Most intentional communities took a population hit during the pandemic. Germs and illnesses spread quickly in communities because of how much we share- food, homes, bathrooms, work spaces, etc. With this in mind, most communities that those regular visitor sessions canceled them (at least until there was a vaccine) to protect their more vulnerable members. It was likely the best, safest choice, but meant that members who left communities during the pandemic weren’t replaced with new folx and populations dropped significant. At Twin Oaks we went from 85 members to 63 members at the lowest point (we are back up to 78 now).
The pandemic also forced many to deal with unusual isolation and question our relationship with groups and what people in close orbit are important to you. Intentional community is an invitation to being part of a group designed to foster and take care of each other, and while it does not always succeed the intention and results are favorable (or prove worthy .. or something)
This summer and fall there several events which showcase these intentional communities which are bouncing back or in the case of Serenity Community springing forward from the George Floyd energized racial justice movement.
These events are celebrations of many different identities all seen through the lens of intentional community. If you want to feel what it is like to live with others cooperatively, this is a glimpse.
The Community Festivals, Gatherings, and Conferences are Coming Back!
Mark your calendars, there are several different weekend events which you will want to consider.
- Serenity Food Sovereignty Festival June 24 thru 26
- Twin Oaks Queer Gathering Aug 5 thru 7
- Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering Aug 19 thru 21
- Twin Oaks Communities Conference Sept 2 thru 5
- QuinkFair Sept 23 thru 26
All of these events are happening in Louisa County and the first 4 of them are all happening at Twin Oaks. Here are the brief descriptions of the events and how to RSVP.
Serenity Food Sovereignty Festival June 24 – 26
Learn about mutual aid and BIPOC centered intentional communities that focus on restorative agriculture and ecovillages. BIPOC activists and organizers are working in conjunction with the central Virginia income sharing communities movement to host BIPOC participants and our allies, to bring incredible food and learning opportunities to attendees. POC farmers will discuss their techniques and challenges and participants will learn about income sharing communities and Serenity Community projects.
White allies can attend this event if they are genuinely interested in this cuisine and culture. We ask white participants to step back and let BIPOC participants drive the conversations and workshops. This could mean your question might not get answered in the workshop or you should hold off on getting seconds.
Twin Oaks Queer Gathering August 5 – 7
Join us for a weekend of queertranstastic fun, learning, workshops, networking, revelry, and more! This is a participant-led/co-created event, so while the organizing team will set up the event site and create a general schedule of activities, the content is largely up to YOU! There is opportunity to lead a workshop, DJ some of the dance party, bring your instruments to jam, offer an interest/identity-based meetup (BIPOC dinner, non-binary lunch, comic book breakfast, etc), and more! Registration fee is suggested at $80 (sliding scale – pay what you can : $40-$140) includes all meals and tent space. Work trade available. No one turned away for lack of funds. BIPOC travel stipends available by emailing us at email@example.com.
Get all the details at www.twinoaksqueergathering.org
Please RSVP by pre-registering at our eventbrite page!
Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering
The Women’s Gathering is back in 2022! The event will be a three day conference on themes ranging from sex and sexuality to positive relationship building to DIY music, art and movement. There will be scheduled workshops and performance spaces, as well as lots of free time to network, drum, dance and play. Registration fee $85 (sliding scale – pay what you can : $80-$160) includes meals and tent space.
Learn more at womensgathering.org
Twin Oaks Communities Conference
If you are looking for an intentional community, or if you are in a community looking for new members, this is the event for you. The Twin Oaks Communities Conference brings experienced collectivists and communitarians to central Virginia over the Labor Day weekend. We expect at least 40 different communities to be represented, workshops in intentional community specific topics, and open space so you can bring your own content.
There will be an opportunity to tour the communities of Louisa county (including Acorn, Cambia, Community of Peace, Living Energy Farm, Serenity and Twin Oaks). There will also a separate Monday (Labor Day) program hosted at least at Acorn and Cambia.
The Twin Oaks Communities Conference is a kid friendly event which can accommodate many different dietary needs- meals and tent space are included in the registration fee. Full price adult registration is $125, full price youth ages 6-17 is $40, kids 5 and under are free. Early bird discounts, work exchange, and scholarships are available.
QuinkFair! is a celebration crafted to spark personal and collective positive change and healing. Through a colorful and chaotic mix of exhibits, interactive art, music, guides & readers, workshops, dance, books and your own curiosity, we will seek experience and insights as a catalyst for personal growth and cultural change.
Inspired and influenced by several festivals, QuinkFair asks every participant to step away from being an amazed audience and into being an inspired co-creator. If you want to be entertained enjoy a music festival, if you want to become someone new come to QuinkFair.
Adult tickets are $160 (or $128 if you buy early) and kids between 6 and 17 are $80 (or $64 if purchased early). Kids under 6 are free. This is a camping event and food is provided.
QuinkFair takes place not at the Twin Oaks Conference Site (like all these other events do) but instead at the beautiful Happy Hills land in Mineral VA.
If you are interested in supporting the first 4 events all hosted at Twin Oaks you could apply to be a Conference/Gathering Intern If you want to help manifest the QuinkFair celebration consider applying to be a Festival Intern
Twin Oaks has been quite conservative with regards to the pandemic. On March 16th, San Francisco was the first city in the US to lock down. Twin Oaks would lock down the next day, before California or the rest of the nation. For the last two years, the commune has done a surprisingly good job of keeping the pandemic outside of our peculiar island.
But with increasingly virulent variants, it was only a question of time before covid cropped up inside our borders. Yesterday that happened, our first two cases were discovered on the main campus of the commune. To be clear this is not the first Oakers to get covid. One of the members who attended the horticultural trade show in Mobile Alabama came down with covid earlier this year, but they discovered this before they returned home and they quarantined at Casa Peaches in Washington DC until they were asymptomatic and testing negative.
I have written very little about the pandemic at Twin Oaks, because for most of the pandemic and all of the communes lock down, i was on leave and did not have direct experience. Now it is more personal and direct.
Intentional communities have to make hard decisions about quarantines and vaccines which many entities can avoid. Twin Oaks decided pretty early on that we would lock down hard and try to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible and almost everyone agreed to this requirement. We created a restriction requiring everyone who visits to be vaccinated and show their vaccine card to their host before they arrive. We shut down our visitor program for months (which resulted in a collapse of our population, because we did not replace members who left through attrition). We stopped our weekly Saturday tours and have still not restarted them.
I wish my fellow communards a quick recovery and i am pretty confident we will take good care of them while they are quarantining. And i take some pride that we were able to keep it at bay for so long.
“You want me to first build the tree houses and then design them?” Pilgrim said, but he was not surprised. It was just this type of impossible task he was good at. And thus i would often ask him for these things.
6 weeks later with the help of all manner of volunteers and Acorners there were 7 different tree houses in the Acorn backyard. Pilgrim was never shy of work, because he was so fast at so many things, he reveled in it. It defined him as someone who could get things done, including difficult things often with surprising haste.
Pilgrim came to Twin Oaks in the late aughts and we became fast friends. In his relatively short time at Twin Oaks he did many significant construction projects at several of our buildings. Basically single handedly he did a major overhaul of Degania, our principal education building. He tricked out various rooms, including his own, which had a Hawaiian theme and fancy stairs to the loft. Later, in a too-short visit, he taught us how to mud drywall in our hospice-style addition, as we marveled at his speed and patience with our technique.
It was not his handiness or speed he will be remembered for though. His name gave the biggest clue. He was a Pilgrim, he was traveling from place to place looking for the truth, his truth. A place that could accommodate him as the hard working, hard partying person he was. He lived in a bunch of communities and tried to start some in this search.
He lived at Twin Oaks for a while, but ultimately the rules and bureaucracy got him down. He moved to East Wind where he helped build the ambitious but ill fated Villages in the Sky festival project. East Wind’s more pioneering mindset and rugged living was closer to Pilgrim’s style. As Deborah (who founded East Wind and Acorn and lived at Twin Oaks for many years) was fond of saying “I know there are problems at East Wind; they are just problems I am better at managing than the ones at Twin Oaks.” Pilgrim’s hard partying style fit comfortably at East Wind, where his ability to repair buildings quickly elevated him to minor hero status. But he was not through searching.
Pilgrim wanted a place which would model sustainable living and while East Wind (like Twin Oaks) is dramatically more sustainable than almost any place in the US, Pilgrim was looking for more and went to Ecuador with a shipping container of tools and supplies in hopes of building a better world there. He learned a bit of Spanish, directed international crews of volunteers working on tropical gardens and other sustainability measures. But too many variables were out of his hands for this situation to work for him, he was dependent on land owners being generous, had to balance tricky visa situations, and was perpetually willing to do too much work for too little compensation.
He returned to the States, where a new possibility called. Pilgrim had a famous green thumb. In Florida where he spent a bunch of time, there were all manner of impressive gardens he had started and developed at family members’ houses. So when Colorado decided to legalize recreational marijuana he called me up and said he wanted to try again to start a community, with cannabis growing at the center and the US based Stardust project was born. Pilgrim chose the name.
Despite his significant skills and an impressive crop in the first season, there are way too many ways to fail at growing pot and we hit a bunch of them, including theft. Stardust collapsed and our ragtag collection of members scattered across the country, many returning to the communes from where we had drawn them.
Turns out i don’t have any pictures of Pilgrim, which is a bit ironic because i have a bunch that he took. He was a gifted photographer amongst his many other talents. But he was not interested in capturing images of himself, he was modest in this way.
I have clear memories of both sides of Pilgrim: the guy who got me to build a heavy fence with him in Savannah, faster than i think i have ever worked before, and the guy kicking back with a beer at the end of the long day, enjoying the music and conversation. He was only a part time workaholic, who understood that you needed to relax deeply to appreciate what the work brings. In the end, i fear those beers took Pilgrim from us too soon.
In an effort to travel cheaply, I skipped my last chance to see him in Florida this last Christmas. I will always regret not seeing him one last time. And now finally, after years of fixing, building and making things better this craftsman can take his well deserved break.
I’ve long believed that the only thing which stops us from a vegan revolution in the US is more dedication to cooking as well as training great cooks. Serenity Community for Peace And Justice are testing this proposition by hosting a Vegan Festival April 30th and May 1st. This event will serve vegan food, do workshops on compelling vegan cooking and examine the veganism through the lens of people of color. This event is BIPOC centric in both it’s organization team and it outreach and recruiting, white allies are most welcome and of course you need only be vegan curious to sample to food.
Twin Oaks has stepped up to help this festival in several big ways. First, the event will be hosted at the Twin Oaks Conference site, which has the necessary infrastructure to support this type of event. The second is over a dozen Oakers have already committed to all kinds of labor for supporting the Vegan Festival. Specifically, Twin Oaks has agreed to do social media promotion, site preparation, fundraising, workshop development, the child care program, vegan cooking, site breakdown and more. [This labor is being funded internally in the Twin Oaks labor economy by drawing to down movement support hours which are earmarked for racial justice work. This allows members to satisfy their labor obligations to the community while helping bring vegan cooking and BIPOC culture to the communes.]
I am honored to be an ally working on this event. I have a big birthday coming up, which is an arbitrary important number. I am hoping my friends and readers will donate to the fund which is providing travel assistance (via Facebook, via PayPal) to people of color who want to attend this event but it is financially inaccessible.
Some twisted combination of ego, fear and shame keep us from asking for what we desire, when we are unsure of the chance of rejection. This is doubly true when it comes to matters of the heart. Some clever thinking has gone into this problem at the communes and one of the devices which has been developed over the years, as part of the Validation Day celebrations (which happen in mid February) is the 6 Creatures Game.
This game allows you to ask someone if they want to hang out and play with you (in a number of different ways), without ever having to hear a rejection. It is basically a matching game in which each player says what they would like with other players and everyone gets told just what matches they have. There is a digitally anonymized trusted 3rd party intermediary who communicates the matches to all the players on the night of the big Validation Day party.
When it was pioneered at East Wind, there were only 4 “states”, which were mostly about hooking up sexually. But over time the game has morphed twice significantly. Twin Oaks expanded on this notion to add two more creatures and more platonic options. This year Kathryn (who runs the game) made a number of changes, including adding a creature (Capybara), because of the way she views the community has changed.
Her mose important acknowledgement is that the centrality of work dates has changed. Was a time, even just a few years ago, when if you really wanted to meet someone at Twin Oaks you would propose a hammocks date. The hammocks shop is open all the time, in nice weather people work outside, there is a relatively high level of privacy, which is good for initial investigations. The nice thing about hammocks dates is they can be long or short and if you really like the person you are talking with you can just extend them, so they are great for courting. Many Twin Oaks honeymoons started with hammock shop dates.
In recent years the hammock shop has dramatically slowed, no longer is every visitor even trained in how to make them. The culture has shifted, it would likely make more sense to suggest a seed packing shift now, which has similar advantages to the hammocks dates of old, and there is an actual need for it currently. What Kathryn did was role all work and play activities together under the ants creature and spun off a parrots creature which was just getting together to talk (as distinct from some outwardly focused shared activity). This feels like a wise re-assignment to me.
Kathryn also wanted to add a creature for introverts who wanted to acknowledge positive relationships, without proposing some shared experience. She confessed that she choose the creature knowing only that it was quite happy when in solitary. I was amused because before i spoke with her it had found that Capybaras are best known for their gregarious groupings. While not mentioning introverts, the description she choose for the Capybara was “I like you, and I’m happy the way things are” . It is a break from previous “creature” states, because it is not proposing anything new, simply acknowledging what already is and is working fine.
I was surprised, pleased and curious about the additional creature and after this years game i will interview folks and find out if it was used and if people liked it. Watch this space, i’ll report back here.
This years creature are:
Parrots – I’d like to talk sometime/get to know each other better
Ants – I’m interested in sharing an activity together (crafts, sports, work, book club, projects, etc)
Cats – I’m interested in sharing physical affection like cuddles or hugs (not necessarily romantic interest)
Fish – I’d like to kiss at the party (or some other casual context)
Bonobos – I’d like to explore/continue sexy times
Doves – I have romantic interest
Capybara – I like you, and I’m happy the way things are
If you are at any of the Louisa intentional communities and you want to play, send me your email before Feb 18th and we will put you on the list of players. Here is the announcement of the new creature and game.
Here is a description of how Validation Day Cards work.
Before i met Cassandra i had already lost a bet because of her.
It was Acorn’s Land Day, perhaps 15 years back. Suwelo and i were talking when this young woman walked by and Suwelo said to me “i bet she is an air sign.” In a world in which you believe in astrology, this comment made perfect sense. The woman in question seemed to float by more than walk, aided by flowing garments and the perfect light breeze of the Acorn’s early spring Land Day. But in the world of probability, there was a 3 in 4 chance Suwelo was wrong and i said “i will take that bet.”
Then having made the bet, we had to find out, so we chased after her around Heartwood and Suwelo asked without prompting “What sign are you?” and then realized the question without prompting was presumptive and followed it up by saying “Don’t worry, i am harmless.” To which i reflexively replied. “I am not.”
Cassandra successfully backed the conversation up to something more civil. She got us to introduce ourselves and then she explained that she was in the region having returned from a long trip to India. A trip which would change her life forever in a tragic way.
When she did finally confess her astrological sign, it was Aquarius and i thought i had won the bet, because that was clearly a water sign. Again i was wrong. But the clumsy introduction won Suwelo not only the bet with me, but the attention of Cassandra and they were happily involved for many years after that, and i visited them in several residences in Cville.
Cassandra was unsure of her taken name because it felt too heavy and she could not live up to the embedded assumption that the person with it would have prophetic, if not tragic capacity. Suwelo and Cassandra stumbled for some days trying to find a name (i of course suggested a naming party, but that was not what she wanted). And finally in frustration Suwelo said “i am going to open the dictionary, point my finger blindly into it and we are going to choose the name closest to my finger.” He did. And he pointed at the name Cassandra in the dictionary. She let go of her concerns and embraced it.
Cassandra always wanted to live in community, and many of us wanted that to happen as well. She was an enchanting personality, funny, caring, and empathic. But in India she had contracted an illness she could not shake, nor i believe was it ever really properly diagnosed, which fatigued her in a way that prevented her from working quota (a requirement for these communes). We discussed several different approaches to the problem, but the nature of Twin Oaks and Acorn egalitarian policies made it impossible to swap disability payments for quota. I’ve rarely been so saddened at the ableist policy of my home communities.
Cassandra was a facilitator of lovely small gatherings. My path continued to cross with her’s from the organizing she did with the local poly group in Charlottesville. Mac and i attended a couple of these gatherings back when i was a dual member at Acorn. One thing we lose with her passing is her mastery of how to make people comfortable talking about intimate things. In her more artful way she was gifted in inspiring participants into informal transparency games.
Cassandra also looked at my OKCupid profile and started to tell me all the things that were wrong with it. I realized that i had done it poorly and she offered to help fix it, including answering questions for me to filter out non-poly people from finding high matches with me. Unsurprisingly, after she answered a bunch of questions for me hers and my profiles matched much better.
Cassandra was easy to love and taken from us too soon. She died quietly, in the company of her new husband Randell and old friends from Acorn, Flame and Raven. Thus in essence with the community she always sought.
Cassandra saw a world of people living in harmony in community. She saw and crafted intimate groups taking care of each other in mundane and profound ways. She saw something possible and beautiful. But most people did not believe her, perhaps fulfilling her legendary name. It’s now up to the rest of us to continue her work and dreams.
The joke is that there are as many opinions as there are members at Twin Oaks on most topics. But one thing we are in general agreement about is that we co-create pretty amazing children, reliably. Finley is one of these kids: imaginative, daring, curious and creative. I have primaried Finley a couple times, and it is not uncommon if you are distracted that when turn around you will find Finley on top of the roof of the building you are beside.
Christian has the enviable and challenging job of bringing out the best from our kids with video. Below is the joint effort of these two community artists. All the actors are Oakers.
The year has been jammed and even though it is not done, it’s time for me to look back so i can guess where i want to go. And i want to ask for your help with these projects which speak to me, because i hope at least one of them will speak to you.
It was a joy and privilege to start the year with the successful conclusion of the Flip Georgia campaign. We wrestled two Senate seats away from the Republicans and stripped McConnell of Majority Leader status, and briefly felt hope on the country’s ability to recover from Trump. Rev Warnock’s win was confirmed the evening of January 5, and Jon Ossoff’s victory was confirmed the next morning on January 6th. A few hours later, we watched the Jan 6th insurrection at the Capitol (on tv).
Part of the Flip team was hired to explore remedies to disinformation movements in general and QAnon in particular, and we created the QRemedy project. We are trying all manner of different approaches with a special emphasis on games. We assembled an expert panel of game designers which concentrated on conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns, and was brilliantly facilitated by my dear comrade Crystal who was able to wrestle UCSC into partnering with us. Rez and Angie are working on curating our large body of research on this novel movement and its impacts, as well as misinformation and disinformation movements in general. You will find the first part of the resources we’ve compiled here, and more will be posted in the coming weeks.
It’s not all work and political struggle; i was also part of a team of “disorganizers” who pulled off a transformative festival called QuinkFair this last October. We had our share of quinks to brag about. Several people’s paths turned towards new opportunities: people quit jobs that were not serving them, joined communities, fell in love, and one chronicled the first annoyed use of the word “quink”.
He: And this relationship is important to me because …
She: Hey can we go, i want to get to this workshop which is happening soon!
He: Hold on, i am trying to have a quink here with you!
She: Okay, well, now you have my attention.
He: Will you marry me?
She: Wow – yes!
These stories and more made this one of my favorite events ever and we have been invited back to the same site for Fall 2022. QuinkFair will be in Louisa County on September 22-26, 2022. RSVP
Part of what was brilliant about QuinkFair was the work Serenity Community did helping with scholarship and work exchange especially for POC and queer participants. I have been very happy with the work i have been doing with Serenity on starting the first POC centric income sharing community in the county, and QuinkFair is a good outreach event as Serenity seeks more members and supporters. This small but important step created an unusually successful event and is why i am asking for funds for it
We are also seeking funding for QRemedy’s on-going work countering disinformation. Our work includes research and exploration of how to counter these movements, as well as crafting a new empathy/compassion guide book for people who have lost friends or family to these rabbit holes and are hoping to maintain their relationships.
Thanks for reading
Paxus on the Train
23 Exploding Mushrooms 2021
A quink is roughly defined as the opposite of trauma, it is a specific event (a spark) that transforms your life positively from that point onward.
There is a curious asymmetry in the English language in which words that describe negative or problematic concepts do not have named positive counterparts. Contagious, jealousy, paranoia, trauma just to name a few.
If we want to build a new world we need new words. Quink is not just part of the name of this event, it was coined to name a transformative personal experience.
What is a Quink?
- The spark of positive change
- Roughly the opposite of trauma
- A specific identifiable event after which the person has prolonged and possibly permanent positive memories and capacities.
Examples of Quinks
One of the easiest quink to understand are the ones we find through books. Most people can relate to the sentence “I read this book and it changed my life for the better”, that is their quink book. Another accessible quink is simply standing up for yourself, and especially when you are at a power disadvantage – save a possible disastrous response, drawing boundaries, expressing them and maintaining them can be a quink. Good consent culture enables risk taking, risk taking richens the environment for quinks.
The endless process of enlightenment is perhaps the most elusive quink. Any experience which informs your understanding of self and/or world is a point, from which forward, your life is positively influenced.
Love is perhaps the most accessible, yet fickle, quink. Love’s impact has the power to change us into a state of grace AND unravel us into some tough and testy feelings. Either way, the personal and shared growth from Love can be a quink trajectory in many ways.
Kicking an addiction, be it to drugs, media, or toxic relationships, is an invitation for quink. This involves your own agreement with yourself for betterment paired with more resilience for transformation.
Update Nov 1st 2021 – Success! Community of Peace raise the initial $150K needed to secure the land.
Secular intentional communities have a 90% values overlap with people in spiritual focused communities, but we get stuck on the 10% where we disagree and thus are often unable to collaborate effectively. As was recently pointed out on the Commune Life Blog, there are now ten intentional communities in Louisa county (population 36K). It is worth acknowledging that this is more income sharing and/or serious resource sharing communities than in the entire NYC metro area (population 8 plus million). A big part of why this is, is that the ecosystem of existing stable communities helps foster new communities’ survival.
Until recently there were no spiritually focused communities in Louisa County. [Little Flower Catholic Worker community in Louisa often describes itself as “neither Catholic nor Worker”]. I say “until recently” because this summer the new Community of Peace, inspired by the Taize singing order in France, opened in Louisa County. I sat down with Br. Stefan Andre Waligur, a monk who has been working on this project for over 20 years, and who moved to the land to begin the project earlier this year..
I spoke with Brother Stefan at my recent visit to Community of Peace, the former site of Sophia House and where the 2019 QuinkFair event took place. Stefan shared both his inspiration and what the requirements are for membership at this forming community. His inspiration was big.
While in France many years ago Stefan visited the Taize community which had at the time of his visit 6,000 visitors (not residents) living in peace with a simple daily program of singing, meals, celebration and working the land. The songs were all quite short, drawn from many languages and designed to be easy to learn and sing. A fantastic format which connected a singing field that was transformative to many of the participants.
When i asked Stefan to explain the project he focused on the 4 pillars that hold up this effort, supporting these pillars is also what the community seeks from it’s members
Radical Welcome (what i call Radical Hospitality). Even those who can not afford to pay are welcome to live, eat, and work in the community.
Service and Solidarity – Community of Peace is what i would call an inclusive Christian community with an ecumenical focus, which takes literally the Bible’s calls and actions in the Gospels for collective liberation, recovery, and healing.
Prayer: There are really two types of prayer at Community of Peace – silent and sung. For me the short prayers in multiple languages which are sung is a strong community building focus, while the silent are can be carried into most aspects of community life.
Dialog: This is the last principle, and when i spoke with Stefan about it, it really feels like the Christian version of the Transparency Games i spend a lot of time promoting. Through “courageous exploration and deep listening to similarities and differences” they are knitting together a highly intentional community.
Community of Peace has raised all but $20K to secure the land. If you have any capacity to support this worthy project I encourage you to 1) familiarize yourself with their website and 2) Donate to their cause before the Nov 1st deadline (so donate right now). If you are not able to contribute financially, you can also support the community by sharing this post to others in your network. This is a hard deadline, because the bank will repossess the property if they don’t make it. They have come so close, please help if you can.
If you are interested in visiting or joining the community, contact Br Stephan via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.