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:
- make a bridge to the person and ask them to name the feeling
- ask them to tell their story
- ask them what they want
- 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.