A Strange Hammocks Customer

We run an unusual hammocks company.

We apparently have some very unusual customers. 


Well hello dears,

This is Norma Fredrickson trying to reach you! You may or may not remember my husband, Walter, and I purchasing a lovely hammock from you awhile back; perhaps 2 or 3 years ago. A very sweet woman named Spring or Summer or Sunny (or something like that) gave us the best help in picking it out! Since the time, we’ve greatly enjoyed the wonderful relaxation of laying in a hammock! Your craftsmanship is excellent, and this hammock has been very good to us. Yet I have a terrible story concerning Walter. You see, he has passed away. Shortly ago my late husband was struck with pneumonia coming out of surgery. The doctor who gave him care thought it would be fully recoverable. Despite his old age, they told us, he’d be fine.

It is not lost

Perhaps it was last summer, in my previous room in Tupelo, after perhaps 6 months of other people guesting in my room fairly consistently, i went back to it to stay for a few days.  A fairly small amount of abandoned stuff showed up in the room including this bag.

man bag

man bag – circa 2013

It had gotten a bit moldy, so i was unsurprised when the most recent guests said they had no knowledge of it.  I figured if it was important to someone, if i wore it around the commune they would spot it.  So i cleaned it up, put a few handy things in it and started wearing it around.  This of course resulted in no one stepping forward and claiming the bag, tho several people commented on the dapper European “man bag” look i was donning.

It had handy things in it, i continued to carry it around having never really had a backpack or handbag that i dragged around in the past.

i am an unusually distracted and distractible person.  i am most interested in the current drama or possibility; i look for emergencies and oft step in when there is a useful place for me (even if i am over-committed to less pressing things which need my attention).  ”Paxus is best in the first 24 hours,” Thomas said the other day, and i had not thought about it that way, but it is likely true.  Often when people ask me when is a good time to talk i quip:

There are only two times: now and not happening.

Poly Date Night

While not quite the norm, polyamory is far more common at Twin Oaks than in mainstream society. Community living provides unique opportunities for making non-monogamous relationships work comfortably, and I am glad to be part of what has so far been a wildly successful group of loving individuals. Elspeth and Rosie are a well-established couple that have been together for a number of of years, and in the past year have each started dating another person, Elspeth seeing me and Rosie dating Brittany. We’re all really comfortable and happy with each other, and the four of us have been able to build a friendly support system for each other.

Rosie and Elspeth had been planning for some time to have a baby, and two months ago accomplished this task with the birth of Sylvia. As plenty of new parents have reported, it can be hard to keep romantic energy active while taking care of an infant. One would think that this would be made near-impossible by having two partners. Instead, quite to my surprise, it turns out that having this extended support system has made things work out quite smoothly, as smoothly as one could hope for with a newborn in the mix. This is exemplified in the arrangement of our twice-a-week date nights.

Our 'local' Poly Map

Mapping out relationships is a curious pastime of poly people.

Two Views of Egypt

Mahmoud Mohamed Boray in Qena wrote the following:

Was it a Coup or a Revolution?  It’s not really hard to answer the question. If you want to know just open the dictionary to find the definition of the coup; you will find (a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially : the violent overthrow alteration of an existing government by a small group). This is exactly what happened in Egypt when the army overthrew the first democratically elected president in the history of all Egypt. In the first of the essay I will try to give a small hint of the most populated electorate in Egypt that voted for Morsi during the presidential elections in 2012.

In the first round Morsi was defeated in the battle of ballots for example in (Cairo, Alexandria and Mounfia) but most of the upper citizens voted for Morsi (except Luxor, which depends on tourism).

What I’m trying to say is that a lot of people are against Morsi in Cairo, but many more are supporting him in the south (where the media is absent). Watch the videos of the upper Egypt massive marches in Qena, Aswan, and Menia.

You can find more cities and many marches from all upper cities and in Cairo, Alexandria almost all parts of Egypt, but those who protest against Morsi can be found in certain areas.

We all know that democracy is the rule of Majority and we can know who is the majority by elections not but mobilizing people in the street.

Why it is not a revolution?

7 reasons to come to the Communities Conference instead of Burning Man

Tragically for some of us, the Communities Conference and Burning Man both happen over Labor Day weekend. Burning Man is a 50,000 person festival which happens in the middle of the dessert in Nevada and is transformational for many of its participants. Here is a comic review of why you should choose the Communities Conference instead.

1) You don’t want Playa dust in everything you own for the next month. Try as everyone does, the incredibly fine desert sand follows BM participants home and gets into everything they own.

2) It turns out sleep is important to you. The party goes on 24/7 in Nevada, and the blaring techno music can be heard across the entire temporary city.

3) You can’t get tickets to Burning Man. The event is sold out, and it is extremely hard to get tickets. The Communities Conference still has plenty of spaces and you can register here.

4) You can actually afford to go to the Communities Conference. Registration is still a unusually reasonable $90 – $130 for camping out. Burning Man is $400 for the ticket alone, and easily more than $1000 to get there and be equipped!

5) You don’t need to figure out a complicated costume to come to the Communities Conference, though feel free to bring one if you want!

dont forget your batteries

don’t forget your batteries

6) This month you are more interested in building sustainable collective connections than energy intensive art expressions.

7) If you have seen one massive pyrotechnic explosion demonstration you have seen them all.

The Member Montage


The upcoming member montage. I still nee to collect photos from everyone.

At Twin Oaks we have a printout that we hang in various buildings around the community that gives photos and names of members in the order in which they joined.  It’s called the member montage.  Woody started this project several years ago, and it has persisted since he left because it’s a helpful aid for visitors who are trying to match names with faces.


You wouldn’t think that it would be hard to figure out the placement order on the montage, right?  It’s actually become a complicated and charged topic.  Determining the order of the members who have only had one membership is easy, but many members have dropped membership and rejoined or gone on a PAL (personal affairs leave).  Woody’s original criteria for placement was that if a member went on PAL or if they dropped membership and rejoined within a year, they could keep their original spot. If they dropped membership and returned in over a year (needing to do a new visitor period), they would go at the bottom of the member montage.


Even with these criteria, the member montage has been inconsistent in its placement of members: What is interesting is that many members are super attached to their position on the member montage.  It is my sense that people take pride in how far up they are on the montage.   People in the lower, smaller slots at the bottom of the montage care about moving up to the bigger slots.  Members have bickered about their placement and made demands to be put in higher locations on the montage.


Summer's End at Teaching Drum

It's the end of August, and the weather up here is warm during the day, with cool nights, and few mosquitoes. There's a lot going on right now.

The blackberries and bunchberries are ripe. I've never had bunchberries before until now. They are small red berries that grow in a cluster, on the floor on the woods. They taste mildly sweet, and have a creamy texture. They're fun to just grab when I'm going for a walk.

I am holding a small handful of blackberries. I'm standing still, and the mosquitoes aren't biting! I'm enjoying the weather. There's so much to look at, and I've been taking a lot of photos, as you can probably tell from this blog post.

The wildflowers are blooming, too. When I moved in, I was welcomed into my room with a bouquet of wildflowers.

Some are starting to wilt, now.

This is anicha

I finished my first vipassana course a few days ago. A vipassana course consists of ten days of silent meditation, for approximately 10 1/2 hours each day. I had the intention of doing emotional healing and developing a stable meditation practice to help me cope with chronic, and sometimes paralyzing anxiety that I've experienced ever since I was 13. I imagined the course would be difficult, but I could not have imagined how incredibly emotionally painful it would be, and the realizations I could only have by fully experiencing the pain.

I shared a piece of land, a meditation hall, a dining hall, and a dormitory with about 40 other people. At the beginning of the course, we turned in our electronic devices and reading and writing material. We agreed to not in engage in physical exercise, and we agreed to practice noble silence, except to ask questions to the teachers. Noble silence means to abstain from communicating with others through speaking, eye contact, or touch. These guidelines were set in place to make it easiest for us to clear our minds.

On the first day of the course, I rose at 4am and walked to the meditation hall to begin my sitting practice, as according to the daily schedule, and directed by the teachers.
By the afternoon, I was in the midst of a battle in my mind to stay awake, and I was failing. I was forcing my eyes to stay open, even though we were instructed to sit with them closed. My whole body ached intensely. A heat and throbbing pulsated in my head. My neck and back ached, but the most pain was in my legs. My stomach began to turn, and I felt the urge to throw up. I wanted to run out of the room screaming and crying. When I was almost to my breaking point, a gentle bell rang for a five minute break. I pulled my body up and out of the room, crying, my mind wrapped up in fearful thoughts of my possible inability to complete the course, and guilty feelings for wanting to give up so quickly.

What’s Happening: August 2013

Summer Heat The beautiful weather of spring and early summer gave way to heat & humidity this August.  Temperatures are still tolerable, reaching the 80s and 90s during the day and cooling down at night.  Plentiful rains in early August were greatly appreciated, especially in the gardens.  Many East Winders are enjoying the creek this time of year, though some are already eagerly awaiting autumn and a break from the heat.

Careful, if you go to the commune they will …

when she arrived

when she arrived

then there was this wild idea

then there was this wild idea

izzie bald

her hair went to adorn an art project

her hair went to adorn an art project

The Trout Doctrine

Acorn decided to buy a house for $100K tonight.  It is halfway between Twin Oaks and Acorn and a short walking distance from the 100-acre Lawson land property that Twin Oaks owns and is the center of much of our seed growing business efforts.  This property was listed 4 days ago, and Acorn moved very quickly to make a decision about this before we lost it to 3 other bidders.

This is unusually fast for a major decision like this, but it reflects the desire of Acorn to expand its horizons and fundamentally sign on to what is now being called “The Trout Doctrine.”  In its pithy entirety, the Trout Doctrine is More Beds Under Roofs.  At Acorn this is not a frivolous point, as currently there are perhaps a dozen people living outside in tents.  None of them are actually members of the community, they are interns and visitors and guests and some persons with special poorly defined relationships with the community.

This only looks vaguely like Stardust, i'll get a real picture up shortly.

This only looks vaguely like Stardust, i’ll get a real picture up shortly.

I am doing my part by continuing to push the treehouse agenda.  i am quite pleased with the way Stardust turned out which is the fully enclosed treehouse which Pilgrim honchoed the completion of when he was here most recently (along with a bunch of safety upgrades and several tin roofs being added to the existing tree houses).  Stardust is the name of this treehouse, after Pilgrims visionary Stardust Sustainability Center in Equador

Victory at Vermont Yankee

The place i have been arrested most in the United States is at the gates of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant which is basically at the place where Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire share a single point.  Starting in 1999, i made the regular summer pilgrimage to Brattleboro and working with the lovely folks from CAN.   CAN (which stands for Citizens Awareness Network) also hosts one of the most popular Facebook group pages.

2004 Transformer fire at VT yankee

2004 Transformer fire at VT yankee

2007 Cooling Tower Failure at Vermont Yankee

2007 Cooling Tower Failure at Vermont Yankee

The above pictures are just part of the incredible story which is the Vermont Yankee saga.  What this successful campaign also shows is the determination of the local, national and international groups to shut this reactor down.  And tragically how the system has been set up very intentionally so that almost nothing can close these reactors.

Edge of Wisdom Story

I am trying to improve my skills as a storyteller. I am watching audience response to my voice inflections and hand motions. I am making eye contact for certain profound portions of the script. I love to tell the story to intoxicated audiences, because I know they will be rude and interruptive and I want experiences with difficult audiences. 

Storyteller sillotte

This is the story I tell most often. It was originally a love letter to Anissa.

2012 Conference in Photos

Take a look at photos from last year’s conference to get an idea of some kinds of connection you can experience next weekend. A new set of 69 photos has been posted at

Diversity of Tactics means Violence

The most vexing and important question for the next generation of Occupy is what do we think about violence as a part of protest.

There is a philosophical framing of this argument as the acceptance or rejection of the strategy of a diversity of tactics.    The unofficial spokes persons for the black block are the CrimethInc Kids who have a tight case for the activist right to violence

What is violence? Who gets to define it? Does it have a place in the pursuit of liberation? These age-old questions have returned to the fore during the Occupy movement. But this discussion never takes place on a level playing field; while some delegitimize violence, the language of legitimacy itself paves the way for the authorities to employ it.

can we explode our way into peacefulness?

The case against violence in the context of Occupy’s daughter movements is one of parasitism and culture.  The black block attends events in which the principal organizers have declared that the philosophy of the event is a non-violent one.  The event maybe family friendly, it might even be a permitted protest (something i would not recommend, but happens).  So hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people show up expecting to have a certain type of experience.  They come planning to express their political descent with a certain  personal risk.

Fukushima: It is getting worse

There was a script we were supposed to be following in Japan after 3/11/11.  It went something like this.

There would be a parliamentary study of what went wrong and Fukushima.  The nuclear regulator which was very cozy with the nuclear utility would be blamed, it would be disassembled and new “tougher” regulator would take it’s place.  The government at the time would be blamed for it’s poor handling of the disaster, and it would loose control of the nation in the upcoming elections.  The utility responsible for the accident TEPCO would loose so much money it would be nationalized.  All the reactors in the country would be closed (because local government are involved in these decisions in ways they are not permitted to be in the US).  There would be huge demonstrations against nuclear power by the normally complacent Japanese people.

nuclear japan map icons

On a good day you can see it from here

Kat’s final book is called “Is it Utopia yet?”  The title has always struck me as especially clever, because it hits at several different points at the same time.  The first and obvious one is a self mocking look at intentional communities.  We are trying to make something better with an eye towards making something really fantastic and Utopian. And we know we will not “make it”, we have flawed members, too many disparate goals, and occasional disruptive outside influences and interventions.  This on top of the face that we dont even agree on what utopia might be.

it is a pretty place

it is a pretty place

But there is a second level in which Kat’s title is biting.  This is the question that many people ask the intentional communities they visit, because when the answer is “yes” or close enough, then they will consider joining.  What Kat was hitting at with the title is the sentiment that “Once you all have done the hard work of building utopia, then i (who has probably done nothing to help) will consider leaving my circumstance and join you, so i can enjoy the fruits of your labor.”

Come in the water is fine

Come in the water is fine

Food Processing: Peaches and Pineapple

canned peaches pineapple acorn community

Canned peaches and pineapple.

Recently, Acorn has had an abundance of fruit—between donations and our most recent peach harvest, we’ve had more than we’ve known what to do with! Our peaches, sadly, are diseased—peach trees don’t do well in our climate—so hours were spent cutting out the diseased parts for canning.

We also canned significant amounts of pineapple, and an experiment was made making fruit leather.

making fruit leather diy

The fruit leather being placed in the oven.

In case you are unfamiliar with canning fruit (as I was at the time), here are step by step instructions:

1. Cut them into bite-size chunks, spears, or whatever works for you. We didn’t remove the skin off of our peaches because ours were very small. Be sure to remove any bad brown bits (hopefully your peaches won’t have any!) and the pits. As you cut the peaches up, they need to be placed in water with lemon juice (any type of citric acid will do) so that they don’t turn brown while you prepare for canning.

2. Before canning, it’s important to sterilize the mason jars. Put the jars in boiling bath water for five seconds.

3. Make the canning syrup. We made ours by boiling turbinado sugar and water, although you can substitute sugar for honey.

Is arrogance genetic?

The Star family does monthly family adventures.  Sky, Hawina, Willow and i go off and take a hike, or romp thru a park, or play board games in a cafe and most importantly to Willow, we eat at a Chinese buffet.


Willow at Maymont Park, Richmond VA circa 2013

After some hunting, we discovered a new Chinese buffet in Richmond yesterday and in a rare quiet moment Willow asked me.

“Why dont you like Sushi?”

“i am not into raw fish.” i replied.

“This is a modern myth.” My son instantly retorted.  ”Sushi is now made with cooked fish which is served cold.” i was surprised at my 11 year olds understanding of contemporary exotic cuisines.

A few moments later Sky came back and confirmed that sushi is in fact still made with raw fish and then i was surprised by my sons complete willingness to speak confidently about things which he is making up.

Not Losing the Race

In the past week I had an thoughtful email dialog with a woman I'd never met before who came across something I'd written for the Diversity issue (summer 2012) of Communities magazine. The article was about the dynamics of racism in groups and she was moved to share her thoughts. As the topic is important and her comments were insightful, I'm using our dialog as the substance of today's blog.

She wrote:
I was just reading your article online, The Paralysis of Racism in Social Change Groups. I thought it was a great article, showing much more awareness about the minority person's point of view than I see in general from non-minorities. I'm African-American.

I wanted to make a comment, because I had such a strong reaction when I read this part of your article:

• If possible, try to acknowledge that for the minority person the dynamic feels like racism—something they’ve undoubtedly become sensitized to. Even better, try to acknowledge how awful this must feel. Try to connect with them emotionally, even if you don’t think you’re doing that bad thing. Note: I’m not pretending this is easy (authentically acknowledging someone else’s hurt when you feel wrongly accused); yet this can be especially effective at diffusing tension if you can do it.
Speaking only for myself, trying to connect with me emotionally would not be especially effective at diffusing tension in me. It would make me angrier. In this context, trying to connect with me emotionally, or acknowledging that what's happening feels like racism to me, would feel like a condescending pat on the head. I would prefer just this approach that you suggested:

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