|Through the Looking Glass #7||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: PattyMara (PattyMaraaol.com)|
|Date: Fri, 25 Dec 1998 20:31:18 -0600|
Dear Cohousing Listmembers and friends, I just watched the Christmas sun set into the Pacific dunes from our new deck then ran downstairs to take the laundry off the line before it gave up the accumulated heat of this most gloriously clear sunny day. All throughout the site and along the creek this morning there were monarch butterflies everywhere, enjoying the warmth. It is very quiet here at Tierra Nueva Cohousing on the central California coast. Of the sixteen families who have moved into our homes, most have travelled elsewhere to be with parents or extended families. A couple of the singles shared Christmas dinner at a local restaurant out on the patio above the ocean. On site, the aromas of roasting and barbequeing turkeys filled the air as families gathered in their individual homes to share private Christmas dinners. We celebrated as a community last Saturday night at the first annual Wierd Food Cafe Dinner Dance. And dance we did under a disco ball, to the eclectic musical tastes of various community members, ranging from Manhatten Transfer to Ella Fitzgerald to Talking Heads. It was a raging success. Candlelight and a huge tree was the decorating theme, and it transformed our common house into a magical yule garden. The food was planned to be served in courses in different parts of the common house, all through the evening to encourage people to stay late and dance in between courses. We had baked brie, curry mango chutney, fresh oysters on the half shell, cajun chicken with a variety of hot mustards, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, chocolate chicken, chocolate mousse, crab cakes (in the wee hours) and much champagne and egg nog. One of our single senior members described the event as "the best party I've been to in 25 years"! We were there until 3 am! The night before we celebrated Hanukkah with all of the kids lighting the many menorahs, including Marya's, who passed away in July. Her picture was nestled among the lit candles and we welcomed her spirit to the ceremony. Our next gathering will be New Year's Eve where we will be making traditional tamales together. We'll also do the secret Santa gifts and the 6th or 7th annual White Elephant Gift Exchange. This has been a favorite social through the years, and we have one fruitcake that promises to make its 4th appearance at the gift exchange. Rumor has it that one of our newer members actually *likes* fruitcake. Hopefully he'll get it, take it home and eat it. So amid all the holiday cheer, what "warts" could possibly be surfacing? My promise to report the progress of my family's move into cohousing "warts and all" can easily be accomplished. We've been dealing with the dreaded pet issue. We hired an outside group facilitator last month to help us begin the process, and spent 4 hours in a good first effort. What seemed to emerge was the notion that not all pets in our project need to be controlled by the same rules. There was a resistance by a longtime member to leash her elderly dog who spends most of his day following her around or riding with her in her car. Each of the dog owners gave a verbal commitment to the group regarding their particular pets and it seemed to work to create different "rules" for different pets. But it was just a beginning. And I sensed that not all was said out loud. What seems to me to be happening is that there is a growing sense of separation between the longtime members and those who have joined more recently. I think the shorttimers feel that us longtimers expect special treatment because we have suffered in the trenches so long to develop this crazy adventure. We are immersed in a convoluted history that seems to defy explanation or chronological order despite our best efforts to communicate everything we've been through. I am hoping that this division will dissolve with time, but I do see it clearly as an issue that divides us now, particularly when a newtimer opens up discussion on anything that was decided long ago. For example: the placement of the future workshop or the location of the garden and the play areas. These locations were decided years ago, and house sites where chosen based on proximity to each of the above amenities. So when a relatively new member or a group of new members wants to talk about changing basic site plan locations it raises a lot of concerns. For the time being, things are still being discussed in committees, so I expect that it will begin to heat up the general meetings by the middle of January. I'll keep you posted. Another wart is the need for a common house manager to create some organization in the various rooms. Tempers flaired recently when the kitchen recycling/trash piled up after a community meal and the next group of cooks had to take out a double load of bins. Yes, we are compiling lists of expectations and clean-up duties, but in the short run, we are all learning what a huge amount of time and muscle it takes to plan, prepare and clean up after a group meal. The tempers that flaired were probably a result of the teams being too small (and too elderly) to share the work loads. We'll have to create more balanced teams in the future so the work can be distributed better. A committee is meeting soon to begin the definition of the manger's duties. There definitely seems to be a need--and with the rigors of move-in there is little extra energy for organization. What do you established communities do to keep your common house running smoothly? Is it a volunteer or a paid position? How often does it revolve to another member? What are the general duties? Another wart is the site lighting and county-required railings, both of which turned out to be expensive eyesores, but more about that in a later post...Right now it's time to gather at a community member's house for dessert. Cheesecake and gingerbread men call. Solstice and Christmas blessings to all of you, Patty Mara Gourley Tierra Nueva Cohousing
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