Through the looking glass, #6
From: PattyMara (
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 14:54:24 -0600
Hello list and friends,
At Tierra Nueva Cohousing, Central California Coast life is becoming less
surreal for me, as the reality of living here fills my life.  There are now 12
households in residence, with 2 more moving within the next 2 weeks.
Telephone hook-ups continue to be bottlenecked, but miraculously speeded up
when the community enacted  a strategy to call supervisors, Pac Bell officials
and eventually the Public Utilities Commission.

The common house is finally officially "ours" and we are no longer locked out
by the contractors every night (which we remedied by using "the Santo Key"-a
nine year old boy who climbed through a high transom window and unlocked the
door with his foot).  It is a sweet joy to walk up to the common house with a
load of laundry, and find it open and clean.  

Our dinner group is transforming into cooking teams and we are experimenting
with cooking, serving and accounting options.  We figure we'll try everything
until something feels right.  

The stressors of moving in, delays in construction causing late move-ins for
some folks from out of town and state, and the to-be-expected glitches of
living in proximity have revealed themselves in the disguise of "The Pet
Issue".  It seems to happen in every community, and we were warned and
prepared for it to come up, and come up it did.  Of the community members who
are hot on the issue there are the ones who have 'em, and the ones who don't.
Dogs in particular are getting the bad rap, especially the ones who aren't
leashed.  Feelings are running very deep, old time members are feeling hurt
personally when their dogs are criticized or expected to conform to blanket
rules.  So we have decided to have a retreat next Sunday.  Hopefully, we'll
use the process skills we've been practicing for so long to craft a win/win
policy.  Any pet wisdom out there from those of you living in community

Another hot issue is kids in the common house.  We have a sitting room next to
our large dining room that is called that, as well as library, living room,
adult room and quiet room.  The families with small children are raising the
issue that to designate a room for adults only is not only restrictive to the
parents of toddlers but also discriminates against children.  We have not
officially designated this room adult only, but some adults wish for it to be
so.  After a circle check at our last business meeting we came up with a nifty
win/win.  The room will be called the Quiet Room, and use of it will not be
determined by age, but by behavior.   Anyone willing to quietly read or
visitor play can use the space.  Babies and toddlers will be accompanied by
adults and no food allowed.  So storytime around the fire, discussion groups,
board games, cards, quiet reading (our library is there) and even sing-alongs
are encouraged, as long as the tone is subdued.  When it revs up to roudy,
there's our game room, kids room, mezzanine and outdoor decks to spill into.
I'm planning on making a hand painted sign for the door as a visual cue.  

I've experienced some personal frustration in arranging furniture by
committee.  After a few hours of heavy lifting and moving of stored furniture
into the common house, I have found little patience for the rigors of coming
to agreement on where the couch goes when 5 people are involved in the
decision.  I've taken to leaving the room, letting others do the work, and
releasing the notion that it has to be my way.  As time goes on, the furniture
seems to be finding its own right place.  And I have on occasion come in later
and moved it around somemore to finetune the placement, I confess.  I've
learned that some folks don't seem to have the same need I have personally to
create a certain energy flow to rooms (and that includes lighting placement as
well) it's more unsettling for me when a room isn't graceful.  I may have
to lower my standards, but I hope not too much.  

It feels important to the spirit of the common house to fill the rooms with
life and color and beauty, so that they are used and enjoyed.   It's getting
there slowly as more furniture arrives, and artwork and homemade curtains and
toys and kitchen stuff fills the shelves.  

Because we couldn't decide on one day to celebrate the turkey holiday we've
come up with two feasts:  Thanksgiving on Thursday and Givingthanks on
Saturday.  To accommodate different travel schedules and family commitments
and give a chance for everyone to be present.  Thursday's will be the
traditional fare, and Saturday's will be a Latin American theme potluck for
south-of-the-border-dishes that-use-up-turkey-and-trimmings-leftovers.
Expected offerings are turkey-feta enchiladas and cranberry-chipotle chili

I hope we can find time and uninhibited energy to dance up a storm at both
gatherings.  Dancing together is one activity that seems to plunge tierra
nuevans into I hope to facilitate a loosening up and a general
encouragement to all ages to shake our collective bootie. 

I'll let you know if I succeed,

Patty Mara Gourley
Tierra Nueva, Oceano, CA 

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