Thursday, May 13, 2010

Excite, Nourish, Connect — Denise Pendleton


At our recent general meeting, we were all asked to list activities that would excite and nourish us as cohousing members during the upcoming development phase. We started with the children’s list, and after they finished and went out to play, the adults reflected, wrote and shared, as facilitators wrote notes on flipcharts.

It was a gratifying and uplifting activity in many ways. In part, because our common vision and values were demonstrated in the repetition of similar ideas — from “let's start now to garden and raise chickens together here at the Farmhouse” (our interim Common House) to “let's have work parties, potlucks and visits to each member's home” to music nights, salons, art projects, taking the kids hiking, and putting together a kayak & sailboat armada to an island in the bay. There were pleasant surprises too, as members offered ideas — and a new side to their personalities that I might never have suspected. It was great to hear the kids say, “more campouts! ” Who knew they were having such fun? And of interest to hear the teens say, “having more kids in the community our age would be more fun. ” I truly loved every suggestion, but I was most excited by the idea of a "communiversity” — the idea that any community, and ours in particular, can provide what schools intend to provide: an education for our children and ourselves, but through a myriad of multigenerational relationships.

I was reminded of another time (quite a while ago) when we members sat in a circle and shared our individual visions of cohousing. This was in November 2008, when Chuck Durrett (grandfather of cohousing in the US) led a workshop and we shared, for the first time since I had joined several months earlier, what elements we envisioned as key to our community life. While many of the answers were similar and somewhat predictable (gardens, common meals, the chicken club, walking the trails), many again offered new insights into our values (clothesline and sauna committees were planned as well as an ice skating rink, as I remember).

While meetings, potlucks, campouts, salons and other gatherings have given us the chance to have many conversations, it feels as though we've completed a circle that is more like a spiral, where beginnings and endings will continue to cross over, and we move forward. Now, as we enter this new phase of development, with the site design, common house design and unit/home design behind us, we are coming ever closer to that deep connection we seek — to the land and to rich community relationships.

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