Saturday, May 21, 2011

boomer action


Dave and Joanie are roving baby boomer activists. They joined together about 5 years ago and formed a Non Profit focused on local, sustainable food. They've spent these last years travellening together as drop-in activists. They land in a city, quickly figure out who the movers and shakers are, embed themselves in the community and create a project that serves the people well. They've done things like help folks in Jamaica create a native medicinal garden and help lead workshops on community organizing for community gardens. Their approach is smart and savvy--Dave is brisque, quick and officious; Joanie is warm and chatty. Together they are a dynamo team, highly effective community organizers and hugs asset to any community they parachute into. As one of my housemates commented, they look like their fresh from the golf field, but actually they're gonna kick some @#$.

Lucky us, after 5 years of travelling activism, they decided to settle down in Charlottesville for the forseable future! Applying the same pricincples of community organizing as their shorter stays, they quickly connected with tons of people in town. They soon found their way to Alexis, and thus us. They've been in town under a year, and have already hosted a workshop on community organizing around community gardens, re-started the local Transition Town group, become regular volunteers with Virginia Organizing, the Local Food Hub, the Food Bank. They've gotten connected with Karen Waters from QCC, Holly Edwards on City Council, and Dave Norris our esteemed Mayor. Yesterday we sat down with them for some brainstorming collaboration.

Some highlights from the project incubator:
  • Collaborating with JABA (Jefferson Board for the Aging) to take over their 400 sq.ft. heated hoophouse and turn it into a community greenhouse.
  • Creating a garden of diversity; a community garden with plots maintained by some of the cultural subgroups we have here in town, brought here by the IRC, a local organization that places refugees. Each plot would host cultural events special to their region.
  • Most exciting for me; we talked about marrying our idea of an urban commune with their idea of an urban education and sustainability center. A house in town that would have zero sum energy use, innovative and affordable energy saving measures, and have gardens demonstrating vertical growing, fishponds, permaculture concepts. And, it would be lived and run by a community of folks who would run workshops and demos out of the space.

We've already done rounds of brainstorming on this concept and have a bunch of stuff drafted; mision statement, a vision, elements we want to include. And so had they; they've got a concept paper, business plan, and power point presentation. We plan to share our documents and get together again soon. yee haw!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the women at fluvanna correctional center

Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women

for nearly 2 months now, a group 4 women including myself have been spending time each Wednesday afternoon with a group of about 20 women at fluvanna correctional center for women (prison about 20 minutes outside of town). the group we work with is part of the readyness/wellness program; mental health staff created the program about 3 months ago. its for women with a history of trauma or abuse, and who will be released within 2 years.

We started our first session with the women by asking how they'd like to spend the time together, and generated a list that included everything from dance, to resume writing, to anger management, to astrology. everything we've done with them has been received enthusiastically and warmly. these women are big-hearted and wise, and so welcoming to us each week.

yesterday's session started out with some of the women sharing from a writing assignment from last week; letters they would never send. the few letters that folks shared were intense and poignant. one was a letter to a lover/boyfriend, asking repeatedly why he never answered his phone on saturday nights. another was an angry letter to god, asking how he could stand for the injustice and suffering that permeate this world.

clementine guided the conversation into a larger discussion around setting intentions for life on the outside. the most intense and heart-breaking thread was about children--one women said that her dream was to have a 3rd baby, and do it "right"-sober, present, engaged. Her previous two pregnancies had been while she was battling drug addiction. another women shared about her 4 kids who had all been taken from her. one, she'd never met. she advised the other women that you have to get clean and sober FIRST; having a baby won't get you sober. in her words "the love for your children is strong. but the power the addiction has over you is stronger".

one women was being discharged 2 days later; she had just completed treatment for cancer. her husband had also just gotten out of jail, so they would both soon be reunited with their 11 year old daughter. we ended the afternoon with a silly and fun theatre game, that got us all laughing together.

i feel lucky to spend time with these women each week--they carry so much pain and wisdom, and have such a spirit of bigheartedness and generosity. They welcome us across the cultural divide and shower us with love and appreciation. i have so much hope for each of them as they prepare for the next chapter, vowing that things will be different. and i hold alot of fear and sadness knowing that the deck of poverty, drug addiction and domestic violence is stacked against them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

rain and garden

the rain was amazing today--all day long, the weather switched from misting to pouring to sunny, to windy/cloudy, to dumping, to misty, to drenching to sunny. and ended with a lovely rainbow. the garden is goin' nuts and i dried bunches of chamomile in the oven. we're eating lots of greens from the garden now; mustard, kale, spinach, lettuce. surprise flowers have been popping up all around the garden, daisies, sunflowers, black eyed susans. i've planted some flowers from seed as well, and look forward to meeting them--4'oclock don pedros in particular. not sure what they look like. and we'll have sungold's this year, the best yellow cherry tomato. lots of zukes and cukes from the looks of it, and i just saw the first pea blossom today. it really is a little zen-zone, just puttering in the morning and evening each day.

there's a little row of cosmos coming up, too

please excuse the obligatory cheesy garden post.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Money and Music

We had our weekly Alexander House (Collectively owned and run Inn and Hostel) meeting this morning. A large chunk of which was spent continuing to slog through the process of re-vamping our compensation structure. Somewhat miraculously, we've made it over a year an half doing completely equal splits each month; trusting that we are all putting in what we are able and that it is roughly equal or at least equitable (whatever that means).

But, now, we are finally shifting over. Tracking our hours each month, we will divide the lump sum designated for our monthly payouts proportionally according to hours worked. I know, so radical. But it is a big shift for us. Brings up all sorts of interesting questions, as well. When things are just divided equally, are we more inclined to cut corners, do a rush job, leave more cleaning for the next shift? If we track hours and compensate accordingly, are we more likely to "pad"hours, work more slowly, do unnecessary tasks? Equal Divide = more efficient workers? Proportional Pay outs = more good stuff gets done (cobwebs, weeding)?

We're in the midst of our second month at hours tracking, and so far I'm enjoying it. I have a bit of residual Twin Oaks hours tracking PTSD: i'm happiest when time is the furthest thing from my mind, the hours slip by and i'm utterly absorbed. And, it does set my mind at ease to know that I don't need to worry if i'm doing too little or way more than i ought to. And that reminds, me, need to record my hours for the last few days.

Meanwhile, i'm still busy obsessing over that fiddle o'mine, and also starting to anticipate Trout's triumphant return. i've been sending him youtube videos, priming the pump on tunes to learn. He sent back one called The Gael, and I can't tell if its a joke or what. Still dreaming of a weekend spent locked up in a cabin w/fiddle and guitar. Stay tuned for some reels and jigs!

Trout: Just too fabulous for Babylon....