as we can manage to support. More, a new kind of human to live in that world: happy, productive, open-minded people who understand that in the long run, human good is a cooperative and not a competitive sort of thing.”
And, slowly, the influence of Twin Oaks began to create that kind of world, at least on a communal level.
In 1974, two more communes started.
In a piece in Communities magazine’s most recent issue (Summer, 2017), Laird Schaub wrote about the founding of Sandhill community: “In February 1973 I was in a public library and happened across the current issue of Psychology Today. It included an excerpt from a new book by Kat Kinkade, A Walden Two Experiment. It described the first five years of Twin Oaks Community, and it changed my life. …
“Because Twin Oaks was the inspiration and because I’d already done a fair amount of work to reject materialism, we set up Sandhill as an income sharing community, where all earnings would be pooled.”
Around the same time, at Twin Oaks, they were having problems with getting more people than they thought they could support. Kat Kinkade tells the rest of the story in her book, Is It Utopia Yet?
“Twin Oaks closed its doors. It had as many people as it could comfortably hold. …
“I would gladly have lived in a tent, eaten in shifts, and built sewage treatment on borrowed money, in order to see Twin Oaks answer the challenge of that supply of potential members. I saw that lineup at our front door, people people eager to join, possibly hundreds of them but certainly dozens, and my response was a whole-hearted welcome–more than that, an excitement, a sense of grabbing history by the tail, a promise of a future community on a scale approaching Walden Two.
“… The rest of that story is the history of East Wind. I left Twin Oaks, taking two members and some visitors with me, and we set out to form another community which would be like Twin Oaks in every way except one: we would never close our doors!”
East Wind, like Twin Oaks and Sandhill, continues to this day. But Kat left East Wind after five years, spent four years working in Boston, and then returned to Twin Oaks.
In 1993, Twin Oaks was faced with another long waiting list. Kat Kinkade wrote (again from Is It Utopia Yet?): “In some ways it feels like 1972 all over again. The big difference is that this time I’m not alone in feeling the urgency of the problem. …
“The only politically practical solution I could see was to start another community, the same conclusion that had, years ago, resulted in the founding of East Wind. …
“It took eight months to accomplish this. Two other communitarians, Gordon and Ira, joined me in an informal committee to get the new group off the ground.
“… Gordon’s untiring research eventually netted us a rundown but potentially beautiful farm about seven miles from Twin Oaks. Thanks to Ira’s efforts, Twin Oaks consented to let the potential members have two gatherings…
“Acorn Community was founded April 1, 1993…”
I’ve quoted a lot from Kat Kinkade, and she might have exaggerated her importance in the founding of all these communities, but it seems clear that Twin Oaks directly influenced East Wind and Acorn, and indirectly Sandhill.
When I was at Acorn, I found out things did not go smoothly from the founding. Apparently, at one point they were down to six members and later went down to two members. (Acorn currently has almost thirty members and is thriving.) When I asked someone who had been a long time member at both Twin Oaks and Acorn how Acorn had survived, I was told: “Two things: Ira and Twin Oaks.” Ira Wallace is amazing and determined, but Twin Oaks, having been instrumental in founding Acorn, was not going to let it die.
There are now three newer communes near Twin Oaks and Acorn and, although each of them has been struggling at times, I feel confident that they will make it, because they all have the support of both Twin Oaks and Acorn.
Not all communities make it. Two of the newer communities that were featured this past year in Commune Life haven’t succeeded. Quercus is gone and Sycamore Farm is no longer in southern Virginia. The founders of both of these communities have told me that they’d be interested in writing the story of what happened, when they get time. (A line that I’ve heard from many busy communards.)
Then there was the Dandelion community in Kingston, Ontario, which was influenced by Twin Oaks, and founded in the 1970s and disbanded around 1990. I would love to have the story of what happened there. Nevertheless, Commune Life has been able to have pieces on two current Canadian income sharing communities, The Common Unity Project and le Manoir.
And there are a bunch of new income sharing communities in the US.
There’s Oran Mór, which is near East Wind in southern Missouri, and the Stillwater Sanctuary/Possibility Alliance, near Sandhill Farm in northern Missouri. And there is Compersia, in Washington, DC, which just celebrated its one year anniversary in March. It is the first community spun out of Point A, which is a project that was founded by some Acorn and Twin Oaks members.
And all this traces back to the founding of Twin Oaks, fifty years ago. Yes, there is a longer, wider world communal history, which the folks at las Indias sent us some of. And, yes, there were income sharing communities in the US long before Twin Oaks. (Though, sadly, Oneida and Amana have been gone for many years.)
But Twin Oaks is now fifty, has a hundred members, and is going strong. For the people who question whether another world is truly possible, I say, “Yes. Look at Twin Oaks.”
Ira Wallace (one of Acorn’s original founding members whom has been here since the beginning) recently won the 2016 Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award and was featured in this mini-documentary:
There are not very many places that do secular income sharing. But those that do come in two broad flavors. For those of us who spend a lot of time talking about income sharing, these two different approaches are sometimes given the shorthand “Box of Money” and “Allowance”.
All full income sharing systems are in agreement about communalizing the vast majority of expenses: Medical expenses, food, housing, clothing, education, transportation, costs connected with children, pets, various emergencies – these are all covered. Everything that falls solidly onto the “needs” side of the sometimes vague needs vs wants divide is covered. It is the small things and the things at the needs/wants margin where we struggle.
Should i be paying for your beer (especially when i don’t drink)? Should i be paying for your vacation to the beach? At Twin Oaks we have “solved” this problem by giving our members an allowance which is typically around $100 per month. You want to smoke cigarettes, you can have up to a $100 habit. You have to be at the premier of the latest Marvel superhero movie, that is your discretionary call. By giving people allowances, the commune avoids having to agree on a whole bunch of small, and oft divisive issues.
The more radical solution is the infamous “box of money”. In a number of European communes, including some of the larger ones, there is a physical box of money and when you need some, you go take it. Sometimes you need to write down what you took it for, in other places there is less concern about this. But if you are using this approach, you are agreeing to have whatever conversations and consensus is necessary for everyone to trust each other enough to let them spend the money they need to spend to live the life they want to lead.
In the US, the existing “box of money” communes are smaller. Compersia in DC, Sandhill in Missouri. Allowance based communes include Twin Oaks, East Wind and Acorn, the largest three members of the FEC. Although Acorn, with its anarchist orientation, straddles the boundary by empowering any member to spend up to $50 on anything for the community that they think is a good deal. In the three years i lived there i did not hear anyone complain at a meeting that someone had misused this privilege.
Some of the trade offs between the “allowance” and “box of money” systems are obvious, but many we are still exploring. We know that using an “allowance” system makes room for differences of opinion to exist without being resolved or even seriously addressed. Is that a good thing because it saves time and preserves privacy or a bad thing because it doesn’t drive us towards mutual understanding and critical reflection? We know that using “box of money” system allows for a greater diversity of spending patterns and priorities among members. Is that a good thing because it more easily makes room for people from diverse backgrounds and in diverse situations or a bad thing because it doesn’t drive us always back into the communal economy, looking for ways to meet our needs with each other rather than with money? As more examples are created here in the States and as we build better bridges of communication across the Atlantic our understanding of the dynamics of egalitarian, cooperative economies can only flourish.