We hope you come learn natural building techniques with us! You can learn more and pre-register at this web address http://theFEC.org/workshop.
See you in October!
No Boys Allowed
Twin Oak 26th Womyn's Gathering
By Calliope Kurtz
Slumber party, summer camp. These are magical memories, full of mystique. As children, we enter into community directed and determinate. The nuclear family, the neighborhood, the school. These associations are contrived, and they receive a challenge. Soon after, community expands and accepts more adventitious elements. Chance encounters and ephemeral friendships. Overnight summer camp is a special example. New faces dimly illuminated by flashlights and campfires. Anything is possible when new faces meet. This is an intimate approximation of Halloween, the most social, and random, of holidays ~ with one important twist. Now there are no masks, no role playing. Only the magic of fortuitous community, the desire to exchange delights, remains.
There is one other aspect of community defining its design. Intentionality. In this instance, imagine the forest fort's entrance exclaiming 'No Boys Allowed'. Perhaps that is overstated. Most likely, nobody actively notices the absence of males (or more accurately, male identification); what is divined is increased female presence. That changes everything. It's not necessarily better, but it is noticeably different. And, as the continued success of Twin Oaks' annual Womyn's Gathering demonstrates, it is, on special occasions, necessary. Not for all women, certainly, but certainly for women who remember the startling rapport shared between girls, former strangers, established within seconds, during that summer camp instant when "best friends" might include half the world.
Despite worries about higher gas prices in particular and recession woes in general, Twin Oaks 26th annual Womyn's Gathering, did better than break even, which, considering its function as an ideological outreach, exceeded its modest goal. According to Byrd the Starfish, this year's Gathering organizer (and a Twin Oaks member), the three-day event was "really well attended," bringing in 70 registrants, in addition to 30 or more community members, and "made more money than last year." This certainly ensures there will be a 27th annual Womyn's Gathering. Byrd also noted a substantive influx of newcomers to this year's gathering, with a majority of local and regional women. "We did get someone from Hawaii who registered" Byrd said, as well as receiving attendees from Ohio and Indiana.
Performances, workshops and diversions included DIY psychotherapy, polyamory discussion, bike repair, mud pit (think Woodstock without the brown acid), fire poi, an enchanted forest for children featuring costumed adventurers, acupuncture, body painting, BDSM (introductory and advanced), and a headlining performance by professional bellydancer Shadhavar (who conducted a bellydance workshop the following day). Other items of interest included a barter tent, open mic, open drag show, spiral dance, community singers and songwriters (enhanced entertainingly by sign language interpreters), yoga, organic home-made meals (courtesy Twin Oaks' ace chef Ira), sweat lodge and, of no minor consequence, coffee prepared at 6:30am by none other than the event organizer.
"Not only did I make the coffee" Byrd recalled of her 17-hour stint on Saturday, "I was drafted to DJ the dance party at 9pm the same day." There's no reason not to allow Byrd her moment of well-deserved self-promotion; she certainly didn't take on some thousand responsibilities for the money; Nor was there much glory. No one at the Womyn's Gathering played the role of "staff." I remember on Friday night, the opening evening, a discussion of practicalities to consider - and how quickly one young woman was to assume the duties of maintaining a first aid presence through the night. Child care for the next day was dispatched with the same instantaneous commitment to creating community. That characteristic, choosing to rough it, camping out, perhaps for the first time ever, and to rough it with people who have only just met, is the core meaning of the experience.
Self-reliance through community ~ a community of women, not women-born-women necessarily, but women who have chosen to be women ~ is what the Twin Oaks Womyn's Gathering offered. A little adversity ~ some bugs, some rain, some pebbles in the sandals ~ is the essential ingredient to this particular form of self-discovery and discovery of improvisational community. It's a hike and a camp-out without the expert. The "service" is simply the milieu: inventing and exchanging various expertises from fellow sisters. The fireflies flashing and the crickets chirping are bonuses. (For those who showed up slightly less than unprepared, Twin Oaks raided its own surpluses to provide bedding and blankets for agreeable camping and, after Saturday's rain shower, offered an impromptu laundry run for gathering attendees.)
Was there any quality that made this particular year any different from previous Womyn's Gatherings, I asked Byrd. "Well, we''ve had vendors in the past but I wanted to promote a less capitalistic culture this time," she said. "It was cool to see direct exchanges, like bartering massages for art and energy healing for artisan goods." Another new characteristic was an increase in Queer presence. "I specifically used the language 'non-male identified' to insure that transpeople and people without a definite gender presentation would feel included." Not that there were any token inclinations toward any radical orthodoxy. There was a round of football tossing, after all, and, on at least one occasion, a screening of the Hillary Swank movie "Iron Jawed Angels" brought the flicker of TV lighting into the woods. Why not?
Twin Oaks, it merits reporting, is a rural enchanted village, run, almost magically, on twin precepts of socialism and libertarianism. Some might use fancier terms, like hybridized variations of anarchist this-or-that. What-have-you with the vernacular is most likely OK. Twin Oaks keeps labels at bay by necessity. People come and go; there's always motion. There's the hippie background, being founded during the "summer of love," and Twin Oaks' initial business, hand-made hammocks, certainly lends the place a relaxed vibe. There are also lots of young people at Twin Oaks enjoying the conscientious absence of any seniority pyramid schemes and, since young people are hot to change the world, a fiercely postmodern, post-punk, post-LGBT culture enjoys an optimistically contrarian expression, too. To put it in pop music terms: The Womyn's Gathering, a specialized yet less tangible form of community, attracts the Holly Near people, pairs them with the Yoko Ono people, then shakes 'em up with the Ani DiFranco and Pink people.
Crazy dancing, no boys allowed.
Twin Oaks' Communities Conference
By Roberto & Marta
What a treat! This year FEC's Communities Conference held at Twin Oaks was quite a gem of an experience. It was our first time attending and we didn't know quite what to expect. Indeed, we weren't sure it was going to happen. Somehow, miraculously, in the two weeks prior to the event the registration numbers rocketed upward from 15 to 100+ people. We had heard that attendance had been larger in past years, but this number of people seemed perfect. There was enough variety of community experience represented, yet the size was intimate enough that we felt connected to everyone by the end of the weekend. As new members at Twin Oaks, we had the privilege of working with Bucket to set the stage for the event. That meant lots of exciting work from preparing the site, to designing the programs, to tying down tarps, to beautifying the pavilion and more..... By the time opening circle came around Bucket, who had just taken up the task of coordinating the event, and all of his assistants had managed to prepare quite a welcoming and rich experience for both veteran communitarians and people just beginning to explore community living.
The event consisted of two fully-packed days of workshops put on by experienced presenters considering topics as personal as deciding whether to join a community or start your own and as global as the impact community living has on current urgent ecological concerns.Two of our friends whet our appetites for what was to come by presenting a slideshow of their Europe Communities tour. How fun to know that people across the ocean were doing such radical and diverse experiments in living and working together. Attendees also presented over a dozen workshops themselves using the Open Space technology: Introduction to Permaculture, Being White in a Racist Society, Food not Bombs, Mid-morning Yoga, Becoming a Better Listener.... to name a few.
Beyond those settings, almost every waking moment people were up and about kibbutzing, dancing, drumming, and eating with other participants who were coming from all over the country and from over 20 intentional communities. While busy attending workshops, parents could send their children to the Children's Space, where a kid-friendly environment was set up, complete with art materials, obstacle courses, and games for kids to enjoy under the supervision of a team of volunteers. One workshop-free afternoon was devoted to "Free Time", in which participants embarked on their adventure of choice: walking to the river, going for a swim, playing/wrestling in the mud pit, napping in a hammock, or lounging at the conference site with other attendees.
One highlight for us was being invited to facilitate the Open Space forum. It was an opportunity to support fellow communitarians' willingness to share a rich array of passions and expertise. Including ourselves! We had the chance to share a piece of our own excitement and joy by leading a workshop on heart centered connecting games. Another highlight for us was sitting in on Laird Schaub's Conflict Resolution workshop. Roberto had originally heard Laird present at NFNC's Summer Camp West several years ago. Laird's dynamic, focused, and practical style continues to inspire hope in the power of effective mediation and has fueled Marta's desire to pursue more training as a facilitator.
After the conference was over, we interviewed Bucket. It was then that we learned what an impact this event has had on his life. He told us, "it was because of the communities conference that I decided to become an activist in promoting intentional communities". For him, this year's opportunity to coordinate the event was a labor of love. His time, energy, and enthusiasm for the conference were what made this year's event possible, and in turn, a way to share with others the gift that the conference has been for him. From listening to people during and after the conference, it certainly seemed that many people were inspired to continue their personal quests for utopia, be it in their already existing communities or in the formation of future ones. For us, the communities conference was not only an exciting tribute to what collaborative work in community can manifest. After talking with people during and after the conference, we came away feeling confident that the impact this conference has can be felt like ripples of hope and cooperation throughout the communities movement.
After having read all of the feedback forms that participants filled out, a couple of things stood out. While people's favorite workshops were varied, many people agreed that one of the things they like most about the event was meeting like-minded people. And, when asked what things they would like to see changed, many responded that they would like the conference to be longer, as well as having the bathroom and shower facilities improved.