Friday, April 18, 2008

West Coast Hospitality

Last night, I willingly fell victim to a west coast wolfer. Caught in a bout of loneliness, insecurity, and emotional neediness, I allowed myself to be spiritually violated by a wolf in hippies clothing. As sky said afterward, I "fell right into his eyes." some combination of intense eye-gazing, well-timed compliments, and pure woo-woo BS tore down my defenses and whirled me into la-la land.

On the surface, it looked perfectly innocent--just casual conversation and foot-rubs exchanged on the couch. But when I finally pulled myself away to go check in with a very agitated Sky hiding out upstairs, my body was shaking uncontrollably from the massive influx of coursing, ungrounded energy. Sky quickly doused my flame with his look of incredulity, telling me that this dude was a vampire who preyed on women.

It took quite a while to shake myself loose of space-dude's energetic grip; some vigorous yoga and a long hot shower helped, but even during the next morning's meditation session, my mind was still racing with anxiety and fear. It really threw me to see my self-destructive blind spots in action.

Later, reflecting on the whole scenario with sky, I realized that a lot of my emotional and sexual desire towards men is rooted in a yearning for groundedness, real or perceived. Since I often have trouble grounding my own energy, I feel pulled towards people who are (or seem) calm, solid, grounded. In a way, its me passing the buck, shirking my own responsibility to center and process my own shit by resting in the ease and comforting solidity of someone else's peaceful presence. Sky's groundedness is a large part of my attraction to him--but he's also got a strong manic side...and that part of him has, at times, triggered doubts in me about whether or not we are a good match. There's a part of me that craves deep and quiet calmness, in myself and in my relationships with other people. How can I honor that without giving away my power to skeezy poser freaks?

So I'm trying to take this experience as a strong reminder that its unrealistic and even potentially dangerous to rely on someone else to do my grounding work for me. And to cast a suspicious eye on premature foot-rub offers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rock and a Hard Place

My partner Sky and I have been together two and half years now, and in that time our relationship has fluctuated from totally open to totally monogamous, and everything in between. We work hard to be honest with ourselves and each other, and to take responsibility for our own part in the challenges and difficulties that arise.

A year and half ago, Sky said he wanted to move back to the West Coast (he grew up in northern California and the Bay area). I'd already decided to leave Twin Oaks but hadn't figured out my next destination. We were both ready to explore community and revolution out here in babylonia, and the woo-woo hippie progressive vibe of the Pacific NW seemed like a good next stop to me. Over the next year and half, we each spent chunks of time traveling and exploring on our own. I went to Israel and did a Jewish Farming/Community internship, he did an initial West Coast communities exploration, both of us still based at Twin Oaks. Our friends, his family, my band and the sense of ease and comfort there kept pulling us back.

March 7th was the day we finally headed west in a heavily laden rental car. The plan was to do a more in-depth exploration of West Coast possibilities, and if we found It, stay put. Our relationship has always been the strongest when we are collaberating on shared projects, like publishing The Leaves, (Twin Oaks' newsletter), planning workshops on cooperative decision making, or doing speaking gigs about Twin Oaks. We've been on this travel jab just over a month now, and our relationship is the strongest its ever been. Visiting friends and family, networking with other community minded folks, hiking and biking in beautiful places and visioning a creative and socially engaged life....

But the reality is actually painful and complex. Sky's family, his two co-parents and six year old son are very rooted at Twin Oaks, and not very interested in uprooting to the West Coast. Sky was 21 when Willow was born; Hawina and Paxus, Willow's other two parents, were quire a bit older. The three parents worked out a “circus clause” for Sky, since he was jumping into this kid-and-family adventure at such a young age. The circus clause gave him free reign to take off for a year or so, to explore the world in way that isn't really possible when you are a full time parent. But a year's exploration is pretty different from bi-coastal parenting.

So here we stand: after 5 years of centering my life around Twin Oaks Community, I'm psyched and ready to jump into an urban environment and explore musical projects, build community and create and demonstrate radical life alternatives in a way that has a higher and more direct impact on more people. It's exciting and attractive to envision doing this with Sky—my partner, best friend, lover, emotional support, and co-conspirator in imaging and creating radical alternatives and revolutionary adventure schemes.

Sky would probably ditto all of that, and....his kid, his precious, precocious, sweet, cuddly, rambunctious, brilliant kid, and his two amazing, dedicated, radical, engaged parents are all 2,825 miles away on the opposite coast. And that's where it all stops making sense, logic flies out the window, and my stomach turns over and wrenches. Its hard to even imagine the “right” way to make this decision: is it better to be a long distance parent who is engaged in a fulfilling life, albeit all the way across the country? Or is it more important to sacrifice dreams and plans to be a hands-on parent, fully immersed in the day-to-day reality of parenting? I'd really like to to recuse myself from the whole decision making process, steer clear and let Sky and the Star Family work it out for themselves. But at this point, my life is totally enmeshed with Sky's on every level.

So, instead of running and hiding, i think that thing to do is work on holding emotional space for Sky to feel his way through this decision and try to let my own reactions and attachments play out with out feeding them (these range from NO DON'T GO! to NO DON'T LEAVE YOUR KID!), and stay engaged and open while letting go of hopes and expectations for the future of our relationship.

I wish there were a guide book out there for this sort of thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Our next stop in California was Chico, a smallish city in norther California. We had a pretty good setup, staying with sky's Dad Dale at Valley Oaks Village (VOV), a co-housing community he (dale) helped start about 12 years ago. The community has about 20 individual units in a long oval, surrounding a central landscaped area. A little creek and paths run through, and there's a small pond at one end. The other end has a big bike shed, community garden space, giant community building and a pool. VOV definitely has the feel of middle class commune; one of dale's house-mates even referred to it as “bougified yuppieville”. Even so, its a pretty sweet scene; lots of families and kids live there, most of whom were founding members. Community meals happen a few times a week, and everyone pitches in on the general upkeep, landscaping and community celebrations.

VOV is just down the road from bidwell park, the second largest city park per square mile in any US city (first is central park in NYC). Bidwell is huge and beautiful, with bike and walking paths running throughout. The park runs the length of the downtown area, providing a lush and beautiful commute to almost anywhere in town. Most days, we biked to town for groceries (there's a phenomenal food co-cop), busking, or computerized coffee-shopping.

We also spent lots of time with Dale, an X-oaker with a strong penchant for community building and personal growth work. We got out of town a bit too; sky's dad and brother Shandon just bought a 40 acre chunk of land about a half hour away, with hopes of homesteading and community-building. Its very striking, a little flat section that quickly drops off to a deep gorge of lava rock with a bubbling creek pooling and waterfalling down through the center. Dale and Shandon have been pouring themselves into the grueling physical work required to get the land ready for building. Shandon and his partner are hoping to start homesteading up there, and Dale has hopes for a artist/activist retreat community. We spent a morning up there getting smoky and sweaty, pulling together dead trees and brush into giant burn piles while Dale chainsawed the bigger trees and Shandon hosed down one of the (slightly out of control) burn piles. We came back up a few days later to enjoy the land; Dale showed us the various potential building spots, then we hiked down the gorge for a chilly swim and picnic on the rocks.

We also spent some time connecting with the GRUB folks folks (Growing Resourcefully, Uniting Bellies). GRUB started about a year and half ago, with the mission of growing as much food as possible within the Chico city limits. They started out using little yard plots that people donated to the cause to supply a 10 member CSA. They are constantly growing and expanding, and now have a couple larger plots of a couple acres each, a large volunteer base (mostly from Chico State University), the beginnings of a restaurant-composting operation, an education component at the girls and boys clubs, a fruit tree gleaning operation, and regular, festive fund-raisers with local food and local music. We spent a morning at the GRUB house, which belongs to one of the founder's mothers and gets rented out to folks who are willing to help out with the GRUB mission. The backyard is teeming with GRUB projects—a little greenhouse for starts and seedlings, several garden plots and beds, a few chickens, large compost piles, and various gardening tools and raw materials. And we got to get our hands dirty the next morning at one of the weekly GRUB volunteer days, transplanting tomatoes in the hut (mid-april) sun!

Chico's night-life leaves something to be desired; the city has a large, rich, white college population. But our last night in town we finally found a scene that felt comfortable. Shandon had won tickets to an electronica expo at an artist collective called the crux. It had been a very fully day: busking at the farmer's market, transplanting with GRUB, and hiking in Bidwell's upper park with lots of bike-riding mixed in , so we were both pretty pooped, but the scene was very chill and laid back. There was lots of funky art on the walls and a sod (grass!) floor. The music was good, and the vibe very unpretentious. Lots of funky dance moves.

onward and upward, oregon ho!