Through the Two Acre Looking glass
From: MartyR707 (MartyR707aol.com)
Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2000 17:24:15 -0600 (MDT)
This is a blurb I am putting together for our local paper - and I couldn't 
resist sending it along to you all.  Warning, it's slightly long:

We started moving into our new  cohousing homes at Two Acre Wood last July 
and the last families were in by September.  After five years (more for a 
few) of planning, hard work, disappointments, and triumphs, we were in our 
beautiful new homes designed by community member and architect Michael Black. 
 What has this first year been like?  Here are the impressions from a few of 
our members starting with mine:

Marty Roberts, single woman:

For a single woman, cohousing is delightful.  I moved from an admittedly 
peaceful existence in my own quiet home in Santa Rosa to a community full of 
people and activity.  The delight is that there is always someone around to 
have dinner with, to go to the movies with, or to sit on the patio and sip a 
margarita with and rave about how the garden is growing.  No need to make 
complicated plans, or even drive!

The community meals a couple times a week are great to come home from work to 
(even if I'm cooking), but sometimes even nicer, are the spontaneous meals 
that occur between a few households that all have some food and good company 
to share.

And the children!  It is wonderful to have 9 or 10 young children as part of 
my extended family - I have known several of them since they were born and 
will probably know them at their weddings.  Planting seeds in the garden with 
2.5 year old Jewell, or dragging my old dolls down from the attic with 7 year 
old Liora is truly heart-warming and fun!  Turning Elsa upside-down and 
knowing the peals of laughter that will follow, to have the giggling and 
innocence "in my face" is a great antidote to "being in my 50's"!!

Wendy Ellyn, wife of Ben Lev and mother of 2:

I might sound like a Pollyanna, but there is no place in the world I'd rather 
live right now. I love the way the kids flow into and out of each other's 
houses, and the way the adults (both parents and non-parents) enjoy the kids 
and each other.

My youngest daughter was born a month after we moved in, and by now she must 
think she has about 10 siblings and 20 aunts and uncles. My 3-year-old loves 
to perform for people, and it's been great fun to watch her and her friends 
do impromptu songs and dances in the common house. My husband loves to cook 
in huge quantities, and he's had the time of his life cooking common house 
meals.

There are so many other highlights from our first year here--the kids making 
a human pyramid on the lawn, candlelight dinners on the plaza, the guys 
cooking a voluptuous Mother's Day brunch, the way everyone helped out when a 
neighbor's dog died, realizing one morning that if I had car trouble I 
wouldn't have any problem finding a car to borrow...the list goes on and on.

It has taken a lot from all of us to build this community, to get moved in, 
and to organize processes and structures to keep things running smoothly. The 
road continues to be bumpy at times. But the payoff is so delightful!

Steve Einstein, husband of Karen and father of twins:

What a challenging thing this co-housing adventure has been. It's full of
adjustments, and compromises,  disappointments, together with  frequent
moments that are joyful and full of the sense of community that we all were
hoping for.  I think this has been a period of learning how to live
together,  and deciding just how collective we actually want to be.  (Some
have described co-housing as 'condo meets commune'. )
    A Yiddish classic from the turn of the century was entitled 'Life is
With People'.   I feel that way about life here at Two Acre Wood.  My life
is so much richer and more engaged because I get to share this space
with 26 other adults and 10 kids.  We share the pain of someone's pet who
has died, or a  mother in Chicago who is ill,  or the loss of a job.  And
then we share the joy of  the birth of a new child,  the growth of
vegetables in our new garden,  a soak with friends in a hot tub, a shared
meal.
    Conflicts over just about every aspect of sharing this small corner of
Sebastopol are common.  We debate and discuss, and then revisit a
discussion or decision, and then eventually come to a consensus of sorts,
and move on.  It's not a process for the impatient or fiercely independent.
But it's a process that brings me closer to my neighbors, and helps all of
us in continuing to define who and what we are.
   This is a journey we're on here. It's an unfolding adventure, and an
exciting time to be a part of creating this new village of ours.

And this was written by Steve on another day:

   The other night I went with the kids to visit Brinnton, his wife Karen,
and their daughter Grace, friends who live over on Neva St.  The small house 
was a fixer that my friends spent a good amount of time reforming and their 
finished product is absolutely adorable. And my God, the back yard was 
massive and stunning. I recognized the wave of envy that was invading me. A 
small tasteful house with lots of character, a backyard to die for, and  
neighbors you know and like, ... jeesh, it looked so perfect.
   So as I was leaving Karen asks me how we like cohousing. I hate that
question. How do we do justice to a question like that in two sentences? I
end up saying "it's good, ... it has drawbacks, but we're happy with it for
now, and it makes sense for us, ... yada yada yada "
   I'm feeling a bit sad as I pop the kids into the car and we drive off,
leaving sweet Neva St. and all that privacy and massive backyard and
character behind.
   A minute later we pull into our place. Just as we came in, Mary pulls
into her spot. She bounces out of her car greeting us mightily. She's been
to drumming class and is even more upbeat than usual. A moment later Tom
lopes along with big ole Dailah. He asks about Malka who has an injured
leg, and then he jokes with the kids about this or that. Holly waves from
her kitchen sink, Koby hollers "goodnight Leo" in the direction of Leo's
house though he is nowhere to be seen, and then Michael J appears with a
friend. We make a date for early morning tennis. Excellent. There's
cackling coming from Louise's house again. Marty spills out with Louise
right behind. I tell them how nice it is to hear laughter again from
Louise's. We all agreed.
   We weren't home two minutes and we'd seen six friends and neighbors, and 
hollered goodnight to another. All that sweetness and quiet privacy of Neva 
St. was eons away. I didn't really care how pathetic a backyard we had. It 
was fun coming home.

Mary Ruthsdotter, wife of Dave Crawford, mother of grown daughter:

My husband and I came into this grand adventure with modest expectations.  
The house we had lived in for 20 years suited us well, but we did not have a 
lot in common with our mostly college-age neighbors.  When we read about a 
meeting to discuss cohousing, our curiosity was piqued. Living more 
cooperatively made sense.  We went to that first meeting, and we were still 
there five years later when the new front-door keys were distributed.  

What were we hoping to achieve?  A place for forward-looking people eager for 
a new variation on village life.  Interesting conversations with people of 
varied ages and backgrounds, perspectives and experiences.  Kids in our daily 
life, for enjoying silliness with or for reading with in our hammock.  
Material resources owned in common for economic efficiency.  Good company 
sharing yard work and building projects.  Dinners and parties without driving 
across town.  

What did we find? All of the above, to our delight.  Evening margaritas, 
walks to town, shared meals, outings to the beach - it's rare not to find at 
least one person available to join us.    Ready conversationalists that match 
our different interests.  Kids as lively and sweet as they come.  And even 
more.  We've been touched by our neighbors' loving interest in our well-being 
as we've faced unexpected career changes, cared for our ill parents, or 
tackled untimely car repairs.  Village life does suit us well, as we'd 
anticipated.

Denise Meier, wife of Michael Jacob, mother of one:

It's late afternoon, and my daughter Liora, and Karen's twins, Koby &
Elsa, are playing together in our hot tub, while Karen and I share a
beer and talk about the day. Harry, my next-door neighbor with whom we
share the backyard, brings his son over and asks if we can watch Leo in
the hot tub while he attends a Landscape Committee meeting. "Sure."
While Olivia, age 10 is away for a couple of months, Liora, age 7-1/2 is
the senior kid, and most of the other kids, ranging in age from 2 to 5,
listen to her better than to their parents. Leo climbs into the tub and
Harry takes off.

Karen and I listen while they resume a game they started yesterday, a
long rambling story about 4 kids with names and ages remarkably similar
to theirs:

"One night four kids met in the common house and tried to decide what to
do. They decided to have a sleep-over at Leon's house. So they all went
to Leon's. In the morning they went to Ben's house for breakfast. Then
they decided to go exploring...." And on it goes. These kids are
actually too young to gather in the common house at night by themselves,
and most of them don't do sleepovers yet, either. But they will.

Recently a new baby was born into our community. Sometimes, as I watch
her passed from lap to lap during a community meal or a general meeting,
I wonder what it would be like to come into consciousness of the broader
world with so many loving adults and children around; always someone to
smile at, to play with, to hold you. I envy her, having grown up in a
small nuclear family with no extended family within 2000 miles. I watch
my daughter with her "pseudo-siblings", and notice that my worries about
raising an only child have eased a lot since we moved in here. Not only
does she have other kids to grow up with, to love and to fight with, but
she has adults who will be there for her at times in her life when she
can't or won't turn to her parents. For my family, this community
provides a strong, loving base that sustains us as we move through our
lives.

(Marty again:) I asked a few kids what they liked about living in cohousing:

Leo, age 4:
I like going in Liora's hot tub.
I like to eat candy. (Sometimes get some at other people's houses along with 
juice, ice cream, or gum!)
I like Kids Club and working in the garden.
One time Sophie took a bath with me at our house - we like taking baths 
together at different kids houses.  (Editor's comment:  I think this is the 
kids version of our hot-tubbing!)
When I slept over at Arielle's, I got to sleep in the top bunk!

Liora, age 7.5:
The "little" kids aren't always annoying, and sometimes they're fun.
All the grown-ups are nice.
I like being close to places to play on the property at Two Acre Wood and the 
kids around to play with.
I like my house - it has an upstairs and a place for a loft in my room.
I like Taiko drumming on the plaza.
I liked going in Marty's attic and playing with her dolls - I always have fun 
with Marty!
(Marty here:  I have to admit that last part made me feel pretty good!)

Marty Roberts
Two Acre Wood, Sebastopol, CA


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