Thursday, August 25, 2005

Twin Oaks Communities Conference

I thoroughly enjoyed the Communities Conference and came away feeling hopeful, energized, and with a long to do list. I really liked what I saw of Virginia even though it was hot hot hot. The heat and humidity was something to contend with without air conditioning. It was a brief trip into the future. But fortunately we were in the forest.

The activities were well organized and the food was abundant and good. Friday night included a sing-a-long and story telling as well as some ice breakers. Saturday morning was "meet the communities" time. People who were looking for new members gave a minute long spiel and then we had time to visit with them to learn more about their group.

Saturday afternoon the workshops began. I went to one on Cohousing presented by Graham Meltzer who has spend the last ten years researching them and had a wealth of photos and stories.
Cohousing communities balance the traditional advantages of home ownership with the benefits of shared common facilities and ongoing connections with your neighbors. These cooperative neighborhoods, both intergenerational and for elders, are among the most promising solutions to many of today's most challenging social and environmental concerns.
They are a middle class phenomenon and the participants have at least one foot planted in the mainstream. Members build smaller townhouse-style homes and share a common building with a community kitchen, dining room, guest room, kids room, and other amenities. The design clusters homes to allow for open and social spaces. Instead of streets between the homes, they have pedestrian walkways. Cars are given a secondary status on the periphery.

The next workshop I attended, presented by Mala Ghoshal, was full of advice for hitting the road and visiting communities. She believes that everyone should do a tour and after listening to her I am inclined to agree. I hope to head up to New York in October to visit Ithaca and Ganas and other groups en route. I'll be sharing my impressions here.

Saturday night I was on clean up duty after dinner but eventually joined the party at the Twin Oaks community building. They had a big beautiful industrial kitchen and cake was being served in the cafeteria. It was delicious. One woman I talked to said she gained 20 pounds after moving there. By the time we got there a Klezmer band had everybody on their feet but since mine were aching I just bounced around a little.

Sunday morning we had open space for "do it yourself" workshops. The group went through a process to create impromptu sessions and I went to one on building local economy and culture and natural building techniques. I'll be doing a separate post on these so won't go into more detail here.

Sunday afternoon I went to an excellent workshop on Conflict presented by Laird Schaub. Quality group process is an important part of community life, and sometimes calling in a consultant for training and facilitation can make all the difference. We learned the four steps to resolution that anyone in the group can do for someone who is upset:
  1. make a bridge to the person and ask them to name the feeling
  2. ask them to tell their story
  3. ask them what they want
  4. ask them what they want to do about it

This was an issue close to everyone's experience and it was a very lively session.

Then it was time for the closing circle. We all closed our eyes, came up with a word to describe our experience over the weekend and then went around the circle to share it. My word was hope, but my second favorite sentiment was that of valuing air conditioning!

In my next post I will tell about our visit to Earthaven Ecovillage, where we stopped on our way home.


baloghblog said...

never knew there was an eco-village in Ithaca. That is so close to me. I'll have to look into it!

Looking forward to hearing more of what you learned on your journey.

Liz Logan said...

I'll post this over at your blog too.

baloghblog said...

Going to have to take a day trip down there and take the tour. Looks like a great place, with a great attitude.

Checked out homes for sale there = $255,000. "upper middle class sustainability" I guess...

A tad steep for Ithaca area. Nice homes though. A few more creature comforts than at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

I'll let you know if I get down there.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful site you have here! Thanks so much for sharing the link with me. Since the Communities Conference hosted by Twin Oaks I've been putting pen to paper with regard to the degree I want to be self sufficient (producing what I need) and how to acquire the skills to succeed at that. To the degree that I don't want to be self sufficient then I need to find appropriate sources for product and service. I'm looking forward to exploring the resources that you've posted on your site and reading your earlier entries. Thanks again, Liz! A bientot, j'espere! :) xoxo

Anonymous said...

speaking of ithaca...besides currency and health care's an opportuntiy to buy into community and the prices seem very reasonable to me...maybe I'll see you in October!

5-6 bedroom house at EcoVillage at Ithaca, NY New 2003. 3 stories. Open floor plan. Overlooks pond. Wood floors. Custom kitchen. Garage. Rental/office possibilities. Ithaca schools. $255,000. 607-273-4041.

Longhouse Cooperative, Ithaca, NY. 1900 square feet, 3 bedrooms, study, family room, hardwood floors, solar water, radiators, woodstove, gardens, decks, balcony. Nine households share 30 acres, swimming pond, more. $205K. 607-277-2790. Details.

EcoVillage at Ithaca (NY) 1709 sf, 4 bedroom house with mezzanine, balcony, and third floor open space, 2 bathrooms, covered carport, High speed Internet. Huge southern exposures, hilltop location with great light and views. Established co-housing neighborhood with common house and open green space, pond for swimming, CSA organic farm. Just minutes from downtown and 15 minutes to Cornell University. A fun and healing environment for a growing family, professionals and artists working from home, or anybody interested in sustainable living. Asking price: $220,000. Email Alan or call (607) 256-0257.