Through the Looking Glass, at five years.
From: Fred H Olson (fholsoncohousing.org)
Date: Sun, 5 Oct 2003 12:13:07 -0600 (MDT)
PattyMara Gourley <pattymara [at] juno.com>
is the author of the message below. 
It was posted by Fred the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at] cohousing.org> 
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------

Five years ago I posted some of my thoughts as my family prepared to move
into our new cohousing home.  I called those journal notes "Through the
Looking Glass" because it felt so surreal.  I thought I'd offer an update
since we just celebrated our fifth anniversary of living here together
with  a whole weekend gaggle of events.   We kicked it off with Friday
Night Live, a variety/talent show, which opened with the Autumn Equinox
play "Persephone Returns!".  The kids and I (in the role of MaraNara, the
Cohousing Fairy) have been presenting plays for each of the two equinox
and two solstice seasons and this one was particularly endearing to me. 
Most of my actors are in the 7 - 11 age group, with several on the cusp
of pre-teen "coolness".  I can sense that the "window of willingness" to
dress up as fairies, spirits and mythological characters may soon
close...indeed, another act in the variety show that night included my
same sweet fairies who had put on globs of make-up and changed into
flapper vamps to dance a number from the musical Chicago.  I happened to
be watching from up in our mezzanine balcony with several of our Tierra
Nueva boys.  They were spellbound into stunned silence as they watched
the girls bump and grind onstage.  As a mother of two grown children I
know how quickly children grow, so I'm savoring the time I share with "my
players" as we think up new ideas, write scripts, throw together costumes
and stumble through our roles on stage.   The Great Turning of the Year
that we are marking with our equinox and solstice performances is a fine
metaphor for our children growing up and our community maturing.
 
Saturday morning we gathered for a "fishbowl", which gave each of us a
chance to reveal what we liked about living here AND "it would be better,
if. . . . ."  I scribed all the "better if's" on a white pad and ended up
with 47 ideas for enhancing our community life.  The children were the
first to sit in the center of the circle and speak, while the rest of us
listened with deep attention.  "It would be better if we had a treehouse"
were Max's first words, and he had complete consensus from the rest of
the kids.  When the kids were finished we cycled through other small
groups, and many provocative issues emerged including work participation,
parenting and the needs of elders.  A few hackles were raised, some tears
shed and hearts opened.  A build-your-own sandwich lunch, followed by an
afternoon of ping pong, croquet and a scavenger hunt finished the day.
 
On Sunday I led an activity called "Dancing Our Story" out on the village
green.  After assembling everyone in a giant circle, we called out
"1988!" the year of the very first slide show gathering. The founding
families walked to the center and joined hands to form a serpentine line.
 Then I called out the successive years.  One by one each household
joined the dance in the order they had joined the community.  The
founding families slowly formed a spiral, growing closer and closer with
each year.  When the most recent resident joined hands with the spiral
dancers, we changed directions to form a new spiral, to dance into the
future.  It was simple, sweaty fun, which even the "I don't dance" stoics
in the group enjoyed.  Next came an Ice Cream Social with fresh peaches,
blueberries, a substantial amount of hot fudge and fresh baked cookies. 
We do know how to eat here.
 
Our last event was called "Soul Talk" where we explored the notion of our
evolving awareness of the group Soul of Tierra Nueva.  Our first families
were pointedly secular in their orientation.  To bring the words "soul"
and "spirit" into our conversation was an indication of deep change from
the original intentions of the founders.  The portrait of our group Soul
that emerged for me after our hour of dialogue was an energetic
connection,  spiritual but not religious, and deeply rooted in the legacy
of our land.  It was a tender ending to the party weekend, especially
when the newest member, an out-of-state person who hasn't moved in yet,
remarked:  "In the 24 hours I've been at Tierra Nueva I've been most
impressed with this:   You are dedicated to one another.  You may not
like everyone or get along with everyone, but you are dedicated to each
other's well-being."   I'm too close to see this.  From inside the
looking glass of community,  I needed to hear this observation from
someone new, someone still outside looking in, to reflect back to me how
we are doing.  After nearly ten years of dreaming up this wild adventure,
and five years of living here, I heard Tierra Nueva's group Soul speaking
through our newest neighbor.   We are dedicated to one another. 

In the following days since the celebration we've all been processing the
"stuff" that came up, and already have had one meeting with the parents
of young children to filter the information that they heard from the
elders about the behavior of the children.  More meetings are certain to
follow, and we're practicing our Non Violent Communication language to
get through the thick of it.  Meanwhile, we're getting ready to have a
big potluck wedding shower for one of Tierra Nueva's first children who's
all grown up and about to get married.  And the seasons, they go round
and round....

coheartedly,
Patty Mara Gourley
Tierra Nueva, central CA coast.

www.gourleydesign.com


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