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Piper’s Funeral

I sort of planned to get photos of this one when I heard they were decorating one of the farm trucks with greenery.  But I didn’t.  I wish you could have seen it.

I don’t know the details of how she died.  The story, though, is that they found her in a chair in the Nashoba addition, chocolate and hot cocoa at her side.  She was enjoying herself when she went.  No lengthy decline in health.  [Edit: She was 89.]  Partied her ass off at the Halloween party last week.  We’re all pretty sure she is/would be thrilled that this is the way it happened.  Knowing her.

Thursday night there was a sharing circle.  I didn’t attend.

Today we gathered at Nashoba.  Current members clustered together, and ex-members and friends were plenty.  Red made the coffin, simple pine boards I’m told, but with an accent of darker wood running lengthwise, produced hammock-stretcher style.  How Twin Oaks.  Piper was dressed in the glittery, glamorous gown she wore on Halloween.  The rest of us were mostly dressed in whatever.  It was cold outside, so some had dark coats and pants, while others wore their winter usual.  When it was time to process, volunteers lifted the coffin into the truck.  Carrol drove, and people, kids, and dogs followed along to the graveyard, shuffling through the thick dry leaves that lined the forest road.  They placed her atop her grave, and we all gathered around to share what we would.  Many spoke of her influence teaching children to read.  Others had stories about her sassiness, or about how difficult she could be sometimes, or about how she dreamed big and went after what she wanted.  Some shared poetry and music.  We cried, but mostly we laughed.  The day was gorgeous.

What's going on in my life these days:

I've been feeling inspired by friends and people around me to follow anything that brings me joy, despite difficulties, mental or physical, that it will take to get there. I've been running regularly; pushing myself to run up hills, speeding up, gradually increasing my distance, and listening to my body when it tells me it needs rest. I started practicing sitting meditation again. I often get caught up in a frantic energy. It feels like an inability to take a full breath, and an inability to focus. Then there's the struggle of my mind trying to control it and judge that feeling. Meditation helps me slow down, and let go of the mental judgements.

My Continuing Relationship with Town Food

I'm now more aware of the super old patterns that I have with food, and I'm learning that repeatedly breaking a pattern really brings change. I get a lot of cravings when I go into town and see "off diet" food, and then I feel stressed because I'm trying to decide if I should give into it. When I do give into it, the food (usually chocolate or a baked good) doesn't taste as good as I imagined it, and then I feel sick almost immediately afterward. Then I feel guilty and self judgmental about it.

My practice of breaking the pattern: When I catch myself craving something, instead of reaching for it, I take a deep breath, experience the feeling of craving. Then I ask myself what will come from actually eating it, and remember the past food indulgences. After that, I can watch the craving pass, and then I feel relieved.

The food in town used to be this forbidden thing for me. I would try to stay away from it for as long as I could, and then mentally punish myself when I ate it. I also felt sadness about wanting to just "fit in" with the majority of Americans who eat that stuff, and feel healthy and not stressed around it.

Halloween!

Last night was the Halloween party.  Halloween is not my favorite Twin Oaks holiday, but this year I really enjoyed it.  We have a new holiday manager who used to be involved in haunted houses, and she did a wonderful job transforming ZK (our dining hall) into a party space.  Many people don’t like having parties at ZK (traditionally the dance parties at Halloween, Anniversary and Validation Day happen there) because the building feels “institutional,” the dance floor is too big to ever feel “full,” and the layout of the building encourages people to section off such that one feels as though the party is less attended than it actually is.

Budding Trees

Louisa Town Relations

I put in a req for Brittany to take me into town today for some dairy/fences errands.

So, first, we stopped at the Food Lion for treats: “Donuts?  Donuts.”

But then on the way out, we passed by this couple, one of whom said “Oh look, young Twin Oakers!”  Not in a sort of “Hello!  I lived there!” sort of way, but in a “Hey, your hair is sticking up!” sort of way.

So I interrogated Brittany about our appearance, and we determined that we look a little funny.  Maybe not outlandish.  But off:

Brittany and Keegan

I’m wearing a matching red hat and scarf with a naval (?) jacket that I got out of commie last year, some torn up jeans, and poop-stained dairy boots.  Brittany says she looks “bag-lady chic.”

Later, at the hardware store, I was getting things rung up, and I said, “I think we have an account with y’all.  I’m from Twin Oaks.” And the cashier didn’t respond for a while.  Then he looked up, and said:

“What are you working on there?”

“Oh, I mean, nothing really — this is just a few things for the dairy barn.”

“Dairy?”

“Yeah.  I manage the dairy program there.”

“Huh. ”
“How did you land that job?”

“Uh.”
“The last manager stopped, and nobody else wanted to do it.  That’s kind of how things work there. Did you know the last manager?”

“No.”

His look was puzzling.

Theories:

1) He was checking to see if I was legitimately from Twin Oaks or if I was trying to bill somebody else for my drain stoppers and surge protector.

2) I looked like a city boy?  “You do look very stylish from the waist up,” says Brittany.

walnut harvest

A bunch of us piled into a van, last week, for a 6-hour road trip down to southern Wisconsin, to gather black walnut from trees that line the roadsides. We camped out in a friend's yard, and gathered walnuts all day. It was an adventure that was filled with friendly farmers and small town folk. The most memorable parts of it were when a group of teenagers TP'd the trees around our tents in the middle of the night, and when we were on our way home, our trailer broke down from being old and overloaded with nuts.

I found this nut while gathering, and noticed its heart-shape.gathering
some of our nut harvestthe end result!

No Dairy, Just Dance

I know you all out there have been wondering for some time, “Would a dairy barn be a good place to throw a dance party?”  Last night I found the answer, and it is a solid YES.

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     ^ This picture already existed on the internet

Clean industrial surroundings, multiple dance floor levels, electronic music, disco ball, and egg sandwiches.  Next time, a lovely refreshment bar and off-floor social space.  You’re gonna love it.


Lake Superior



 

The Great Gitche Gume. The largest of the great lakes.  31,700 square miles of blue. Shiny pebbles along the shore, the calming sound of the waves, and wild grapes!


September comes to a close. October brings colder weather, red leaves, people coming and going out my life, children growing and changing before my eyes, and myself changing and growing in more subtle ways.

What's Happening: September 2013


Autumn Begins
Cool nights and warm sunny days marked the beginning of fall in the Ozarks this year.  Some foliage has already begun to change colors and fall to the forest floor, though most trees are holding out for a little longer.  Ticks, chiggers, mosquitos, and fleas are abundant and flourishing as the summer comes to an end—leaving some East Winders eagerly awaiting the first frost.  During the fall and winter, East Winders are able to enjoy limitless opportunities to explore the Ozark woodlands that surround us.  Hiking, hunting, forestry, and plant and mushroom foraging are a few favorite activities. 
East Winders celebrated the autumn equinox on September 22ndthis year.  Party-goers gathered in a lovely little spot overlooking the Mulberry Garden.  The party location was once comptoil, cow pasture, and orchard space; but has begun to undergo a transformation this year.  The old orchard space is now home to three new fig trees and four new elderberry trees, and we intend to plant more trees nearby this spring.  Just south of the garden fence, our new gazebo is finally complete.  The cedar pole gazebo is partially timber framed, and houses a beautiful stone and cob table and four benches on a cobblestone floor.  Vines have already made their way up the gazebo posts and trellising, producing an abundance of nearly ripe passionfruit and hops strobiles.  East Winders enjoyed ten gallons of homebrewed IPA made with our own homegrown hops this equinox.  

Wild Plant Harvests on the Lake

A friend and I did some some exploring yesterday on Hiles Mill Lake. We were looking for a section of mountain maple trees located above a floating bog. We wanted to go out there to gather seeds for edibility tests. We paddled for about 1 1/2 miles, and then waded into the bog. What's neat about the floating bog is that it's bouncy. It reminded me of being on a moon bounce when I was a kid. What's a little scary/exciting is that it is difficult to see how far you will sink in until you step down. I fell into a deep spot a couple times when I wasn't being completely aware of where I was stepping. Once we made it through the bog, we climbed up a path of fallen trees into the mountain maple forest. It was a really beautiful day, and we collected a couple bags of seeds.


This whole area is surrounded by lakes. Almost every time we go out to gather wild edible plants, we explore a different lake. I'm enjoying the opportunities to get in a canoe. I'm getting better at canoeing, and I'm getting stronger. I really like being out in the sunlight, and on the water, with a view of all the colors of the fall trees.

Three Worlds-the new way, the old way, and the dream world

I rode one of the community bikes out to wolf lake today. It was silent there, except for the sound of the wind whipping over the water, and the fluttering of quaking aspen leaves. I felt thirsty. I stepped toward the shore, and lay onto the the small rocks with my palms down, in a push-up like stance, and my face over the water . I opened my mouth, and then a wave came and woke me up with a splash in the face. I decided to bring the water to my mouth with my hands, and then I splashed more water onto my face. Afterward, I looked up and out across the lake with a view I had never had before. It felt really good to feel so connected to this huge source of life. My source of life. Water fuels me. I need it for my very survival.

I’ve been slowly transitioning the bacteria in my stomach to wild water. I’m following a very careful protocol. I’m aware of giardia and other risks, and I don’t recommend trying it without someone very experienced and knowledgeable to guide you.

I took a walk along the lake. When I felt like I was done walking, I thought about how I didn’t want forget the feeling of the cool wind against my face, the brush of the ferns against my side, or the soft moss.

When I left Wolf Lake, I walked up to the paved road. I got on the bicycle, put my headphones in, and then rode off. The song, “The Crane Wife” by the Decemberists started playing. It reminded me of the unforgettably, loud and beautiful sound of the crane singing while flying over the wild rice a few days before.

wolf lake

Ricing Moon and the Healing Circle

Alex and I spent the whole day today canoeing and gathering wild rice from the lake. I've been ricing for about two weeks now, and it looks like today was probably the last day. The stalks are browning, and the rice falls light. The wind was coming in heavily from the north, blowing white caps on the water that chopped at the canoe. We used all our strength to paddle against it, and once we got to the shore, the wind lay low, blocked by a stand of trees. I looked around and noticed the color of the trees. Yellows and browns spotted the coast, and a few specks of red maple leaves showed their fall colors. I felt chilled. I wished I had brought an extra sweater. Fall is here already! It's beautiful...

Photos from last weeks wild rice harvest:



The long Wisconsin winter

Fall gives a reminder of the incoming white season. The snow will start falling in October, and continue until April. Sometimes it snows in May or June. In the middle of winter, the temperature will drop down to -20 at night. I’m afraid of feeling cold. I want to make peace with the cold, but I’m not sure how.
Maybe this winter will be an experiment, to see how well I can acclimate to change and discomfort.

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.





I had intended

I had intended to keep updating my blog throughout my travels, but my inspiration to write started being expressed through written letters to friends back at Twin Oaks.
I deleted my facebook yesterday, and now I think I will put more energy toward writing, and more of the connections I am looking for.

When I left the Possibility Alliance months ago, I continued my sitting meditation practice, even though I didn't have others to share it with, and I was longing for that. I guess I would call it spiritual community. Unfortunately, that need doesn't feel fulfilled for me in religious churches, though I can get something out of it when I attend.

My practice slowly waned when I was at Teaching Drum. There was no one to sit with. When I'm alone in my practice, I have trouble focusing, even when I know that regular meditation and spiritual practice in my life benefit my mental health hugely.

I started running again-it became my practice. It takes patience and steadfastness as meditation does. When I am running and practicing sitting meditation regularly, I am doing really well. But, I struggle to keep these two things in my life regularly.

My unhealed emotional stuff was revealed to me in a way it never has been when I was at Teaching Drum. Teaching Drum is a small community that hosts a wilderness immersion program every year. I spent about a month there in June.

What’s Happening: July 2013



Summertime This summer has been pleasantly sunny and warm, and definitely a mild summer compared to the extreme heat experienced during the past few years.  The plant and animal life of the Ozarks suffered briefly during a minor drought in early June, but was relieved by plentiful rains at the end of the month. Despite the characteristic humidity, the weather has been beautiful.  The afternoons are often hot and sunny, but the mornings and nights are pleasantly cool.  Many East Winders are enjoying the creek daily.




Who can come? How communes invite people to parties

We have a bunch of parties.  Many of them small and informal, with basically no outreach or invitation process  so if you dont know folks at the commune, or if you dont happen to be there on the right day you will miss it.  We also have much larger and publicly announced events like New Years, Validation Day and Land Day.  For many of the larger events we post on Facebook, send emails out to ex-member and friends of community and get the word out.  And we often say something like “You need to have a host to come to this party.”

someone with the same spelling contraction problem i often have

someone with the same spelling contraction problem i often have

Baby’s first d20

We moved our DnD game to the Nashoba addition, where Rosie (new mother and the force behind the party’s barbarian) has been staying since the birth.  Hooray!  Sylvia is gonna be a gamer!  And life goes on.

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Guess that baby!

So, as you’ve probably heard by now, we’ve got a new baby at Twin Oaks.  I’m quite happy for Rosie & Elspeth that they’ve produced a brand new wee one, and quite pleased with myself for having become a grandfather.  You see, although Rosie actually gave birth to the baby, technically that cute little bundle o’ love belongs to my son Sami.

Yup, you read that right.  One of our curious Twin Oaks customs, which has been going on for years and years, is “Guess that baby.”   Here’s how it works: sometime in the last month of pregnancy, the expectant parent(s) put up a homemade calendar,  sometimes with holidays and due dates highlighted, in ZK.  Everyone is then welcome to make a guess as to the date and time the baby will be born.  In the case of our most recent addition, we were also encouraged to speculate as to gender, weight, relative hairiness, and whatever other details we wanted to add.  Then, once the little bundle of joy pops out, whoever has guessed the closest date and time wins….you guessed it…the BABY!!!   In the case of little Sylvia Popcorn Tupelo, everyone’s guesses were clustered in early July, closer to the official due date.  Sami chose Thursday the 27th at 5:00 AM.  Although he was an entire 24 hours off, he was, by far, the only Oaker who guessed such an early date, so he won!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of their “guess that baby” calendar, but I have one from Sami’s birth back in 2009.  On that occasion, I guessed my own birthday, March 17th, at 3:17 PM, which also happens to be the time I was born.

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As it turns out, I got the date right, but he was born around 7:30, so Rie, whose guess was closer to the right time, won the baby.  Here she is with her baby, experiencing the thrill of parenthood:

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