Posts Tagged ‘Life at Ionia’

Leaving Home

It’s an hour (knowing Ionians, it’s probably more like two) from when I leave and I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m excited or nervous or what. A little of everything, I think. I’m not afraid I’m making the wrong choice, though. No matter what happens I know I’ll always have a home here, and having a home where you’re happy, although maybe not completely fulfilled… it’s amazing.

I got up early this morning because I didn’t want to miss any of these last moments. I took a bath in the outdoor tub (now I’m going to have to take baths in a little room- how unpleasant!) and made a bag to carry all the things on my airplane, and took a last walk to the beach. Everything I do reminds me of the past; my first walk, with Connor and Claire, sewing the baby’s quilt, how when I got here I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to take baths outside.

Coming to Ionia has been life changing for me. I’ve learned so much- about communities, about macrobiotics, but mostly about myself. I’ve connected with people in ways I don’t know that I ever had before, and I’ve gained so much. I don’t think I leave any regrets behind. Things that I would do differently now, oh yes, but not regrets.

I told Bruce yesterday that I don’t consider this me leaving; just me taking a long trip. I’ve packed a box of things for when I come back, I’ve left fragments of my heart all over the place.

For all the Ionians who read this; I love you. I consider you home.

Gwendolyn

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Seaweeding

Today we went seaweeding, Aaron, Ted, Cathy, baby Michael and I and Eliza’s cooking class. Ionia usually goes every year around this time; it’s the lowest tide in the spring and so the best time to harvest. I went last year after having just been in Ionia a little while, and so it seems fitting that I went this year shortly before leaving, and with a whole bunch of people I could introduce it too, kind of like passing on a torch- or something. My liking for seaweed has changed dramatically in the last year, too. I used to really dislike it and now I like it- sometimes. The first time I ever liked it was cooked fresh, right after seaweeding.

We got up at five in the morning, before it was light and left just at six, arriving in Homer around eight. Because the best places to go seaweeding are on the other side of the bay from Homer, we had to take a little boat, the Beowolf to get there.

A forty-five minute boat ride took us to the seaweeding spot, a length of beach on which, as the tide receded, was revealed to be covered with the seaweed we had sought; alaria, dolce, and kombu. Alaria is the seaweed we usually harvest, but after the disaster in Japan, international supplies of the other two seaweeds are looking scarce, so we decided to see if we could harvest the others. The wild Alaskan kombu maybe too thick to use and we haven’t sucessfully dried the dolce (Alex tried last year), but we decided to experiment anyways.

The people in the cooking class we very excited to have an opportunity to harvest their own seaweeds.

Fields of Alaria:

Aaron and I concentrated on these more exotic seaweeds- while we worked we talked about how we were planning on drying them and which ones were the best to pick. Aaron thinks that the more we harvest the kombu the more tender it will get, because the plants will be forced to regrow their leaves every year. We also took the opportunity to check out the local fauna:

Besides the starfish I saw seals, sea otters (which can get five or six feet long- they were enormous!), sea anenomes, bald eagles, crabs:

And a colony of living sand dollars:

As if spending the morning seaweeding wasn’t tiring enough, when we got back to Ionia we had to hang it. Here’s Nancy hanging the alaria:

For the kombu we resorted to paperclips:

And three different experiments for the delicate dulse- drying on the tempcast on towels, on a wire rack, on the inside laundry line;

And now I’m exhausted.

Only five more days until I leave Ionia- and I’m just starting to feel like I’m finally here.

-Gwendolyn

Pictures

So, belatedly, here’s the photo of the quilt Mirra and I made for Alex’s nephew, Domenic. We made one for his adorable baby brother, Mathis, when he was born (along with several other people) and when Domenic saw me making it he asked me in a little voice if I could make one for him. We were going to embroider it, like we did for Mathis’ one, but we didn’t have enough time, so Mirra (by far the better artist between the two of us) drew the pictures and I pieced it together. Domenic was so happy he started breakdancing.

And while I’m stealing pictures from Jane’s facebook (Jane is Alex’s sister, who lives in New York and has a ukulele that I covet), here’s one of Alex playing with his younger sisters:And here’s a picture of a bald eagle (which are almost as common as crows around here):

And the Alaskan mountains on the way to Anchorage

And, finally, Alex and the other Ionians going to Hawaii:

In my life: time is going a lot faster than I expected. I’m cooking a lot and doing some writing and I sent two letters out to agents yesterday, which made me crumple in anxiety. I can’t help but think that if Alex and Mirra were here they’d make that all better, which seems irrational, but might just be true. I can contemplate doing all sorts of things with them that, when I’m alone make me shrink in terror. They’re like lucky charms; if only they were the kind I could carry around in my pocket this would all be a whole lot easier.

Mirra says time is going a lot faster for her as well; she’s taking violin lessons, and they’re going amazingly well. Not surprising to me- I’d be shocked if there was any stringed instrument she couldn’t just pick up and play. And Alex says he’s doing well in Hawaii, although I heard the air conditioning is busted and all the kids are getting sunburns and eating too much fruit.

A few days ago, when I wrote the last depressing post, I was feeling very miserable and questioning the project. The emptiness of the place, and the absence of Mirra and Alex… but now I’m really optimistic. I think that this break is going to give all of us a chance to revive and strengthen before we plunge into trying to make money and plan our trip in Falmouth. I’m super excited now, but I’m also okay with waiting a few days.

-Gwendolyn


One Week Left

The problem with reading narration is you begin to narrate your whole life. I read the entirety of New Yorker magazine today and then went on a walk and that was a big mistake; the running commentary in my head couldn’t have been restful.

Lately I’ve been feeling strangely restless, as if a strong current ran beneath a serene surface. It only comes out when I’m trying to do Do-in or yoga or go on walks and then suddenly I feel as if I can’t stay still long enough to finish the pose or center myself enough to be where I am. I am caught in a kind of limbo; Claire says that when you have decided to leave and you don’t leave you’re caught in a place like that and she may be right.

My restlessness leads me to try to find things to do. I am cooking almost everyday now, all by myself, which is odd since I am not convinced of my cooking skills. And yet I have not been too big of a failure (yet). Cooking for so few (twelve or so, I guess) takes a surprisingly quick amount of time.

I wake in the morning and do my body rub, do do-in, a little bit of yoga, meditate as best as I can, and then cast about for some occupation. I play the ukulele a little, make myself some umeshobancha, putter around my corner, browse the internet; I’ve been applying for jobs online a little, have been doing some other business-y things.

I’m trying to enjoy everything; the wide airy spaces of the longhouse, the size and comfort of the kitchen, the beauty of the landscape, like trying to capture the feeling of being here and putting it in a bottle so I’ll be able to remember it and return to it when I miss it.

The shame of this life is that you will never have everything you love, and so there will be choices. I can have this trip or I can have Ionia. I can have the people here or I can have Alex and Mirra. I can have safety and comfort or I can have adventure. I am not confused; I am not indecisive. But I do grieve, just a little.

One week left and it is too much time and not enough time somehow, all at once.

-Gwendolyn

Goodbyes (part 3)

This is getting old, I know. I should have done like Mirra did and just left before everyone else. But I didn’t and now you’re just going to have to keep reading all about it.

Four goodbyes that were hard; Connor hugged me for a quarter of an hour and then made me promise to call him on June 12th. If I forget he’ll never talk to me again.

Alex and I cleaned the house. Leaving the house was the most unexpected goodbye. I sat there, forlorn, while he finished sweeping the floor. I loved living there so much- I guess it was the closest I’ve ever come to having my own household. Someday I’ll live my house dreams.

The kids left, not quite understanding I wouldn’t be there when they got back.

And Alex.

And now here I am in the too-empty Longhouse trying to figure out what to do, making lists in my head and wondering if I could ever manage to pack as light as Alex. I have ten days and right now that seems like a gaping emptiness, though I’m sure I’ll get through them soon.

In other news, our applications to Dancing Rabbit are in, Koinonia is happy to have us and we’ve got a schedule that sees us through Thanksgiving, which seems kind of incredible.

Now I’m going to wander around with a lost look on my face,

-Gwendolyn

zero to sixty

picture by Claire

Enjoying my cake

Luckily the cake didn’t make Alex or I more sick. Unluckily, Mirra succumbed. The uneaten portion of her cake is sitting untended in the mudroom and I’m contemplating it.

Suddenly, busy-ness came upon us. The macrobiotic course started- and it’s awesome- but it’s like we went from not zero, since we were already a little slammed with everything we have to do for this project, but maybe twenty to sixty. The course is all day, everyday, with evenings free, but no other time to do household chores, etc. So the dishes are piling up and the compost bucket is full and I’m trying to work myself up to doing one or both of them.

We’re thinking about taking a hiatus on walkabout stuff until we meet again in Falmouth- Mirra is leaving the day after the course ends and then I’m going to the conference and then Alex is leaving. And meantime we all have to pack and Alex and I have to clean the house that *sob* we’re leaving. I love the peace of the house, the quiet evenings we spend here, the impromptu dinner parties. The large bed in the living room (for hanging out on) the map on the coffee table reminding us of our adventure.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t made cake with Cirrus one day; I invited Saori to my corner to have some, and then Alex came with her and I gave him a piece and we were talking and he mentioned he was thinking of moving into a cabin and I said I was too and we decided to move in together. And then, suddenly, Alex is one of my best friends and we’re talking and this idea falls out and changes the way I think about my life. And now we’re talking about spending well over a year- maybe two years- together, first working for the trip and then the trip and then writing the book afterwards (with Mirra too, of course) and I’m thinking ‘how did this happen? We were hardly even friends three months ago. Alex (and Pavel) picked me up from the airport when I arrived at Ionia. I remember him, so long and thin, carrying my luggage up the stairs in the hotel. It’s strange how in your memories of people before they are really your friends and in those you form after it’s almost as if you’re thinking about two different people. Ten months ago Alex and I didn’t really get along- ten months ago Mirra and I didn’t really like each other. And now we’re planning this trip. Now, when I’m upset I go looking for one or both of them. It’s crazy. It’s amazing.

I don’t know if it’s all communities, but at Ionia there is a undercurrent of love that sweeps under all of us. I love almost everyone at Ionia- certainly everyone I know well. Sometimes we cuddle on one of the couches, a big pile of us, teenagers and adults and children reaffirming that we’re there for each other. Or when we clean up and everyone’s singing along with the music, moving with so much energy through the kitchen, or when we’re just talking around the tempcast and I think: how could I leave this? I’m not really a social person. My social I.Q. is at around seventy. But I’ve figured out, over the course of my life, that I’m never going to make it alone. So I don’t know what I would do without Alex and Mirra- and I don’t know what I would have done if we’d never come up with this. Because it tears me up to leave- Connor and Sammy and Claire and Saori and Katie and the baby and Juliet and Eliza and Rosie and Ellen and everyone, a little hole for each of them- it tears me up when people leave and when I leave and if I wasn’t bringing some of Ionia with me- if Mirra and Alex weren’t bringing Ionia to me- then I don’t know what I would do.

-Gwendolyn

Me and Mathis

 So here I am with Alex’s amazingly adorable nephew Mathis. I was lucky enough to be part of Mathis’ birth (which was incredibly amazing), and I’ve gotten to be part of Mathis’ life since then. I think one of the most rewarding parts of living in communities with children is being in communities with children.

I grew up surrounded by my mom’s daycare kids and whenever I lived or worked away from children I always felt like there was something missing. The way children are separated from adults in the normal society seems so unnatural. They’re such an amazing part of life, and people shouldn’t have to have their own or have to work in the vastly underpaid childcare industry in order to have a close connection with a child.

At Ionia, the children, the youngest ones especially, are really valued. People actually fight over who gets to hold Mathis. One of the reasons I want to live in an intentional community is to be around children and so, when I have my own children, there will be other adults who will want to help me take care of them.

-Gwendolyn

p.s. I cut my hair. This is kind of a bad shot of it- I think it looks kind of like a mushroom but everyone else thinks it’s cute. (Mushroom cute?)