After a six-month hiatus Twin Oaks is slowly opening up to visitors and new members. The first trial “Let’s see how this goes” visitor group starts October 22nd. (This group is already filled.) Future visitor groups have not yet been scheduled. So if you have been waiting to visit Twin Oaks, or you know someone, go ahead and send an email now. Due to stopping the visitor program for so long there are now plenty of spaces for new members.
Twin Oaks is also making a small opening to sort of a back-door path to membership. It is possible, if you are already friends with someone at Twin Oaks, to write to your friend and come to Twin Oaks as a guest. That initial letter is posted to the community and there is a pre=approval poll before someone can come as a guest (This is a new process step here at Twin Oaks.) Once here as a long-term guest Twin Oaks is making it easier to become a visitor and then a member without having to leave the community.
As far as we know there has been no cases of covid-19 at Twin Oaks and we aim to keep it that way. Everyone coming into Twin Oaks, visitors and guests included, must quarantine for two weeks first. Most people quarantine here at Twin Oaks, but there are some exceptions.
So, if you have friends at Twin Oaks and are interested in being here for some months, write to your friend. We could use some new faces here!
The post we published last Friday, by Katarzyna Gajewska, got me thinking about something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. People sometimes talk about communities like they were buildings that could be designed and built and they would remain the way the founders intended forever.
One of the things I’ve often said about Twin Oaks (and sometimes about Ganas, as well) is that no one in their right minds would design a community like Twin Oaks (or Ganas). That’s because the Twin Oaks that exists now wasn’t designed. It was planned one way and then it grew, changed, evolved.
My view of communities is that they are living organisms, which grow, and change, and adapt, and often die. In fact, many communities change in ways that frustrate their founders, often to the point that the founders leave. Kat Kinkade left Twin Oaks and, in fact, came and went and came and went, and finally came back to die there. Mildred Gordon also left Ganas, and didn’t come back until she, too, came to die. Some people here have pointed out that Kevin and Sarah (the founders of East Brook/Glomus) are now gone (although Sarah may be back) and this has allowed us to grow in ways that I don’t think they had anticipated.
This phenomenon is so common that I have heard it called ‘founders syndrome’. Whether the founder leaves or not, at some point they are faced with a decision, whether to let the community grow in ways they might not have wanted, or to be heavy handed and keep it to the path that they planned. The thing is, you can control a community like that, but you will probably kill it in the process.
Looking at the six characteristics of living things, the cells of a community are the people. As there are no animals or plants that do not have cells, there are no communities without people. Communities certainly use and need energy–things happen in community only when people have the energy to do them and communities die without energy. Communities don’t grow in isolation–they are forced to adapt to their surroundings. And they certainly react to changes. They also grow and develop–as I have been saying.
Finally, not all communities reproduce–the same way that not all people reproduce. But communities certainly sometimes reproduce–Twin Oaks, for example, begat East Wind and Acorn. East Wind begat Oran Mor. And Twin Oaks and Acorn begat Living Energy Farm, Mimosa, and Cambia.
When you think of communities as living organisms, you realize the futility of trying to design and control a community. You don’t build a community, you help birth it and you help it grow.
It was a strange spring and summer has been no less.
Grey days, April snow, May frost…and lest we forget, there’s a global pandemic going on.
But even under clouds and quarantine, life at Cambia continues much the same as ever. A nice benefit of creating a self-sustaining community-based infrastructure–the more you are able to rely on yourself, the less the outside world can shake you (self, in this case, is the extended communal self of Cambia). We are quarantined, but we have enough space and systems in place that life feels rich and varied.
Speaking of relying on self–Cambia has gone solar! We have long made use of passive solar systems, but the arrival of brilliant intern Charlotte and her extensive electronic knowledge has enabled Cambia to create a very functional system with twelve solar panels set up in the field next door. This setup provides enough energy for almost all of Cambia during the day and hopefully, with new battery storage we just obtained, we won’t need any grid power at all. We have great fun plugging our devices into the inverter and proudly announcing everything from “solar hair straighteners” to “solar chainsaws”. Gil has been busy tracking our usage and production of energy. In an effort to combat the “duck curve” (the high demand of solar energy in the morning and evening), we are testing various lifestyle changes and technologies to better sync our power usage with its availability.
Another word about Charlotte: This is no ordinary intern. In her day job programs autonomous race cars as part of her academic career. She is taking a bit of the break of the rat race (which has yet to become autonomous) and is sharing her knowledge and her passion towards our technology goals and still getting course credit! Sadly, she will someday go back to the academic race track, but not without establishing an internship connection with her university, UNC Chapel Hill, and furthering Rustling Roots as an education and an internship center. Her stay here has been incredibly mutually enriching, not to mention a bit of a culture shock for both parties…
An ongoing conversation that’s happening at Cambia, is how to find a harmonious balance between nature and technology. In stark contrast to the way large corporations sacrifice the environment for efficiency, we are exploring sensors and automated systems to make life more graceful and less impactful. Charlotte created a device that rings a bell when the well pump turns on, making us more aware of our water usage. Now we can notice leaks or bursts, irrigation that’s left on as well as estimate the water depth and therefore pumping efficiency to optimize timing of water usage.
Charlotte has also been doing research on how to implement an IOT sensor system to gather information around Cambia for a more comfortable and management of our experimental technology. As it stands, our level of experimental technology is now a far cry from any notion of the “simple life”, and is more of a human-machine interface laboratory, where gauges, alarms, and LCD displays blend in with dry medicinal herbs and quacking of ducks.
We are documenting our experimentation and designs through blog posts and youtube videos. We’ll be adding these to the website with the hopes that others can learn from our successes (and failures).
The solar shower has gotten an upgrade too we found used evacuated tubes on Craigslist and a free water heating tank from the nearby plumbing store–on sunny days, we now have more hot water than we know what to do with and even on chilly mornings we can bask and bathe in comfort without carbon.
Over at Bruce Academy, Avni and Anthony are happily playing with fractions and orders of magnitude, pondering the origins of the universe, listening to stories of pirates and conquistadors, and running around with cries of “fair Helena!” “good Lysander!” as they make their way through Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Maybe the biggest success of our homeschool is how often one or both of them express gratitude towards it as a highlight of their day–hooray for Bruce the teacher, hooray for the ability to learn in a personalized, idyllic setting.
We are grateful too, in these times of shut-downedness, to have work opportunities to keep the Cambia economy alive and healthy. At Acorn, we have just succeeded in taking down a large, tired greenhouse–now we work on putting it up again, further down the field. Here, Gil and Ella combined their unique and creative minds to create systems that work well and get the job done–like building a 15-foot tripod of trees and belaying the wire frames down as a team. When Jason is not building a deck at Cherry Hill, he and Charlotte tackle Acorn’s robot, troubleshooting the finicky seed-packing machine and sorting the seeds as orders come flying in (hooray for the abundance of work of Acorn–both that it means we are able to play a part and work together with them, and also that it means more people than ever are starting their own little gardens). A wonderful benefit to this job is that we get to take home the robot’s mistakes–meaning twenty packets worth of sunflowers will soon be bursting forth all up and down the field next door.
Speaking of the field next door–we have been planting hundreds of tomatoes and pepper plants with Mimosa, and there are other plantings to come. Stay tuned for the summer edition, where we happily harvest, preserve, and eat the best food money can’t buy. As for now, there are still foods from the wild that make it into our meals–plantains, chickweed, wild onions and thinned turnip greens make for good salads and cooked greens, and our exploding catnip, peppermint, and lemon balm are being dried and stocking our tea shelves.
Charlotte and Nomi gathered inspiration and unused clothes and items to create the Cambia Free Shop, a place where lonely clothes seek happy homes. Now whenever long-term members or short-term guests are in want or need, they will be able to sift through creative clothing, colorful fabrics and knitted scarves–hopefully finding that which their heart most desires, or at least having a good time exploring opportunities (Who will take on the Indiana Jones hat? The jar of dead bugs? The handcuffs?)
And once our members are creatively clad, should there not be a space where they can make creations themselves? Hickory, once two bedrooms, then an apartment for baby chickens and mealworms, is now a workshop. All of Cambia’s tools have made their way inside a luxurious wooden shed with the high ceilings and skylights–a place filled to the brim with creative and cozy potential. There are hopes of further development to this workspace, too–Nomi builds a kiln on the south side of hickory, with possible plans to build a glass house around it and open it up to Hickory, so that it can be solar/kiln-heated in the winter.
Did you catch the baby chicken reference? Cambia welcomes fourteen new members–four ducks and ten chicks (pakeeksters, in Cambia vernacular). They came as helpless squirming babies in early April, and are now boldly walking the lawns, uncontainable, wild and free. Thankfully, our cat friends Schmutz and Turtle have little to no interest in them. There is joy to be found in watching a gang of ducks waddle as a team, making laps around the house and mowing the lawn as they go. We can only aspire to their level of cohesiveness.
So there you have it–a small picture into the current life of Cambia. The scene here is extensive, the work is never-ending. And yet you can still find Cambians, more than every once in a while, sitting together in the clover, idly creating little pieces of beauty, lying with our heads in each other’s laps and our hands draping over purring cats, murmuring or laughing in conversation as dusk falls around us and the first stars come out…
In spite of it all, I still continued writing occasional provocative questions on our Facebook page. Just about the time of Easter and Passover, I asked this question:
I only received four comments, or three actually since one of the four was from me, elaborating on my thoughts about this. Still, I think that some of the comments were thoughtful, especially the ones from Jonathan Clift and Zamin Danty:
For a whole bunch of complicated reasons, I am putting this blog on indefinite hiatus. I will continue to be posting, along with Theresa, Rejoice, and Julia, on the Commune Life Facebook page. I do hope to return, perhaps in spurts, in the future. Meanwhile, all the content from the past will still be here. Enjoy the spring. It remains beautiful, even in the midst of a pandemic.
This post is one in a series on workshops being offered at this years Twin Oaks Communities Conference. Betsy Pool and Formica Coriandolo of Damanhur Federation of Communities will be presenting on the critical role of art in creating community.
I had the great good fortune to visit Damanhur in 2015. It changed my thinking about esoteric and spiritual communities. Particularly, it broadened my belief that these are powerful and appropriate living solutions for a number of people. Damanhur specifically gave me insight into how a community which puts art and the creation of art in the center are important.
One of the interesting things about the Damanhur approach is that there is art everywhere and people creating it all the time. But none of it is signed. It is a collective effort, it is not important to celebrate a single artist. One of Damanhur’s missions is to bring out the artist in every citizen.
Temple of Mirrors
Here is the description of the workshop they are offering at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference.
Why art is strategic in creating community: The Damanhur approach.
This is a brief journey into how we have created Damanhur and why art is so strategic. We share how we have used art at the foundation of our community creation, and continually utilize art in order to increase community well-being, embrace diversity as resource and potential as well as to process conflict. Our community has created The Temples of Humankind, heralded in the press as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” Our extraordinary subterranean eight chamber temple complex features remarkable paintings, mosaics, sculpture and glass art—all created to celebrate universal spirituality. The Temples were created within the solidarity of a community who were not artists. Yet, within a field of trust and non-judgment, the miracle of the Temples grows and every individual has the opportunity to create and discover the artist within.
FORMICA CORIANDOLO has lived at the Damanhur Federation for over 34 years. Initially she sculpted, painted and crafted stained glass in Damanhur’s underground temples. She then moved into various leadership positions including development of the Federation and coordination of outside researchers, sociologists and filmmakers.
BETSY POOLis the co-founder of The Institute for the Mythology of Humanity, an organization that works with researchers and storytellers worldwide to elucidate a history of humanity that was previously reserved in esoteric archives. She is a film and television writer/director and producer. She hosts and produces the YouTube series “Confessions of a Time Monk,” which tells personal stories of world renowned activists, physicists, researchers, mediums,and relationship anarchists. She lives at Damanhur and organizers these and other activities from there.
May is the month when the organizers for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference ask people to think about Labor Day weekend. Specifically, we ask people what types of workshops they might be interested in offering at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference (TOCC). These come in two broad types.
Fixed Time Workshops: This is the collection of 16 (or sometimes 20) workshops which are selected in advance and are all relating to intentional communities. We are exploring different themes and it is likely we will choose a couple of them. If you are interested in presenting on an intentional community related topic we would encourage you to submit this workshop proposal form. The deadline for proposals is May 31st. These workshops happen Saturday, Sept 1st and Sunday morning. Workshop presenters who are selected for these fixed time slots will get their registration fee waived. And if you are coming from NYC metro area (or south of there) you might be able to come on our totally groovy bus.
Open Space Technology Workshop: There are way too many clever and interesting people at the TOCC to not provide a forum for them to demonstrate or propose their own workshop even if it has little or nothing to do with community. The problem (from an organizers perspective) is which ones do you choose? Fortunately, this problem has been well worked by others and there is a democratic, self selecting mechanism called Open Space Technology. These workshops are giving Sunday (Sept 2) midday into the afternoon and typically we do between 10 and 20 workshops ranging in size from 25 participants (like at a urban squatting or polyamory workshop) to just a couple of excited participants (bird watching or Python blockchain programming).
Even if you don’t want to offer any workshop there are three types of people who might want to come to this annual event, which often has over 150 participants and 40 plus communities represented:
You want to find an intentional community to move into
You are starting a community with friends
You live in a community and are looking for new members
If any of these three things is true for you, then you can register for this event here. If you want to see who is already coming and who is interested go to the Facebookevent(35 attending and 215 interested so far (May 1), and we have just started our outreach).