Stamps and stencils

I know, I know; it’s been too long. I’ve been meaning to write for more than a week, but there’s just so much going on. Last week I made these awesome communitywalkabout shirts, which we’re planning on using for rewards when we launch our IndieGoGo campaign. Aren’t they sweet? All hand stenciled and stamped.

Indie GoGo is a fundraiser tool, which we’re going to try to use to get some money together for our trip. We’ve hired consulatants, Mindy and Ryan from WithinReach, partially because they’ve successfully run fundraising campaigns before and partially because we think they’re super awesome. They did a community tour a few years ago, on bicycles, with the intent on visiting over a hundred different sustainable communities. They went into debt to make their sustainable community documentary and we’re excited about the idea that we can help them out and help us out at the same time. They’re starting a consulting firm connecting people with communities and helping them out with fundraising.

For the fundraiser we’re going to make a video, hopefully after I get new glasses. I lost mine two weeks ago and have been wearing my sunglasses ever since, which has been really annoying. I ordered new ones from Zenni Optical because it was two hundred seventy dollars cheaper than getting them made here (there’s totally a glasses prescription monopoly thing going on in this country) but it does take them a little bit longer to come in. (My glasses usually cost three hundred dollars because my eyes are so bad they tell me it costs an extra two hundred dollars to get the special plastic the lenses are made out of. And yet it only costs Zenni an extra ten dollars. Suspicious?). Everything’s been a little dark. It’s been surprising, though, how few people have asked me why I’m wearing sunglasses inside. No one has, actually. At night, in the dark, inside on a dull, rainy day, no one has addressed the fact that my eyes are covered with half an inch of brown plastic.

 

Thinking about the video we’re going to make has led me to thinking a lot about intentional communities. Why people live in them- what they are. I picture the average American dream- which really works for the average American person. Your own house, your children, your pets, your husband or wife. Having lived in a community, with thirty other people, it seems so empty now. No- it always seemed empty, to me. It’s harder and emptier. Harder cooking good meals with only two people, harder cleaning up with only three. Emptier living without children running about underfoot, without good friends you can find when you’re lonely. Harder to live with two other people being always in each other’s faces. I’m not complaining- I love my life as it is, right now. But the future I imagine is more populated.

Intentional communities are an alternative to conventional life. They allow more people to live with less resources; three people cooking for fifty is more conservative than fifty people cooking for fifty. At Ionia there were two cars for thirty people. And Intentional communities support the residents; parenting is shared, taking the burden out of a twenty-four/seven job. Household tasks are made easier and more fun when everyone takes part. When you live in a community you don’t have to be alone, or to face anything alone when you don’t want to. If you can’t handle something, you find someone to help you.

Individualism is the American Ideal, and it really works for some people. But it really doesn’t work for others. Some people get lost in a world they have to face all by themselves. Some people live in neighborhoods or towns where everyone knows each other and helps each other, and some people live in apartment complexes or suburbs where they’ve never spoken to any of their neighbors. Some people want their own house, their own yard, their own car, their own life, and to some people it just seems like a waste. When I found out that intentional communities were a real thing- not just something that failed in the sixties because everyone smoked pot and slept around – I felt as if I’d finally figured out the answer to a question. And when I lived in Ionia, a community that really worked, I couldn’t believe my luck. Since then I’ve talked to other people about intentional communities and I’ve seen a similar thing happen inside them; suddenly the realization that they can live differently. That’s one of the things I hope will come from this; that people will see that there is a different way to live and that people are out there living it. That we can reach people, with this blog, or the book we plan to write, or maybe if we pull off giving presentations. We can reach them and tell them that they don’t have to live in same way other people do. That they can be different. You can be different too.

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belonging

The gang minus David

       For the last week I have had so much fun! A whole bunch of my family and friends were in town. My aunt Ann and Catherine just got back to the US, after an adventure in Europe, and stopped here so Cat could get familiar with David’s yacht. My uncles Michael, John, and friend Zara came into town from some yacht town in RI; Michael is on a yacht that is stationed there for the summer; we will see him again. My sister Jane and Mirra came up from NYC, because they both are working for David.

          It was so awesome having so many people I know and love together! We were all having dinner together one night, and I just looked around the room for a few minutes, and felt a deep sense of happiness. It was so nice. I really feel at my best when I am around people I know and who know me. I suppose that this is typical. It really made me happy to see all those guys.

I feel strange sometimes about this journey because community is so important to me- that is one of the main reasons I am doing it, but I am leaving my community in order to do it. I know it is just temporary, but it feels like I am going in a different direction than the community is. I am not really sure what I mean by that. I guess what I am trying to say is, that I felt, and feel, a deep sense of belonging with the people I grew up with, and have lived with all my life, and I feel a little bit like I am moving away from that. It’s been my life so far, all twenty-two years, the people, the place, the ideas. It is hard to move away from that. But I needn’t worry; that belonging I feel won’t go away. Twenty-two years of life doesn’t go away in two years of travel.

Alex

 

Garden growing

Everything’s coming up roses here… I mean turnips. Our garden is looking fabulous. We bought heirloom organic seeds from Southern Exposure Seed exchange, http://www.southernexposure.com/, a seed catalogue which sells heirloom and organic seeds, and which is partially run by Twin Oaks, a community in Virginia that we’re going to visit in October. Heirloom seeds are important because they represent a greater variety of plants than are normally commercially available, varieties that people long ago cultivated for their different qualities. You might be familiar with heirloom tomatoes, which are a completely different tomato experience from the perfectly round, red, balls you buy at the supermarket. Heirloom plants have character and taste, and more importantly, nutrients. In his book In Defense of Food Michael Pollen suggests that heirloom plants might have twice the number of antioxidants and other important nutrients that regular, mass-produced, picture-perfect, genetically bred plants have. That’s because while those plants were being babied and sprayed with pesticides, the heirlooms had to survive generations of insect attacks and disease exposure. It’s the same protections the plants make against insects and disease exposure that helps our bodies fight off attacks.

Anyways, we planted our garden a little late- two weeks into May- and with the exception of the cabbage, which didn’t come up at all, and the basil, which wants a warmer climate and so is still uber-tiny, our garden is bursting. We have already thinned all of the beds and another thinning is coming up soon. (I used to feel bad about thinnings until I realized you could eat them. Most of our plants are greens and baby greens are super delicious.) And we mulched the gardens with cut grass, to keep the weeds under control and to retain moisture in the soil. It hasn’t rained once in two weeks! I know because I water the gardens every day and I keep hoping for a rainy day so I’ll have some time off.

I love gardening- it’s such an awesome way to get a connection to your food. You see it as a seed, as a baby plant, you care for it, then you dig it up and wash the dirt off and cook it and eat it. One of the rewards of working with whole foods is that you really get a feel for where your food comes from. I know what tofu is because I made the tofu from soybeans. I know what whole wheat looks like because I ground the wheat to make the flour. And this is just taking it one step back. Someday I’d love to have a hand in growing all the crops I eat. I want to know what’s it’s like to work in a rice paddy, an apple orchard, a field of beans. What is more human than eating? And what is more animal than knowing what your food looks like?

In other news, Alex is excited about trying to get personal chef work. We’ve already got one lead, and a wine tasting set up where he’s going to showcase his food. I hope it works for him because he’s an awesome chef and it’s amazing to have food which is so healthy and so delicious. And, when he’s got a big gig I’ll get to come along and be a sous-chef and dessert-chef. I designed posters for him, and business cards, and we hung them up around the upper cape, so I’m also his graphics designer and his chauffeur. With a support staff like that, how can he fail?

 

goodbye

I feel a big loss that Mirra is not coming anymore; it would have been easier and more interesting with her. She brought a lot of spirit with her, and I could have used that a lot because I sometimes get depressed, and can’t make any spirit. It is also going to be a different dynamic with two of us, with three you have a bit more to work with, you can toss around ideas and get a group point of view.

I am going to miss Mirra’s point of view; she is always trying to find something interesting and fun. I feel like I am going to forget to have fun and turn this trip into some sort of experiment/research project for a book. Which it is, but I can’t forget that my original interest was that it was going to be SO much fun! When I am down in the dirt and it’s raining, and there is no cars or shelter in sight and can’t think of anything to be happy about, I will try to think what Mirra would say. I will miss her presence; I admire many things about her. Good luck in NYC, Mirra.

Alex

And then there were two

It’s been a week since our last post and in that time a lot has changed. A week ago Mirra told us that she was torn between wanting to go on our trip and wanting to focus her attentions on music and dance. She finally decided that while the communitywalkabout project was very interesting to her, if she didn’t pursue music and dance she wouldn’t be as happy. She is moving to New York and is very excited about the possibilities there.

I guess my reaction to this all is mixed. I am very sad that Mirra isn’t going to be joining us. She added a lot to the project, with her excitement and creativity, her friendliness and her charisma. I think two people is harder than three because it’s so much more intense spending so much time with only other person. But I am glad that she chose what she did, because I want her to be happy and it was getting difficult for us because we felt like she didn’t want to be part of the project. Now that we know she isn’t going we can move on and try to get everything moving again. Even without Mirra I’m excited about our project and I think it’s going to be amazing and successful. I love Alex and I have a wonderful relationship with him and I think it’s strong enough to endure whatever the road throws at us.

Dealing with the issues around Mirra leaving really took our energy away from the project, but we’re starting to pick up steam again. I’ve started working, a wonderful job at a health food store, and Alex and I are getting to have normal schedules. I think we’re quickly going to be able to have a routine that supports our project and that we’re going to be able to work on it and with it even more than ever.

Meanwhile, there’s a wonderful summer to enjoy here. I forgot how beautiful it is here and I’m enjoying it so much; the weather has been nice and I’ve been biking to work along a wonderful bike trail that takes me almost all of the way there. I’m excited about the future but I’m also more than happy about the present.

new york

We came here Sunday for a birthday party and to see my family, John, Jane, Lauden and Andrew. It has been amazing, the party was awesome! There where all these brazilian dancers and Capoeira ass kickers who played for us.

It is so amazing to be around all these guys again, I always forget how much I miss people until I get next to them. As I am writing this I am in the kitchen with Gwendolyn, Mirra and Andrew, we are all hanging out and talking about what ever, it dosnt matter, just that we are all together. Andrew goes off on a rant once in while, and I feel so happy to be around him again.

I was thinking, what is it about this city that attracts so many people? is it just because its NEW YORK, or is there something else, some attitude, or world view that makes this place one of the worlds hottest cities.

Anyways, it has been fun and I hope to come back some time. But I cant think about next time right now, I need to focus on getting back into some sort of rhythm on the cape.

Alex

things about last week

Gwendolyn and i got a job! we’ll be working together at a health food store Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and taking turns on Sundays. nine hours a day. pretty sweeet i think.  so, that’s a load off. i don’t have to be getting gray hairs over getting a job any more. out of all the jobs i applied for this is the one i actually wanted.

last Sunday at David’s flat we had a get-together of all us Ionians out here on the East cost. Bill Johnson, one of the founders of Ionia and the father of some of my best friends, showed up. i was making a mess of food with some other people in the kitchen, when he came in; i was so happy to see him i practically leaped over the table to hug him. it was so great to see a familiar face from Ionia. we had a nice conversation and later we played music together until he had to leave. at Ionia there were many nights where lots of people would play music and rotate instruments and jam the night away. almost always Bill was there and i always felt he was a key piece to the flow of how the music progressed and wound its way around. i don’t know if it’s like this for everyone or if it’s just like this to me but it is always easier to make music when jamming with Bill.  i love the social, creative and communicative aspects of music (as i do in dance,) rather than the performance aspects of it and i think perhaps  Bill has the same preference.

there are so many fabulous places around here to go walking and forging. there are old herring runs and cranberry bogs that are all overgrown and bursting with bright green foliage. there are man-made streams with moss covered, concrete water blocks and dams. there are  square ponds that you don’t notice are square at first because they are so over taken by fallen trees and young trees and ferns and flowers and watercress. Gwendolyn showed me a beautiful place with little foot paths threw the woods that wound around and over little hills that led us always back to the mossy watery herring runs and cranberry bogs.

mirra