Wednesday, December 24, 2008

landing is hard

ok, so now we're back. the community hopping is over, the gallivanting and jet setting and international networking on pause for now as i focus on landing, settling and nesting. ironically, i've been yearning for this moment since i began this 2.5 year journey. but arriving here at long last is...well, a bit scary and intimidating. suddenly i'm supposed to create a life: a real, long-lasting, rooted and meaningful one. eek! so much easier to suck the marrow out of a week's stay at fascinating community X.

the various dreams and goals that have been piling up over the past years are washing over me in a wave of overwhelm: music projects, learning to crochet, gardening and preserving food, doing massage, training to be a doula, building community, creating a family (?!!? this one has its own, special level of overwhelm), going raw, being vegan, raising chickens, learning to bead and sew, baking bread, creating community, creaing community, creating community.....aaggghhh!!!!!!!!

and then there's the nitty gritty of a semi-mainstream life to deal with: going to the dentist, getting health care, switching bank accounts to the less evil one, inputting numbers into the new cell phone...

on this grey and lonely christmas eve, i just want to bury my head in my greg palast book and hide.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

a week at can mas deu

i continue to be very impressed with can masdeu's awesome radical and collective culture. here's the normal flow of their week, the requirements for each community member:

Sunday: Big day for the social center. 100-400 people show up each week. they serve up a delicious mid-day meal (usually 4 euros), host several workshops each week, give a big tour of the place, sell beer/wine/cake/empanadas, and provide a comfy hang out space into the evening. Usually about 1/4th of the people that show up are new to can masdeu, the rest of regulars or infrequent visitors.

this past sunday, 3 person polish circus showed up (and performed) and a gypsy-swing guitar player set the mood in the main room. lunch included polenta, artichoke, salad, and pumpkin soup. people hung out in groups inside and out, attended workshops, checked out the propaganda, library, free store, t-shirts and buttons, drank beer and ate cake until about 10pm. the money from this weekly event goes to support the house. each person is responsible for running 2 of these sundays/year.

Monday: chill day

Tuesday: work day in the house. tasks were collated on a sheet posted prominently during the week, and the day is organized by one member. community members are supposed to be were around to participate in this big fixer upper day, and the majority were. lots of stuff got cleaned, fixed, and rearranged. in the evening, everyone gathers for a movie or other communal activity (this week, a slide-show presentation about Twin Oaks!)

Wednesday: Bread day. 2 members run the brick wood-fired oven, and lots of other folks pop in to help out and hang out. they make bread for the house, as well as for other communities and CSAs in town. this system is called "auto-renta", in which community members run small businesses out of the building. they contribute some to the community and keep the rest.

Thursday: Garden day! all members are supposed to participate and most do. its also open to the public, and many friends and satellites of the community come by to work.

Friday: Bread day 2: officially open to other folks as a "workshop" day.

Saturday: chill day

The community´s labor system is called "minimums," a total of about 20 hours per week. the minimum that each member must do is: 2.5 cooking shifts/month (2 solo and one shared, or some such combo), one house-cleaning task/montrh, attend the community meeting every other week, the tuesday work day, thursday gardening day, and take one one large or 2 small areas of responsibility. they pay 25 euros/month towards food.

they own a collective car and of course, the rent is free. unfortunately, they are CLOSED to new members for the forseeable future....

my favorite uncle

me and my persian/parisian uncle saed! i love the look of supressed mirth that we share.

Friday, December 5, 2008


i guess we've been moving to fast to find time for blogging...we just descended into a solid week of tourism! its exhausting to be a tourist!

after a delightful time at k77 in berlin, we moved south to prague. in 2 words: freezing and beautiful. we were staying with paxus' wife out-law on the total siberian end of town, a long and bumpy tram ride to the edge of certainly never got higher then 32 degrees the whole time we were there. we did lots of walking around, saw beautiful palaces and cathedrals, ducked into cozy restaurants and cafes, and tried to stomach chzek food (still more potatoes and cheese). prague is hopelessly touristy, even in the bitter cold of late november. its also unbelievably beautiful. we took a day trek out to kutna hora, a small village an hour south that is also cute and beautiful, and features a giant cathedral and a church that is decorated with human bones from their cemetary!

we rode the night train (with sleeper beds! and unfortunately, no heat!) to paris. it was our cheapest option for getting to the other side of europe, and a good opportunity to visit my (favorite) uncle, saied. he's the youngest of my dad's brothers, and i hadn't seen him and his family for 15 years. he's a total sweetie, laid back, good-natured, and generally fun to be around. his 3 daughters were around some, too, and my aunt cooked us lots of yummy persian food. 3 more days of tourism, wandering around the louvre, monmart, more cafes (unavoidable in paris), and the eiffel tour by night. the subway was totally overrun by buskers, but i tried anyway and did alright, in the station and on the train itself (always a bit nervewracking...). i tried again on top of monmart, in front of the cathedral overlooking the city, and became a photo-op for many passing tourists. some even posed with me!

and now, we're at our final stop, Can Masdeu. Its a formerly squatted community on the edge of barcelona. they squatted it 7 years ago in a dramatic action in which they hung chairs, tables, and bathtubs out the windows with ropes, and then "hung" themselves there for 3 days (sitting in the chairs, bathtub, etc.). after 3 days with no food, water, or proper clothes, and massive protests and support in barcelona, the judge ruled that the right to life was more important than the right to property! they're still a bit nervous about being evicted, but in the meantime have created a beautiful and bustling community of 28 folks, lots of gardens, communal meals, regular community work days in the garden and in their bakery, and weekly sunday open-houses with workshops, food, and a bar.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

berlin bathroom


...the latest mass email post, a collaborative effort with sky...

Christiania is a free town/autonomous zone inside the borders of Copenhagen. It was an abandoned military base.

In 1969, some people broke through the fence and started squatting, with the intention of creating a free society. After many fights with the police, the zone was granted a special status in the danish system and the village was allowed to exist. The original people were a combination of student activists, drug pushers and hippies. They declared Christiania a "free zone" which determines its own rules and laws. One of the exit arches reads "you are now entering the EU."

Christiania is home to about 650 adults and 300 children. There are an incredible number of shops and businesses, as well as services run by Christianites. These include: garbage pickup, small grocery stores, a bath house, an indoor skateboard park, a large recycled building materials shop, several art galleries, one of Copenhagen's fanciest restaurants (which includes a row of tables specially reserved for Christianites and a special, cheaper menu for them), a women's iron forge, a shop that refurbishes old stoves, a kindergarten, and many others. One of the things Christiania is most famous for are their bikes. They developed a kind of tricycle with the parallel wheels in front, supporting a large carrying container.

They are consensus based (again, disproving the claim that consensus doesn't work in large groups.) The area is divided into about a dozen sub-sections that themselves have autonomy over certain decisions like who gets to move into vacated residences. There is also a large theater that is used for meetings of the entire community. The Christianites are responsible for maintaining everything, the buildings, the utlities, the roads, etc. They pay the government each month for the water and electricity used by the entire community. Everyone pays 2000 kroners (about $300) to live in Christiania, no matter whether you live in a flat in one of the large buildings or a old circus wagon, which covers utilities and the various public services.

Our first visit was on a rainy sunday afternoon. Our host, a former member of Christiania, took us for a visit at his girlfriends house, in Christiania, for some coffee and apple cake. Her house is right on the waterway that runs through Christiania, where houses are technically "illegal." .Some houses in Christiania have been built from the ground up, but most are the original military buildings that have been (illegally) expanded and added to. Ironically, the government is barred from knocking down the old military portion of those buildings deemed illegal because of historical preservation laws. When you look at a house sometimes you can just barely make out the old brick box that was the original military shelter amidst a creative and expansive construction.

As a free town, Christiania was still organized around certain firm boundaries. Christiania's Common Law states, "Christiania's commitment is to create and sustain a self-governing community, in which everyone is free to develop and express their selves, as responsible members of the community." Their prohibitions are "no weapons, no hard drugs, no violence, no private cars, no biker's colours, no bulletproof clothing, no sale of fireworks, no use of thunderflashes, no stolen goods." Interesting mix, eh?

Twin Oaks blurs the line between community (in the contemporary understanding) and society. Usually, it seems, communities have a sense of purpose. Twin Oaks has some of this, but mostly it's purpose is to perpetuate itself. In this way it is like a society. Christiania pushes this even further, partly because it is so much bigger, but also because it is so much more diverse. The various demographics: the pushers and users, the activists, the hippies, the families, all have more room to develop sub-cultures. This makes decision-making that much more challenging. Being a model, being something "uniquely danish" as the Christiania guide states, is certainly important to many people. Being a safe haven for (soft) drug use is vital to many others. "Pusher street" once had as many as 50 stands openly selling hash and marijuana, the other thing Christiania is perhaps most famous for. Various crackdowns have eliminated the open market, but at its height, Christiania was the center of the european pot trade, with about $1 million passing through the community every day. The vibrancy of the arts, music, and performance culture is the focus for others.

The incredible freedom and beauty that comes from autonomy and freedom of expression possible in Christiania is palpable and tangible as one walks through the community. There are sculptures, beautiful graffiti murals, mosaics and paintings everywhere you look. And the feeling of an entire village that has been created outside of the usual of public space stratas (private, residential or public, commercial) is very special. It feels vibrant, alive, and rich. Its a bit like walking around a rainbow gathering or maybe burning man, where you are surrounded by unchecked creative expression. Music pours out of the various venues, clumps of people gather in the streets, and the air vibrates with energy. And given that this was once a military instillation, the transformation seems even more profound. The diversity of experience is striking, where, for example, the stairwell to the fancy restaurant is completely covered in graffiti, top to bottom. Also striking was walking from Christiania's slightly hectic urban center to the peaceful and serene waterfront residential areas, where it was not hard to imagine being out in a rural commune. "Christiania has many faces," one member said to us.

"Christiania has many faces," and one way this has come up recently is in the struggles with the danish government. The history of Christiania has been marked by conflict. Even so, like SWOMP in Amsterdam the idea of this kind of thing existing in Washington DC is beyond comprehension. Over the years, changes in the government have brought a more hostile attitude towards the free town, especially towards the open drug market. Things have been especially tense over the last 5 years since a strongly right-wing government came into power with a clear intention to "normalize" Christiania. Christiania persists, although, of course, things have changed. The pressure has clearly taken a toll on the community. Arts and culture seem to be at a low point, and although the drug market is still underground, the substance use culture seems to dominate. A certain tension and depravity seemed to hang over the "downtown" of Christinia, where pusher street is the main drag. The fact that at most times there are more men than women on the street was an obvious symptom of this for us.

Our second visit highlighted the struggles of the free town, both internally and with the government. Christianites have been in a complex negotiating process in court with the Danish government about their legal status. Whenever the negotiations break-down, the police come in and knock down a few of the "illegal" houses. We arrived in the late morning on such a day. Negotiations had been stalled since the spring, and the police had come in the morning and knocked down the "illegal" part of one of the houses next to the river. Well into the afternoon, fully-geared cops roamed around and the streets were full of small clusters of people, tense and agitated, often shouting insults at the police. A protest was being planned, and most businesses had closed their doors. On one street, people spray-painted giant banners for the action. Many people were drinking or drunk, and an increasing number of the Christiania supporters arriving on the scene were young and black clad or older and staggering. One man that we talked to said years ago, Christiania was a haven for arts, performance, and other expressions of creativity; we agreed that this was hard to see today. Another person told us, "there's going to be a fight." As if to highlight this about 10 minutes later someone in Christiania shot a flare over a circling police helicopter. Around that time about 700 - 1000 people marched from the Christiansborg Palace to Christiania, marking the beginning of the day's active conflict.

Witnessing all this, what was clear was that only a small percentage of the protesters were members of Christiania. The people on the Christiania streets, and marching through the center of the city, were mostly young, black-clad, dreaded and pierced anarchists. Christiania's numerous children, famlies, and elderly members were noticably absent from the protests. For many people, it seemed like what was happening was a convenient excuse to fight with the police.

We returned that evening to a diabolic scene. People had been protesting in the streets all afternoon, and now the show-down was focused in front of Christiania. Traffic down the main street that runs along Christiania was blocked off by police vans and cops in full riot gear. A huge bonfire burned in the intersection near the Christiania main entrance. We snuck around back and ran into a bank of tear gas, then circled back to the front beyond the cop barricade but still a couple of blocks from the entrance. Other people were gathered in this area, talking and taking pictures. There were several large media vans with numerous reporters, photographers and filmers on the scene. Occassionally a battalion of police vans would tear down a parallel street and come at the throng of protestors from one of the other sides of the intersection.

We'd see people run down the street to meet the police, throwing bottles and rocks, only to run back to the bonfire a minute later followed by a cloud of tear gas. Eventually about 8 vans and several dozen riot police converged on the intersection and cleared the demonstration, pushing the conflict down side streets and into the edges of Christiania itself.

The next morning, the smell of tear gas lingered at the entrance, and a large piece of pavement had melted from the bonfire. Various people on the Christiania streets swept up broken glass and other debris, but these were the only remnants of the previous nights madness. Inside, things had returned to normal; shops were open and people lingered in the streets. We took a long walk around the canal past all the different small neighborhoods and isolated dwellings, all cute and/or funky to the extreme. We walked through the idealic courtyards and gardens of the old V shaped military installations - perfect for community. We met an artist who had just returned from painting in NYC, who very warmly invited us and welcomed us to look around.

We passed by the house that had been partially knocked down the day before; the cops had removed the "illegal" additions to the original military building; and people were already busy rebuilding it. When we mentioned this to our host he expressed a certain cynicism about this, that there was no way the Christianites could keep that up over the long term if the police persist. Still, it was a powerful image of community and freedom.

Sky's theory is that it is likely that the demolishing efforts are a calculated effort to divide Christiania and tarnish the community's reputation in the city, or at least to light a fire under the Christianites to keep the negotiations moving. If the government actually wanted to demolish the the illegal buildings, it seems unlikely that they would send in a single crew with a small police escort to take down one house. But even if this is not the intent it is certainly the effect. Several people told us that traffic had been at a standstill in several parts of the city center because of the conflict. A housemate of our host told us that on the bus people were wondering why things were stalled. She told them there were conflicts around Christiania, which elicited disparaging remarks towards the Christianites. This is ironic given that the number of Christianites in the conflict was probably quite small.

Our host's girlfriend told us that she came home from work not realizing what was going on. As she rode her bike towards the entrance she hit a cloud of tear gas and had to stop. Several of the protestors came over to her, and when she explained that she lived there and was just trying to get home they helped her through the scene. The latest issue of the Christiania newspaper published the most recent court document the lawyers for the community had prepared. The day after the confrtontation a community meeting was to be held to talk about what to do. Our host and his girlfriend confirmed that the community is divided over the issue of strategy.

When asked if the government will be successful in its effort to reintegrate Christiania into the normal functioning of municiple operations and housing market, both our host and a few members said no, but there will be changes. Changes had already started. The shift in culture for one, as well as an acquiescence of the part of Christiania businesses to operate fully under Copenhagen business rules. Also, the winds of politics may be changing. The right-wing government is increasingly unpopular, and will likely become more so given their handling of the recent global financial upheavels (most notably in their decision to cut subsidies for housing development at the same time that banks are less able to make loans, which will likely mean a severe rise in unemployment.)

Whatever happens, the future of Christiania is likely to continue to be colorful and dramatic.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

alien seeking family

"It'd be like being in Austin and not visiting your sister. Tobias is family," Sky explains his day trip down to Belzig. Sky has alot of family. There's the biological ones in California and Oregon: an x-twin oaker hippie dad and erratic mad scientist of a brother in Chico, CA. Various aunts, uncles, and cousins in Chico and the Bay Area. His Born-again Christian mom, X-cop step-dad, and half-sister up in Baker City, Oregon. Plus one more half sister and her family further south in California. Then there's the Star family: Paxus, Hawina and Willow...fairy godmother Spot (actually a person with multiple personalities)...Tobias here in Germany....

i woke up this morning in the grips of an intense dream of my own diminutive family. my mom, dad, sister and i have managed to fling ourselves to the furthest corners possible--mom's still in my childhood hometown in michigan's remote upper peninsula, Niku (sis) in Austin, Texas, me in VA and my dad in Iran, with a month out of each year in San Francisco. We couldn't have planned it better if we'd tried; as though we're fleeing from the trauma of the confluence of adolescence and ugly divorce. i certainly played an active part in that (both the trauma and the fleeing), running off to boarding school at 16 and mostly cutting ties with my dad, ignoring my sister's attempts to maintain connection and correspondence, and repeatedly hanging the phone up on my (poor long suffering) mother.

It worked pretty well. My relationship with each of them has limped along pathetically for years, and its only recently that i've really gotten how deeply important these relationships are and begun attempting to repair them. the first 4 meditation courses that i sat, my family dominated my dream life. Repeatedly sitting with myself and my wild monkey mind for 10 day stretches brought up those powerful and damaged emotional ties in a strong way. shoved down in my day-to-day, they were vivid and intense in my night time brain.

Last month i did a Landmark Course, and gratefully followed the coaching and encouragement to "clean up" with my family. Of course this can't be done in a couple of phone calls, but its a start. i called each of them and bared my soul, opened up, fessed up: acknowledged, apologized, and appreciated. over the years, my mother has managed to most effectively overcome my attempts to float off into the ether, and so also it was with her that it was the easiest to start bridging the divide. my dad and sister are further away emotionally and geographically. it will take longer with them, but i am newly committed to repairing these connections.

in last night's dream, i was bathed in the reality of my childhood connections to my nuclear family, before things got awkward, painful, difficult. Without these connections, and others like them, i'm just an alien floating unmoored. a wise woman once told me that i've lived most of my previous lives on other planets, and haven't fully planted my feet on this one yet. that i often feel alien and apart, unsure how to connect. this resonates strongly--though i have a deep yearning to root and connect, there is a lot of fear and anxiety wrapped up in years of failed attempts and self-defeating behavior in this realm. The same woman asked me, "what is it that are you afraid of in choosing a place and putting down roots?" hem, haw, hem haw.....

"of being alone."

...bizarre and frustrating since i also have intense social anxiety and get quickly overwhelmed by inter-personal contact. despite many long hours of self-reflection, my psyche is still a great mystery.

All to say. I miss my family. I miss family. And I'm tired of being an alien.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


this is a bit dated now, as we were in copenhagen a couple of weeks ago...

Svanholm is the Danish Twin Oaks, with a few notable differences. The community is 30 years old. They are 60 adults and 50 (!) kids living on a 1000 acre estate, about an hour NW of copenhagen. About a third of the members work outside the community. The rest work in one of the community run businesses (a crate making factory, large organic vegetable and dairy farm, and fruit/vegetable packing businesses, kindergarden, and a small organic shop), or in one of the service areas: car/bike maintenance, building maintenance, cooking, etc. For jobs that no-one wants to do, the community hires local X-members or folks who live in the area. Since the crate/pallet construction factory came with the estate, there are some local employees who pre-date the community! This is less awkward than it seems, since Svanholm is culturally and ideologically quite close to the Danish mainstream (certainly more so than TO).

The community makes decisions by consensus (contradicting those that say that consensus doesn't work in a large group,) and most decisions are decided in their monthly meeting. Right now, they are experimenting with incorporating a smaller committee to take on some of the smaller decisions on a more frequent basis. The family is the basic unit at Svanholm; the community was started by 2 families who put an ad in a newspaper; 80 people came to the first meeting! Most folks who move there come as a family. In Denmark, kids are not seen as a financial burden because of the state subsidies for families with children. The different cultural attitude towards kids is very palpable. There are lots of good kid spaces, including a large open area above the dining hall, complete with a playhouse and a set of giant legos. Socially, it is much less active than TO; families mostly go to their own spaces after dinner.

Svanholm recently shifted away from sharing all of their income equally, as they had done for many years. They changed to an 80%/20% system when they noticed that new people were averse to sharing 100% of their income and had stopped moving to the community. Now there's a complex system in members keep a portion of their income, though most still goes to the community for taxes, common expenses, food, etc. Those that work inside are paid wages on paper and still keep a portion . Members keep 20% of the first chunk of earnings, then 10% for a subsequent chunk, and there's a cap after that. This shift in their economic policy seems to have had the desired affect, as the community welcomed 5 new families this year. Over the years, Svanholm has been moving in a more individualistic direction socially and culturally, as well; many people have personal cars, there is less group-living, and more walls are being put up to divide spaces for the individual families. One notable difference between TO and Svanholm emerged in a short aside from our lovely tour guide, Pauline. She was talking about how the building group was very busy now because many of the families that move in want to have their own bathroom and kitchen. She said "we have a hard time saying no to each other." My experience at Twin Oaks is that people seem to have a hard time saying yes to each other. (sorry , couldn't resist that bit of recent x-member bitterness : ) )

Another big difference is in the length of membership and commitment to the community. 12 of the founding members still live at Svanholm, and many have lived there for over 15 years. When new members join, the community makes a decision to accept them after 3 months. After a year, the members make a commitment to the community. And if they want to leave, they must give a year's notice so that the community can budget for the change. There are also fewer younger members in their 20's, though many young interns come for several months in the spring, summer and fall.

Svanholm's public (and private) spaces are large, spacious, and aesthetically pleasing. There's lots of natural wood, large windows and good lighting. Almost all of the buildings existed when they got there (it was an estate with roots in the nobility), and are very old and beautiful. The dining room is large and spacious,

with a big kid's area upstairs. Everyone takes the weekends off and the relaxed feeling is palpable. On Saturday of our visit, a bunch of people came out to spend the day beautifying the dining hall. They'd gotten some material to hang as curtains in an attempt to help dampen the sound. About 25 people showed up, totally voluntarily and off the labor system. After a brief meeting about the day's plan (with lots of coffee and laughter), they all set to work ironing the curtains, dusting, clearing out clutter, and generally giving the dining room some love. Upstairs, a gaggle of kids worked on a talent show and performed it for the adults after lunch. The older kids baked some cakes for a mid-afternoon snack. The general feeling of the day was of one of cooperation and joy.

We were hosted by 2 members who had spent time in VA; Arne, his partner Hele and their 2 kids had spent 2 months at Twin Oaks in 1997. They had thoroughly enjoyed their visit and later hosted John and Marsha (sungergia) for a Svanholm visit. Pauline had lived at Innisfree for 2 years, and been to several Communities Conferences. Arne is very interested in fostering more cross-atlantic exchanges between the two communities, so come on by for a visit! They were wonderful hosts and very charming folk.

Friday, November 21, 2008

post meditation course berlin

as always, the 24 hours post-meditation course are very action-packed and exciting.

sky and i just sat a sati-patthana sutta course at the german goenka vipassana center. its an advanced course that goes over one of the main scriptures from the buddha. i really loved the center and the course; as always, i got alot out of it and also feel daunted by how much further there is to go.

we've gently landed in berlin, driving north through a huge snowstorm with some fellow meditators. the perfect ride to Kastanienallee 77, urban commune recommended by new friends from torri superiori in italy. its a former squat, community of artists and activists in three buildings that interconnect. the folks that squatted it back in '92 did a creative squatting action of dressing up at doctors and planting a heart in the center of the building. some how they managed to keep it from the cops and the landlords, and now basically own the buildings. each room has been very creatively renovated and they've kept alot of the original walls and doors for a very funky new/old feeling.

more to come........

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

briefly back from the void

greetings friends, my apologies for the brief disappearance into the void. sky, willow and i spent the last week at torri superiori, an unbelievably beatutiful eco-village in the mountains of northern italy (near the mediteranean and the border of France). the community of about 15 adults and 6 kids lives in a set of interconnected and overlapping built on top of itself over 900 years. yes, its just as amazing as it sounds. it was olive season, so we spent alot of time climbing trees in the olive grove. the folks there were totally awesome, sweet and laid back. and naturally, the food was unbelievably delicious.

today we head up to treibel, germany for an 8 day meditation course; so i'l be entering the pit of silence again until nov. 21...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

zombies and dinner

yesterday we tagged along with the anti-capitalist zombie march. paxus' blog has a great description, and here's one of my favorite photos.

Then we came home and cooked up another feast: brown rice with cashews and sweet potatoes, green beans with garlic, roasted onions and eggplant, and leftover surprise.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Casa Robino

dinner at the casa

Sky and I wrote this piece together for our Cville mass email list.

While in Amsterdam, we stay at Casa Robino, a kind of half-collective house half-crash pad. We found the house on, the newest manifestation of the hospitality network phenomena. Robin, who rents the flat and energetically holds the intention of the space, has been active in hitchhiking and hospitality networks for years. The house is a hub for cross-pollination because Robin is well connected, as are his friends (a friend of Paxus' had pointed us in his direction).

Long and interesting conversations often start around the dinner table, and then go on late into the night. On the second evening, the conversation lingered on the politics of hospitality networks. Both Robin and his friends Casper and Anu, also Casa Robino "hosts" (anyone who stays there is referred to as a host, as opposed to a guest), had been very involved with They were upset that the company has gone much more corporate and explained that BeWelcome was predominatley started by disenchanted couchsurfers. is now owned by one guy who had feigned an effort at collective engagement and then pushed people (like anu) out. It has increasingly focused on being a commercial operation and the people who use it are more mainstream, more focused on partying, more adverse to the elements of the network like hitchhiking.

A couple days into our stay at Casa Robino we decided to do some dumpsterdiving for the house. Dumpsterdiving in Amsterdam primarily involves going to one of the many daily street markets around closing time at 5 or 6pm, and picking through the conspicuous blue trash bins. In stark contrast to the US, vendors (in particular, the ones from Turkey or Morocco) will sometimes offer other food headed for the trash if they see you or if you ask nicely. At the market, we met up with with Lily and Mindy from the extended Casa Robino network. Lily is australian, traveling in euorope and working on a documentary about dumpster diving; Robin had put us in touch so that she could film us in action. We got a pretty good haul and then went back to Casa Robino to cook up a feast of liberated food. Paxus and Aisha (another dutch friend of Robins) joined us for dinner, and the evening's post-dinner conversations meandered back towards the politics of activism and hosting.

Aisha spoke passionatley about her frustrations with the rough edges of the anarchist squatting movement; she hopes to create an ashram and is not interested in the violent edge and constant uncertainty of squatting. Robin talked about his involvement with the spanish anarchist/squatters movement. He had lived and worked in Barcelona for 8 years, and left feeling very disillusioned. He recounting the story of an anarchist in a squat in Barcelona who threw himself to his death off a 5 story building. At the time, he asked, how could this happen in a community like this? This query led him to conclude that relationships are key to world transformation, including our relationship with ourselves. If we can't deal with the fucked up stuff in ourselves, how can we deal with it in the world? Casa Robino is an effort in this direction. The house is based on transforming the world through granting people unconditional trust; it operates on the principles of open space technology. People come in, get a set of keys, have access to the resources of the house, and they have transformative experiences. This possibility was palpable that evening. It was so amazing to feel total ownership over this kitchen and host a dinner party at a house we had just arrived at a few nights prior; deep satisfaction for one who yearns to root.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Day After

We went back to Christiania today to check out the destruction. But other than the lingering smell of tear gas at the main entrance and a patch of melted pavement where the bonfire had been, there wasn't much to be found.
We went for a long walk around the canal that cuts through the community and explored some of the quiet outer "neigborhoods." It was leafy and peaceful, far away from last night's madness.

We passed by the site of yesterday's house demolition. A bunch of people were around, rebuilding it already! the local news station was there, filming for tonights news.

One of my favorite parts of Christiania is the many public toilets.

show down at Christiania

Here is the article we posted on Indymedia; we arrived just in time with the camera. We are staying just down the street from Christiania, but don't worry mom, i'm not in any danger!

Tensions were high in Christiania Tuesday morning following the demolition of a residence in the free town. The incident is the latest in the ongoing struggle between Christiania and the Danish government. According to one resident, the eviction process resumes when the negotiations stall.

Following the demolition, groups of police continued to patrol the area while people from around the city congregated in Christiania. Around noon someone in Christiania shot a flare over a circling helicopter. Around 1pm approximatley 700 protesters, Christianits and supporters marched from the Christiansborg palace to Christiania. Things quieted in late afternoon, but by 7:30pm a large fire was burning in the intersection in front of the main Christiania entrance and police were blocking off traffic to the main road city road along Christiania.

Around 8:30pm police in riot gear pushed through the fire and the crowd with tear gas, moving the confrontation into Christiania and pushing onlookers back from the intersection. Fire trucks moved in to extinguish the flames. Throughout the confrontation there were loud booms, and cascading sparks from tear gas canisters and fireworks volleyed back and forth between police and protesters.

there's a good video from one of the local news networks, and one from earlier in the day

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

this is what democracy looks like

report from copenhagen:
we are spending out last few days staying with an x-christianite who lives very close to christiania (a large autonomous "free" zone/villiage within the city limits). last night we cooked dinner for for him and one of his housemates (quinoa w/roasted nuts, brussel sprouts, and a vegatable roast of carrots, potatoes and parsnips). Ditlev, our host, has his own businesses doing mediation and conflict resolution. he has no formal education in this (he used to be a carpenter), he just learned it living in christiania and working with group processes.

Yette, one of his housemates, works for a trade union and is a local politician. many years ago, she and some other people bought 2 ajoining houses and knocked out walls to make it a large open space for a collective. there are a few more walls now, but its still collectively owned and managed. Yette serves on denmark's version of city council--for copenhagen, a 55 person board that includes students and people of all walks of life. she represents the red-green party, a fusion of socialist and environmental parties. Their city council is similar to the national parliament in that it has proportional representation--so all parties must continuosly work together to create a critical mass for any particular piece of legislation. yette openly scoffed at our "democratic" 2 party system, and at the 9 month soap opera of election lead-up. hard to argue with that....

Monday, October 27, 2008

ain't she cute?

here's my mom in austin! in addition to being f'n adorable, she is an all around rock star. yay mom! thanks for everything!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


way too much to say but i don't want to fall too far behind so here's a brief midnight update. we're in copenhagen, denmark now and spent the past couple of days at svanholm, an egalitarian community very much like twin oaks. it was beautiful out there, the land was formerly a large estate including a nobleman's mansion. there are 60 adults and 50 kids that live there, and the kid friendly vibe is very strong. we brought willow with us and it was super fun to get some more time with him, i'm so enjoying our growing connection. we gave our first slide show presentation, and explored the various playgrounds.

now we're back in copenhagen, tonight we went to a party for the 20th anniversary of a culture house. hawina's friend ann is on the board, we were her guests there. she asked me to play some klezmer so i had my first solo stage performance in who knows how long! very fun but i bit nerve wracking. my leo side does love that undivided attention.

i've eaten enough sourdough rye bread in the past few days to feed an eastern european army. its just in my blood, i guess.

Monday, October 20, 2008

the voice gets louder

struggling to keep hanging up on the self-destructive voice in my head, and to break its strangling grip on my now-ness.

today we travel to the south of amsterdam, tomorrow a long train ride to copenhagen. perhaps i'll have time to learn a few tunes and journal along the way.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

busking and the pitfalls of dutch rap

first european busking attempt today! after riding across town on "gypsy," (the rickety yellow casa robino bike) in an on-off-and-on drizzle with the chain falling off every 5 minutes, standing up b/c the seat is too high, i found a spot near one of the entrances to the central train station. i felt pretty pessimistic as people flowed by in both directions paying no attention in their rush. but by the third song, a few people began throwing small coins into my case, and soon i had a string of eager listners, a few 2 euro coins, 2 ten euro notes (!) and even 5 pounds. i played for about an hour before heading back to meet up with pax and sky, and raked in a grand total of just over 40 euros! very gratifying.

one guy asked where i'm from, and then "which state?" "virginia" "ah, a swing state!"

tonight, sky and i went to a squat for a hip hop and reggae show, a pretty friendly scene with plates of falafal and hoummous for 4 euro, lots of dreddy, punky, and just plain old dorky folks and some very very silly dutch rappers. just a bit too bouncy, and the language really is unavoidably inherently silly sounding. some awesome graffiti there, photos to come....

Friday, October 17, 2008


today started with marginally fruitful attempts to fix some of the casa robino bikes, followed by a trip to buy a new bike tire, fix the camera, and try and get local cell phones.

in the afternoon, sky and i met up with a couple of women associated with casa robino at a nearby market. lily (from australia) is working on a documentary about dumpster diving, and she brought along her (dutch)friend mindy. we arrived at the tail end of the market as folks were cleaning up their stalls. strolling up and down the long street, we poked in the garbage bins and chased abandoned sidewalk scores, loading up 3 giant bags with avocados, tomatoes, radishes, eggplants, carrots, starfruit, melon, pineapple, plums, and papaya. the Moroccan venders were very friendly, one even pointed us to a palletful of vegetables. some of the dutch folk were a little less generous, one even pulled the trash can away and slammed down the lid! we loaded up lily's bike paniers and walked back to casa robino. paxus and aisha, a friend of robins came over and we cooked up a giant feast.

its so great being in this culture again--the easy flow and comfort with international anarcho-hippy culture. its been awhile since i've been in this environment and i feel that dormant part of me waking up again. i love hosting people, and robin's attitude about this house is essentially communal: whoever is here is creating it together. so it felt totally comfortable and easy to take over the kitchen, rummage for spices, cook up a bunch of food, make tea...making me realize that my longing to root is not a desire to own my own house necessarily--the need is totally satisfied in being able to cook for people and host in this fluid way.

days 2&3

My second day in amsterdam got off to a late start, still dragged down by the and i took the tram to the star-pad on the other side of town. the plan was for me to hang out with willow for a few hours while they had some precious, star family adult time. willow is such a sweet and fun kid, and it was great to get a chunk of time with him. we headed over to nearby osterpark (east park), where he chased pigeons around for awhile with glee and abandon...then we went to the giant and luxurious playground there. it has an amazging suspended swinging teetor toter, a giant rope climbing structure, bike powered merry-go-round, huge sand-box, swings, slides...and a tennis court. the dutch really know how to make playgrounds. we hung out there for awhile, til it started raining and then headed back to the pad for a snack and some homeschooling.

later that evening, we all ventured out to a nearby anarchist squat for a showing of "The Battle in Seattle", a holywood-esque version of the WTO protest there in 1999. there was a big pot of soup and some bread there, and the room filled up with mostly black-clad and chain-smoking internationals. The film was certainly dramatic and had some live footage, though folks who were actually there have some criticism of this fictionalized account.

Heading home after some post-movie decompression with pax and hawina, we ended up staying up for a couple more hours with robin and anu back at casa robino. robin is the house papa/host and anu is a long-term guest there. The house is part of a hospitality network called bewelcome, "a culture crossing network that lets you share a place to sleep, meet up and help others on their way." There's a whole subculture of these hospitality networks, including couch-surfing....they had a spirited conversation about couchsurfing's increasingly corporate bend.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

catch-up and amsterdam!

another whirlwind of a week...

the few post-landmark days in cville were great; i had the chance to connect with dream, brian and cassandra, and flame and that felt really good, to see myself in a new way and continue re-creating myself. i'm getting ever more excited to plunge into this c'ville community with both feet!

then it was back to TO for one night of frantic packing and off on saturday morning with ezra, driving up to Philadelphia to play a sunday wedding. we were staying with some really awesome folk, (friends of the bride/groom). they are 2 families sharing a huge awesome house in west philly, part of a 7 property land-trust. they pool their mortgage payments, taxes, and maintenance expenses. our host is a midwife, and her husband teaches business (focusing on progressive small businesses) at temple university. i picked their respective brains about doulas and about starting a co-op.

saturday night we collected madog and then hit south street for some busking. we were camped out in front of a kitchy-skeleton store which was a totally awesome back-drop, right next to the all night philly cheese steak place with a line around the corner.

we rocked out for about 20 minutes, with people eating up, dancing the jig and generally gettin' happy when the inevitable cop came by to shut us down. we moved on to the UPenn area where there was a college-freshman party in the streets goin' on... the wedding on sunday was just beautiful. it was at a botanical garden, small and fairly DIY. it was nice to see the philly jews again, that scene is so sweet and comfy. i teared up throughout the ceremony. dinner was delicious--sweet potato lasagna, kale, and kambucha at the bar! and we played a ROCKIN' hora, with multiple people up in the chairs and lots of hijinks.

and now, i'm in amsterdam! yesterday sky and i walked across the city. its so pretty and nice with big bike lanes, tons of little shops and dark, cozy cafes. the absence of chain stores and ads is very noticeable and the whole city has a peaceful, relaxed feel to it. i'm still struggling with jet-lag and general disorientation but its getting better. more to come...

Thursday, October 9, 2008


i feel like i'm on fire. maybe its the chocolate almond coconut latte that i just consumed.........

i'm in charlottesville now, just back from the life changing and totally transformational landmark forum. i spent the weekend in baltimore, staying with a woman i'd never met, sitting with 100 other people for 13 hours a day, for 3 days straight. its hard to talk about what the forum "is". its easier to talk about what i got out of it.

What i got out of it is a transformed relationship with my family. i had the opportunity to renew and reinvent my relationships with my mother, father and sister. to express how important each of them are to me, how much i love them and that i'm creating the possibility of an intimate and involved relationship with each of them. i told my dad that i loved him, something i haven't done in over 10 years. i heard him say that he loved me, something i haven't heard in just as long. i cried through the whole conversation with my mother, and she was stunned, saying that it was the most amazing phone call she'd ever received. My sister seriously considered flying out to baltimore for my tuesday evening completion session, even in the midst of her tumultous life situation. of all the people in my life, i am particularly committed to standing for her greatness, and can see so clearly how much she would benefit from doing the work that i just engaged in at the forum. i feel so blessed to have the opportunity to really express to each of them how important they are to me, how much i love them, and to be able to reinvent my relationships with each of them.

I also got a renewed sense of ease with myself in the world and in relationships. i'm not "someone that people can't understand." People are just as afraid of me as i am of them. I can be a source of love, openness and compassion for people in my life, without fearing that they won't like me or won't understand me. and that's possible in part b/c of the renewed foundation of strengthened relationships with my immediate family.

and, i feel a renewed sense of and strength in my own power and possibility for what i can create in the world. i don't need to waste my energy worrying about small things, or create small problems for myself. i don't need to worry about getting a job that i hate to pay rent. i can take on huge problems, like helping people transform their lives by creating a healing and safe space for people to see possibilities in themselves and their lives. I am ready to dive into the work that Sky and I have been building towards for the past year: dedicating ourselves and our lives to creating change and new possibilities in the world around us.

We're starting to craft a slide-show presentation about our work and research of the past 6 months, pulling out the themes and concepts, communities and projects, our own trajectory through it all, where we stand now and what we're looking to create. We're forming an urban commune design council to pull more people into the process of creating a radical and cooperative community here in town. I'm starting to formulate a workshop based on The Work That Reconnects, inspired by Joanna Macy. The Work is a way of creating space for people to connect to and express the full range of emotional responses to the currenty state of life on this planet, to connect to the despair, anger, sadness, alienation that are inevitable responses. Facing this emotional reality allows us to see the interconnectedness that is the root of our despair, as well as fertile ground that this interconnectedness can be as a portal for getting in touch with the many possibilities for positive action and transformative reconnection that are possible. Its about seeing the power and strength we step into as a result of recognizing our connectedness to each other and to the possibilities that we can create.

i feel really excited to step into all of this.

Monday, October 6, 2008

you gotta check out this SNL spoof of the vice presidential debate--f'n hilarious, gosh darnit!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

how to get to eastern europe?

here i am at the vegetarian festival. A woman from the Central Virginian took this picture and then wrote, asking if i'm a Twin Oaks resident!

Rob Breszny has instructed me to "stay alert for what i don't realize i need to know". in response to that, sky pointed out that my intuition is stronger than his, but i trust it less. so, my self-instruction for this next slew of adventures is to keep my eyes open and my consciousness fluid.

we're back in c'ville, sky flies across the pond tomorrow. yesterday was a long and good day--we worked our little tushies off at the vegetarian festival. we were running the twin oaks tofu booth, ironically enough. we passed out many tiny cups of ira's amazing greek tofu salad, bulgar tempeh pilaf, wild mushroom pate and tofu chocolate "cheese" cake. and ate lots of it ourselves. then it really started pouring and we holed up at the mudhouse, reading and computering til quite late. at the end of the night, we met up with rat--local activist and musician. it was great walking around and chatting with her, good inspiration for the community center. and for music. i really like her, she's super chill and very straight talking, and she railed against the patriarchy of orthodox jews.

somewhere in there, i got totally wired on coffee, kicking me out of my entrenched pms and sending my cells into vibratory shock.

i'm trying to finagle a way to get to eastern europe. i'm dying to go there, i want to learn music and dance the dances and sing, just soak in that culture. it seems ludicrous to go all the way over there and then stop at prague. any leads?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

my free will astrology horoscope for this week feels very pertinent:

What you're about to leave behind is helpful but a bit dull; it's fortifying but old-fashioned; comforting but homely. What you're headed toward, on the other hand, is invigorating, through slightly disruptive; it's futuristic and amusingly confusing; interesting but also a real test of your flexibility. The transition may happen faster than you thought it would. Congratulations in advance on being a good-natured transformer.

things i'm excited about right now:

1. giving lots of massages
2. starting a distance learning doula training
3. joining the UVA klezmer band and the accordian death squad when i get back from europe
4. the new and improved vulgar bulgars...?
5. networking with the many awesome community folks in this area
6. sky

i did a crazy overnight at TO in the middle of a wed-mon cville stint. the VB's finally reunite at the pirate party! it was super fun to play together again, amplified and in front of a rowdy audience dressed as pirates. arr! then the party get very debauched and i felt detached.

more good talks with good folks in cville. even a few potential friendships that i feel good about. flame gave me some encouragement to keep doing massages. i've started working on the doula training. and continue to drool over many houses around town that are for sale.

busking at the farmer's market on saturday morning was moderately lucrative, but i ran into joel rubin, renowned klez clarinetist and leader of the UVA klez ensemble, which he invited me to join. and rat came by, of the accordian death squad. they've recently lost their fiddler and she sort of invited me to join. and the VBs have secured the awesomest accordianist around, and will begin remaking ourselves into a kickass wedding ensemble for the spring '09 season! yee haw.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


i've been finding myself in many conversations about "what's wrong with twin oaks", and why i left. one main reason that i'm noticing more and more is the tendency towards negativity. its so hard to resist, so easy to indulge, and so ultimately unproductive!

despite that, my time there this week was fine--nesting in ira's room is very nice, also spending more time with sky/willow. the band finally reunited and had a couple of practices, preparing for our first gig in over 6 months! this weekend--a wedding at a goat farm/b&b, with belly dancers and a bluegrass band. should be interesting. all the usual challenges are there, but mostly i feel such a sense of relief to be able to release that part of me again, the part that comes alive in the vulgar bulgars. especially after thinking that it was over, in the past, never to be again.

europe plans are falling into place, as well, so i'm feeling more excited and optimistic about that. we even bought tickets back to the states(dec 18th). the current itenerary is: amsterdam(or southern netherlands, depending on housing options, copenhagen/christiania with hawina, sky & willow, a week at a community in italy w/willow and sky, then the meditation course in germany with sky. after that we'll have 10 days or so to make our way to spain, possibly stopping in berlin, prague, paris, bordeaux....and then a few weeks in spain, possibly also tamera community in portugal. feels like a good mix of free-form and structure. it'll certainly be interesting.

i got such a huge energetic kick from the raw food dinner that i'm trying to focus more on diet and eating well. i just slipped though and ate a bunch of moose-tracks ice cream!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

weird ailments and strong beginnings

making it into charlottesville on thursday afternoon was such a relief!! lots of exciting updates and networking in the past 3 days. we've been staying with this sweet-as-pie couple in town, X-acorners, in their peaceful, quiet little house. our room is very light with white muslin curtains and softly shaded paintings. thursday night we met up with Daniel from CHUVA (cooperative housing at the University of Virginia)and checked out 2 of their 3 houses. he was totally on-board, excited for us to work together and help each other out however we can.

our current mission seems to be meeting up with friends, friends of friends, etc. sharing visions, and figuring out potential connections. it feels good to move from information intake to synthesis and output (and eventually towards action!)

weirdly, all weekend i've had this achyness, headache, feverish, stomach-ache combination of physical unpleasantness. very mystifying since i'm usually very fit and feeling healthy. and of course i'm feeling a bit trepidatious about returning to the oaks, especially after extended and in-depth conversations over last nights dinner about all that is dysfunctional about the place...thomas called this ailment "twin oaks' revenge". apt, as always

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

lightly traumatized

the wave of fear and despair is lapping at my toes....

feeling physically unwell today, feverish and congested in the lungs and sinus, plus a nasty stomach ache (cramps?). and the fear, anxiety, stress--i have been spreading myself thin, working lots and not taking time and space for myself. and now we're a bit nomadic room-wise again...we moved today and will again tomorrow, sharing a tiny room.

an unpleasant run in with an unpleasant person today, and i've been working extra hard to tune up with the positive vibrations, not get sucked into the vortex of negativity.

of course most folks are great, and are happy i'm here, etc. there's so many small delightful things--picking pears and paw-paws in the courtyard, eating freshly baked bread, picking beans, giving massages, swimming in the river.

i feel hopeful and a bit catious about zygoat faux pas, our new little clan. i cozy little circle of folks who can't help but go deeper, something i need very much right now...

well,time to drink tea and read harry potter with sky and willow...more soon!

Monday, September 1, 2008

twin oaks!?!?!?

back at twin oaks again, after a month in meditation land. i really loved the vipassana meditation center in illinois, its quite small and the landscape is so pretty; rolling farms, lots of wildflowers, very midwestern. sitting was pretty chill, no major eruptions (except my ovaries on day 9!) or emotional traumas. i'm slowly slowly moving towards really pushing myself hard. after a 3 day break in chicago, we returned to serve for the next course. i was the only full time female server, so they made me the female manager!! something i'd both hoped for and feared. it was great though, i really thrived on the added responsibility. it felt really good to have that direct contact with the women, and be a source of succor and aide for them.

and now, here we are back at twin oaks again. as usual, it feels like nothing and everything has changed. there are of course tons of new faces. same old dramas. same old struggles.

this morning, i made granola and bread and then tied off hemp hammocks with sky. the bread is very white and squishy, too much oil i think. i want to try sourdough but am intimidated. the new members that i've talked to all seem to understand and relate to my reasons for leaving--namely, the absence of a culture of kindness.

this past weekend, a bunch of us community floaters (some x members, some soon to be x members) held a weekend summit. i finally got to meet kate's baby, aurora (4 months). she's great, and it was a confirming wake up call that now is not the time to weigh myself down in that way. i'm curious if becoming a doula and being more involved in communities of pregnant women will ease my desire to go through with it myself. time will tell.

still feeling a bit nervous and apprehensive about picking up and flying across the world next month. but the weekend's meetings were very heartening, and i feel glad to be part of an emerging community on multiple levels. gardens shifts the next two mornings, then back to cville on thursday! sky's keeping us on a rigourous diet of cville trips, good thing or i might dissolve into a puddle of labor credits, overworking and paranoia. (when i'm here, i feel like i have to work all the time or people will hate me.)

the weather is perfect, blue skies and not too humid. i hope folks are ok down south and in New Orleans.

Monday, July 21, 2008

the rhizome collective

thursday was a long day of travel, and so incredibly pleasant! i set strong intentions for a smooth transition, spent 2 days packing and preparing carefully, 3 hours preparing travel food and lots of time breathing and grounding. it was a true portland send-off, with the bus riders rallying to deliver me quickly and conveniently to the nearest airport bound MAX (lightrail) station (the website was wrong, go figure). my new friend Gordy helped me carry my bags and we chatted amiably, discovering that his co-worker's son lives at the Emma Goldman Finishing School in Seattle.

i also had an extremely absorbing book with me, on loan from laura W. called Caucasia, its an amazing portrait of a biracial family living in Boston during the racial tensions of the 70's and 80's. the dad is black, mom is white, one daughter dark and the other light. Danny Senza manages to dig deep into the reality and theory of racial identity from all sides, in addition to homophobia and classism.

of course austin is hotter' en hell, the firey sun boring down at mid-day. it took a bit of time to adjust, and to adjust to our new temporary digs at the rhizome collective. rhizome is housed in a giant warehouse. there's a bunch of rooms where folks live, in addition to an extra kitchen space for food not bombs, an events/performance space, a bike shop (for bikes to mexico), a book and work space for inside books project, gardens, a GIANT and very ugly turkey, and a radio station.

folks that live here are supposed to be working for one of the organizations that uses the space, and the founders do RUST trainings (Radical urban sustainability) twice a year. its collectively run by reps from each of the organizations that uses the space, and a resident rep. pretty awesome, though its quite in the summer b/c its so f'n hot that everyone splits. we're camped out in the zine library with a giant fan to fend of the mosquito hordes and move the hot and heavy air around.

so far we've found pretty good bike routes, including a nice walk/bike path along both sides of the charles river. heat survival tactics include dunking at barton springs, a natural spring on the west side of the city, lying in front of giant fans, and drinking tons of iced kambucha.

austin is very arts and music oriented, and folks are decoratively tattooed and pierced. it feels alot smaller than portland, and sleepy under the summer heat, but i like the southern/spanish vibe.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

all mixed up, to austin i go

now poised on the brink of leaving my home for the past 10 weeks, this beautiful sweet community...i feel so much love and attachment; the folks here just rock my world on so many levels. politically engaged, hard working, so loving and generous, f'n hilarious, intelligent.....and hot as hell. i'm pretty much crushed out on each one of 'em.

the garden's just starting to come into the crest of summer; beets, collards, peas, rasberries, currents, broccoli, kale, and cabbages coming on now.

i feel excited too for what is coming. excited to see my awesome rockstar sister and check out the rhizome collective. i'm glad for a month's worth of sitting and serving at a meditation center.

and i'm downright nostalgic for virginia and twin oaks folks. i descended into tear jerking sloppyness this afternoon, watching youtube videos of the fam out there--trout playing his hobo guitar, paxus telling one of his stories, and ezra with his road trip-deer guts story.

so moving on from this temporary home, i feel sadness in my gut but light of heart, stepping into the next adventure and knowing i'll be back.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

the fair

i just spent the weekend at the Oregon Country Fair

the fair is a weekend long festival of creative expression, music, costumes and general zany self expression. anything goes at the fair, and many people dress up in beautifully creative costumes, paint their chest and go bare, where feathers or go naked. the vendors and stages are all tucked into the woods, lending it all a magical-fairy-realm ambience. buskers dot the paths, one of my favorites was the stamenphone: a 16 string harmonic sculpture played with a cello bow. created by ela lamblin after having a dream that he was playing a flower, it has a beautiful, etheral sound and is a work of art in and of itself.

The Oregon Country Fair creates events and experiences that nourish the spirit, explore living artfully and authentically on Earth, and transform culture in magical, joyous and healthy ways.

that's the fair's mission, and the level of environmental consciousness is very inspiring. all vendor plates and cups are compostable. there are giant, well labeled recycling bins everywhere and the recycling crew is diligent and committed. the whole fair is run by autonomous volunteer "crews" that handle all aspects of the fair: the sound, recycling, ambience, etc. folks on these crews, as well as all the vendors are part of the fair family and are able to camp on site, and continue the bacchanalian festivities into the night.

i lucked my way onto one of these crews, and spent the mornings getting folks to fill out fair surveys. my favorite nighttime activity was The Ritz, a giant and beautiful sauna complex. it has 2 saunas, one big enough for about 50 people, the other a bit smaller. there's also a slew of open showers and a fire pit in the middle. the middle part is open to the air, roof-free and there's a small stage next to the fire pit. its quite a magical scene, to be in post-sauna relaxed bliss, hanging out around the fire with 50 other naked happy people and listening to an amazing band play 10 feet away.

the fair can feel totally overwhelming, in the heat of the day when the paths are packed. its grown each year and now ticket sales are capped at 45,000 for day passes. they sell out each year. about 7,000 people are camped out on site as part of the fair family.

busking on the side of the path was also a treat, folks were certainly appreciative and i even picked up another fiddler and a guitarist!

Friday, July 4, 2008

being seen

a friend came to visit for a couple of days. i talked his ear off, exhuming some of the most tightly wound ruminations that have been running me of late. he listened deeply and gave helpful feedback and reflections where appropriate. i feel really grateful for his open-hearted listening; it is such a gift to be seen.


Humanity is depicted here as a rainbow of beings, dancing around the mandala of the earth with their hands joined together in joy and gratitude for the gift of life. This card represents a time of communication, of sharing the riches that each of us brings to the whole. There is no clinging here, no grasping. It is a circle without fear of feelings of inferiority and superiority. When we recognize the common source of our humanity, the common origins of our dreams and longings, our hopes and fears, we are able to see that we are all joined together in the great miracle of existence. When we can combine our tremendous inner wealth to create a treasure of love and wisdom that is available to all, we are linked together in the exquisite pattern of eternal creation.
--osho zen tarot, we are the world, and crop circles

Thursday, July 3, 2008

bringing back the feminine

it is ever more clear to me that on a personal, community, and societal level we are in desperate need of recognizing and honoring feminine energy.

While the 'Sacred Feminine' or 'Divine Feminine' means different
things to each of us, at its most essential it is that life force within
every sentient being, every woman and man, to create , to nourish,
to intuit and be in cooperative relationship to others. Symbolized
since before recorded time by female deities and earth goddesses
--and suppressed by the male-dominated, sky-god religions, leaving
our world unbalanced and wracked with war-- the Sacred Feminine
is again on the rise.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

community organzing 101

Margaret Wheately rocks on many levels. Here is a summary of her 10 principles for creating healthy communities; or get it from the horses mouth on you tube (search for Margaret Wheately; each principle is a short video).

1. People support what they create. The only way to create ownership is to involve people in creating the project; everybody has to feel that they've had a voice at some point in the process. People do what they feel engaged with, so they need feel involved in some aspect of creation of the work.

2. People act responsibly when they care. Ask yourself, "are we working on an issue that people truly care about?"

3. Conversation is the way people have always thought; we talk together in order to think well together. Its through conversation that people collectively discover shared meaning and what they care about.

4. To change the conversation, change who's in it. If the conversation is stuck, invite in new people w/different perspectives.

5. Expect leaders to come from anywhere. A leader is anyone who is willing to help b/c they've made a connection to something that needs to be fixed or changed.

6. Focusing on what is working gives us energy and creativity. Focusing on what isn't working is demoralizing. Ask, "what's possible here, and who cares?" Then bring in the people who really do have a stake in the issue. This releases our creative energy. When we focus on what's right, possible, and what we can do, the problems fix themselves.

7. The wisdom resides within us--we have the solutions we need. When people are in regular, reflective communication w/trusted people, the answers come out. Ask, "do we look inside our community to find the answers there?"

8. Everything is a failure in the middle. When things are falling apart, its an opportunity to learn and re-organize: get together, think together and come up with good solutions. Ask, "what do we do when things are falling apart?"

9. Humans can handle anything as long as we're together. Its the quality of our relationships that gets us through, and we need to learn to take relationships seriously.

10. We need to be together in a spirit of generosity, forgiveness and love. When things go wrong, we should know that the community will help. We each have to be accountable for the negative things we say about each other. Stop the blame and start trusting and being kind to each other.

"we were together i forget the rest"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

checking in

things i'm doing to take care of myself:
1. take daily walks in the woods
2. hold space for sister circle/rituals at the new and full moons
3. play violin every day
4. remember to root like a tree
5. contribute daily to the community
6. lots of bike riding

things i want to work on:
1. playing to my strengths
2. communicating well and clearly
3. being community minded; seeing my place in the larger vision of collaborating, interwoven, mutual-aiding communities
4. giving the benefit of the doubt
5. loving

Thursday, June 5, 2008

communication and release

although i'm totally down with direct communication, i'm periodically re-astounded at how amazing and powerful it can be. in the past 12 hours, i just had two really intense experiences of this, both with women in the community here.

The first grew out of a conversation with a woman who i find totally intimidating. she is a completely dedicated and very active community organizer, systems thinker, radical revolutionary awesome woman. we were talking late last night about something that went down the other night that had unpleasant ramifications. we were both doing a good job of saying our own truth and hearing each other, but it was obvious that she was holding back alot, feeling triggered and hurt but unsafe to hold or express it. after resolving that particular issue as best we could, i took the plunge and asked if i could share with her some of my own stuff that was impacting my connection to her, and then told her about my insecurities around her, and that i just felt dumb and ineffectual when i was around her. the whole dynamic shifted dramatically, and i could feel the release and shift of energy very deeply in my body--intense waves of energy vibrating out from my core and between us. she was very appreciative for this opening and it seemed to shift things inside her, as well. we talked for a little while longer and ended with a hug. it felt like a giant barbell had been removed from my gut.

the other opportunity for deep sharing happened just this morning. it is a woman here who i like very much, but for some reason triggers the emotional pain of this past winter at twin oaks and the whole difficult and dramatic poly-mess that colonized my emotional life for several months. i debated for awhile, wondering if naming this trigger would just create more weirdness and drama, but finally just went for it. again, intense energetic release vibrating through me. she was very grateful that i had brought it up, and i could feel my blocks towards her start to dissolve.

we've just entered the new moon in gemini, a time to focus on communication. may we all see ourselves clearly, speak our truths and hear and hold each others' truths in fullness and love.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

last night at the VBC

starhawk, unassuming and relaxed, perched on a stool on the stage and chatted amiably with the audience for about 45 minutes. she talked about the challenges of stepping outside of hierarchical structures to work together in small groups and share power. power imbalances are inevitable, a long-term member of a group ought to have more influence than a brand new member. but she pointed out that in order to make this work, we need to have clear paths for gaining power and influence; in a non-hierarchical group this path is created by taking on tasks and completing them. she talked about trusting each other to head up projects so that we don't always have to decide everything in a group, and about holding each other accountable through clear, kind and direct feedback.

then she led the room in a spiral dance. it was magical to watch from above--a room full of disconnected people milling about, first starting to chant tentatively

the water is deep
the rapids are strong
we're caught in the current
we don't have long

so pull for your lives
the change is near
pull together
love is stronger than fear

and like a long, slow ripple, the room transformed in a matter of minutes. order spread out from the center, slowly widening to encompass the whole room and everyone in it. and a roomful of disconnected strangers turned into a room full of people connecting with each other person in a winding, ordered way. wow!

at the end, everyone stood together in concentric circles, whooping and howling with hands raised high over head. as the whooping began to die down, a powerful OM grew out from the center, spreading and grounding the energy. then starhawk suggested that we take this energy that we'd raised and give it back to the earth, and everyone knelt to the floor to send this healing energy back to mama gaia.

it felt like such a metaphor for social change in the coming times. right now, looking around, the world feels overwhelming to me. the planet and its inhabitants are suffering so much on so many levels: the rapid destruction of precious wild places and diversity of plant and animal species, widespread hunger and homelessness, wars, famines, extreme weather disasters, and a deep alienation from the things that are most precious: family, community, cultural traditions, growing food....

there are so many people in varying levels of engagement with each other and with movements for social transformation, but there is a lack of cohesion between them. the forces of greed and violence still hold the reigns of power, and continue to charge ahead with breakneck speed.

but once we reach a tipping point or critical mass of inter-connection between groups and individual people who are working for change, the transformation will fall into place with shocking rapidity and organic beauty.

as starhawk said, in these times we can't afford the luxury of being merely realistic.