Through the looking glass #2
From: PattyMara (
Date: Wed, 5 Aug 1998 16:28:56 -0500
Dear List,
Thanks for your many responses and encouragements.  The past few days have
been mixed with both elation and some dread.  I live in a most enchanting
redwood cottage surrounded by woods and groves and private yard and garden.  I
am sad to pack up and leave, but that's just what I am doing.  Sorting,
packing, hauling give-aways to the thrift store.  I am firing my kiln with a
load of address number tiles for our new cohousing homes and enjoying a summer
day in Halcyon.  Just over the hill is the avocado orchard where our project
is being built.  From my studio,  I can hear the bulldozers doing final
grading for the pathways.  

While our new home becomes less of a construction site (most of the finish
carpentry is done now, only cleanup remains), the surrounding homes are very
much under construction.  Workers are hooking hoses up to our water spigot and
plugs into our outdoor outlets.  Both water and electricity are now under our
name, so I am finding myself becoming oddly territorial.  I am asking workers
to hook up to construction faucets and poles and wondering what is happening
to me?  And before when we all would wander through each other's houses as
they were being framed and roofed and drywalled it was effortless and joyful.
Now when I see families with kids going up and down our stairs I find myself
worrying about the sand on the new carpet and the fingerprints on the navaho
white walls.  

This is not a comfortable feeling.  These people are my friends, the kids part
of my extended family.  And I'm "angsting" over carpet and fingerprints?
What is happening to me? 

Another fear:  I am an artist, who spends *way* more time in my studio (making
a joyful mess of my own)  than housecleaning my house.  You could say that our
current house has a "relaxed" feel to it, and I usually vacuum only when it's
our turn to host the potluck. (not that often)  So here we are, moving into a
pristine condo, with above-mentioned white walls, new flooring and sparkling
appliances.  (The white amana range is especially intimidating-I won't be
spending precious time keeping it white.)  So we move in and the house begins
to suffer the effects of sheltering a family of four creative spirits-two of
them teenagers. 
All the other houses will have the same white walls, new flooring and sparking
appliances.  My fear:  that when everyone moves in within the next few months,
it will become painfully obvious that ours is a family of slobs.  And every
time I visit a friend, who most likely will have small children, and still can
manage to keep that damn amana sparkling white, I will notice the difference.
Worse, everyone who comes to visit me will notice the difference.  

True, we will be rapidly making changes all over our homes, with our
individual styles, furnishings, paint color choices (our walls won't be white
for much longer) and perhaps the general maintenance will become less obvious.
I probably won't change my lifestyle to incorporate more housecleaning and
less creative time in my studio, so it will have to become okay with me to
*not* notice the differences and not worry about anyone else noticing either. 

The latest troubling discovery of my husband's is that our garages are built
so that it is physically impossible to turn into them with one clean sweep of
a turn.  He was doing 2 and 3 point turns to get into our garage, and once in,
there was so little clearance that he had to walk sideways to get out.  And
it's empty now.  What will it be like when we start filling it up with our

It appears that cohousing has been a constant challenge for us to release and
surrender all of our most dearly held beliefs about what we need in our lives.
All through the design and development process we had to practice this
surrender.  So we'll try living without a fireplace (for the first time in
twenty years) and replace it with an outdoor terra cotta firepot or campfire
ring.  So we'll let go of the large bedroom, the affordable monthly mortgage
payment, the private yard and the charm of our rustic redwood cottage.    And
just when we think we've done all the compromising we are capable of in one
lifetime, along comes another chance to practice surrender and release.   I'll
park my tiny honda in the garage, my husband will park his pickup outside in
an open air space.  And we'll give away more of our stuff.  

And I'll sew curtains for our windows and learn to do some good boundary work
with my new community.  And I'll find a paint color for my walls that will
hide and be enhanced by the fingerprints of my toddler buddies.  

Patty Mara Gourley
Tierra Nueva Cohousing
where the wolf is in the common house kitchen, with its splendid red knobs,
surrounded by over a hundred hand painted tiles. 

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