“Ask me again in September.” This phrase is my shield against requests of all kinds—everything from friendly hangouts to an offer to join the tofu management team. I say it so often now that I’m just waiting for the moment when someone asks me “what’s your name?” and all that I can say is a dreamy “September…”.
I was the Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering intern in 2016, which is why I decided to join Twin Oaks [you can read more about my protracted membership process in a future post]. Therefore, it was only logical that I would become a Women’s Gathering organizer this year. I’ve been attending the planning meetings since I was a visitor in January; I traveled to the farm from Baltimore for every meeting but one between then and when I became a member on May 26th.
At some point this spring, I joined the Queer Gathering team thanks to some friendly pestering from the original organizers. From there it became a slippery slope: I was just dipping my toes into Communities Conference work when someone who had agreed to bottom-line the whole conference suddenly left the community to take care of a family member. At that point, I decided to stop fighting it, and I allowed the conference beast to consume my being in its entirety.
As July inches in, everything is eerily calm. The conference site is slowly becoming habitable after its long winter hiatus. I usually have no more than twenty unread emails in my inbox at any given time. I still have time for tofu shifts, cooking, and childcare. But I know that’s all about to change.
Come find me at the QueerGathering on August 3rd—only slightly deranged—as I lead a workshop on using glitter to battle gender dysphoria and body hate. Then, join me again at the Women’s Gathering on August 17th, slipping into full lunacy as I fittingly lead a group of women to howl and scream at the moon and the sky (it’s healing, I swear). Finally, you might recognize me as hot pink hair on a human-potato hybrid at the Communities Conference from August 31st to September 2nd as I coordinate childcare and put out (hopefully metaphorical) fires all over the conference site.
On September 3rd, I sleep. Then you can ask me your questions.
If you want to follow developments of the events on Facebook, here are the pages for these events:
The Administration of the 45th President of the United States
We’ve had a front row seat for two weeks to American kakistocracy – government by the worst, most incompetent, and inappropriate persons. We’ve witnessed the new administration’s willful disregard for the Constitution, lack of forethought or regard for the sweeping impact of policy decisions on the population, and the steady, targeted erosion of rights. Americans took to the streets to resist the pathology of self-serving, morally bankrupt oligarchs.
Solution-thinking: Counter fragmentation with collaboration. If a dysfunctional government ignores the needs of its constituents and seeks to normalize discrimination, we respond by affirming our diversity and strengthen our interdependence. If the executive branch is plagued by power-and-control infighting, operates under cover of darkness, and is ruled by impulse, we counterbalance with collaboration, transparency, and wisdom. The task of transforming the collective unconscious so as to give rise to a new kind of government falls to us.
Alternatives: Resistance is a vital “holding action” that saves lives and alleviates suffering. Long term localized resilience-building will get us through the eye of the climate change needle. For environmentalists and
allies, step one is to take our cue from natural living systems which self-organize seamlessly. Step two is to look to the best examples of human ecosystems which are already actively engaged in biomimicry—modeling systems on nature, and biological processes.
Make like a tree: Organic, self-organizing tree intelligence. Oh, would that we could behave like trees, our oldest companions on Earth! Trees are social beings. They speak a sophisticated silent language, communicating complex information via smell, taste and electrical impluse. We’re only just beginning to understand non-human consciousness.
Trees share their food and sometimes nourish competitors. They know the advantages of working together. On its own a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It’s at the mercy of the wind and weather. But together many trees create an ecosystem that moderates weather extremes. In this protected environment trees can live to be very old. To get to this point the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree was only looking out for itself, quite a few would never reach old age. Regular fatalities would result in large gaps in the tree canopy allowing storms to ravage the community and uproot members. Summer heat would reach the forest floor and dry it out. Every tree would suffer.
Every tree therefore is valuable and worth keeping around for as long as possible. That’s why sick individuals are nourished by neighbor trees until they recover. Next time it may be the other way around. The supporting tree may be the one in need of assistance.(The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben, 2016)
Human ecosystem self-organizing: While “collaboration” and “cooperation” have become buzzwords, relatively few Americans —conditioned as we are in a competitive, top-down, hierarchical culture, really know what that looks like over the long haul. Authentic cooperation requires people to change deeply imprinted habit patterns which are continually reinforced by a society that deliberately seeks to divide us. We are called to compassionately heal our schisms. We seek true unity and regenerative wholeness.
While many movements commit intellectually to pursuing wholeness through cooperation, thousands of intentional communities throughout the United States already demonstrate just that. Intentional communities are groups of people who have decided to find ways to live together cooperatively. Irrespective of how diverse a group of people in an intentional community may be, there is a shared allegiance to the baseline value of sustained cooperation.
The Fellowship for Intentional Communityand thePoint “A” Projectwhich creates urban Income-sharing communities are standard bearers in the intentional community movement. They embrace anyone with the gumption to self-liberate from the corrosive mainstream matrix. Intentional communities offer supportive pathways toward healthy interdependence and ways to thrive in breathing space that takes some distance from the mainstream.
As per Raven, a spokesperson for the Point A Project, “Intentional communities are laboratories for social change. Each one tries something different and sees how it works. That’s why there are five different income-sharing intentional communities clustered together in Louisa County, Virginia for example. Most communities have some type of mission. So, the Virginia communities of Twin Oaks, Acorn, Cambia, LEF, and Sapling have been described as slightly different “flavors” of community —each having a different emphasis, and attracting different folks. The big draws to intentional community are the opportunity to be around a group of like-minded people, and wanting to be part of something bigger than oneself. In community you have support. When things get difficult it’s good not to be alone. And sharing, even the light sharing that is done in co-housing communities just makes people’s lives easier.”
In Raven’s home community of Ganas, an intentional community on Staten Island in New York City, deep relationship-building as a deliberate process takes center stage. Environmental resilience, social justice, urban communal living, and agroecology, organic or biodynamic farming are some of the underlying drivers of other communities.
While living in intentional community may be a giant step away from the mainstream for some, we would all be wise to gravitate toward kindred spirits with whom we can navigate the rough waters that lie ahead. If the first 17 days of the new administration foreshadow the next four years in the context of anticipated climate change, we will need to tap deeply into our own inner resilience, and most especially, we’ll need each other.
Folks from the DC and Virginia communes were very involved with the protests:
Christian and Paxus of Twin Oaks appreciate PETA’s big fuzzy suits.
Vegans GPaul of Compersia and Christian of Twin Oaks pose with PETA people.
Paxus of Twin Oaks and GPaul of Compersia rest after the disruption protests, while Steve of Compersia (only hand seen in picture) appreciates a good pun.
Residents and guests of the Keep, a cooperative house in Washington, DC, make signs in preparation for the Women’s March on Washington.
Steve of Compersia and Caroline formerly of Twin Oaks march in the Women’s March. Also Bryan Cahall of the http://extraordinaryrenditionband.com band marching to draw attention to Prison Liberation. Compersia hosted 3 from the band and it was delightful!
Residents, guests, and friends of the Keep, a cooperative house in DC, tell stories over food during a bunch following the Women’s March.
Residents, guests, and friends of the Keep join in a large post-protest Sunday brunch.
James of Point A NYC takes in the crowd at the Festival of Resistance Against Trump
A gaggle of Twin Oakers rest and eat dinner at Compersia after the Women’s March
More of Twin Oakers resting and eating dinner at Compersia after the Women’s March
One more photo of Twin Oakers at Compersia
Twin Oakers and Compersians participate in a blockade at the inauguration in solidarity with communities threatened by Trump and his administration.
Compersia and friends let loose after the inspiring Women’s March on Washington.
Kathryn of Compersia protests at Trump’s inauguration in solidarity with communities threatened by his administration.
Last night, during our shared meal, all seven of us at Compersia discussed our emotions after the shock of election night 2016. Reactions were a mixed spectrum of grief, tempered somewhat for the sake of the children – in the end though it was their reactions that cut through to me. Cheerily, one of our little ones described a creative coping project they participated in at school. The picture they described drawing was shocking, sad, and perhaps inevitable after the traumatic saturation of this past year; a ghoulish dystopian potpourri of bigotry and violence, some hyperbolized and some all too familiar, unfiltered by the experience that we adults quietly hold as backstop to our political frenzy. In it I saw reflected my own fears for the future, both the concrete and the absurd.
Those are hard words to write, and harder words to swallow. It seemed unthinkable, but even if the popular vote had changed the final results we would be forced to confront the reality that almost 50% of the United States embraced a platform and a candidate that seems anathema to everything we stand for as a movement.
Living at a fledgling project, we’ve been thinking hard about how we wish to be seen and the membership we want to attract. We are committed to the ideals of equity, anti-discrimination, sustainability, communication, and growth. Our processes are specifically designed to include everyone equally, to encourage confidence and not favor those with an excess of privilege or ambition. We’ve all felt recently that the world was turning in our direction – that perhaps the time was right for these ideas to finally blossom and gain a wider audience. The results of the election seem at first glance to be a stinging rebuke of that optimism. It’s tempting to despair that the racism, sexism, nationalism, and religious bigotry on prominent display seems not only to have been accepted but rewarded – how could we have been so wrong about who we were?
But I believe that this viewpoint ignores the true impetus behind the results. The majority of the country did not vote in favor of hatred, but in reaction to a terror which has been carefully and cynically stoked for years. Our political process has become addicted to fear. Precious little else is left that can inspire us; We are disenfranchised by a system which, despite newly elected faces and promises, despite victories negotiated or wrested, refuses to confront the forces that keep us in misery. What motivation could there be to not attempt something new and better? Only fear, the base threat of annihilation to ourselves and those we hold dear. And so that final impetus has been used again and again by those who would use our strength for their own, turning us in anger against one another – against the very people we seek to protect.
Part of why we chose to locate ourselves in the city was the desire to be surrounded by viewpoints and experiences different from our own, to overcome superficial divisions and create a more inclusive vision. There has never been a greater need to reach out to those we think of as our antagonists, to work together and break new ground in a way that sidesteps tribalism and divisiveness.
America is desperate for a better way. We have chosen rashly, and without thought towards what will replace that which we tear down, blinded by unachievable promises. When these too are not delivered there may be an opportunity – a chance to break through to people, many of whom truly viewed this as their final chance at salvation. The next four years will be difficult. We will have to be more engaged, more committed, to push back against threats to the values we hold dear, to stand with and fight for those unable to defend themselves. In short, we will have to continue that which we are already undertaking everyday, with redoubled effort and an open mind. We are uniquely suited, called upon even, to build a better alternative to what we’re witnessing around us.
The message of change at the heart of our movement is one that has never been needed more desperately. Together, we can see it realized.
by Valerie, originally published by the Fellowship for Intentional Community in Communities Magazine
Here at Twin Oaks, we generally consider ourselves beyond conventional conversation restraints; this becomes immediately obvious by listening to a mealtime discussion of the lurid details of gruesome symptoms related to the latest sickness going around.
When it comes to talking about politics, it becomes a little more complicated. There are certain topics that we can all discuss with ease and generally agree upon. However, somehow there are others that are more like opening a can of worms while walking through a field of landmines…
Acceptable: Climate change and polar icecap melt.
More delicate: What temperature to set the communal hot-water heater, and the ecological implications of using ice-cubes.
Acceptable: Bernie versus Hillary.
A bit trickier: Organic versus Local.
Acceptable: Increasing water shortages and the evils of the bottled-water industry.
Tread carefully: The fact that a certain communard-who-shall-remain-nameless replaced the low-flow shower head with one that delivers the approximate force and volume-per-minute of Niagara Falls, without any process.
Acceptable: The discriminatory aspects of impending US immigration policy.
Walking on eggshells: Our membership process about whether to accept that controversial visitor from the last visitor period.
Acceptable: Gay marriage.
Call in the Process Team: Your lover announces their desire to form a polyamorous triad with that statuesque blonde who arrived as a new member last week…..