Twin Oaks is lucky. Some of our members complete their membership, but don’t move far away and continue to volunteer to support us. Some of the most valuable of these ex-members are the ones who can operate our equipment or fix our infrastructure.
Denny Ray left Twin Oaks many years before i arrived (and that was over 2 decades ago). But from early on in my membership i knew who he was, because he fixed things. Twin Oaks prides itself on on being self sufficient. And in many ways we are, in ways few families or even companies can brag about. But our little secret is we have some ringers. Denny definitely was one.
Denny was an independent political force in the labyrinth decision making system at Twin Oaks. He would get an idea in his head that we should do something and he would make it nearly irresistible to follow his advice, He wanted us to change to Blossman Gas; he argued that it would save us money, he argued that they gave better service, he argued they have safer equipment. But in the end what really won over the planners is when he said “And i will manage it”. We would have paid him, but he would not take money this time.
Denny brought the Blossman crew in and they went around to all our residences. They proposed a bunch of new hardware and i was frankly a bit scared that in the end it would not end up saving us money. Denny asked me to give hammocks and pillows to the Blossman engineers, which i happily did.
Denny was of course right. The new gas company ended up saving us over $10K a year, even after we paid for all the new equipment. Denny had negotiated a great deal for us. Best hammocks we ever gave anyone.
But Denny was loved for far more than his utility. He was funny, friendly, generous and highly opinionated. He loved his little house and would never move back to Twin Oaks, but he was often over for lunch consulting with old friends who were members, or newer members who knew he often had sage advice or a good story to share.
Denny also was a photographer. He would catch us walking on the road with our kids, and later send us a much loved picture to remember the moment. He loved our plays and musicals as well, and took photos of the performers in costume. We very much appreciated his generosity and artistic dedication. The sight of his much-beloved blue truck was always a cause for celebration.
Denny would get frustrated with us for poor decision making or treating a member poorly, and then he would take time away from the commune, a week – sometimes even a month. But his love for the place and its people always brought him back.
Denny’s last year was a tough one, He spent a bunch of nights in Twin Oaks hospice facility, Appletree. We don’t use Appletree for anyone who is not a member, but Denny was exceptional and no one even considered challenging the decision to bend the rule for this old friend.
I’ll miss Denny, who used to often joke about my many girlfriends or how i was upsetting the bureaucrats on campus. I’ll miss him, and i will remember him, his commitment to community, and his willingness to be part of something greater than self.
Good Journey, Denny Ray, thanks for everything.
[Update August 2019: This article is a couple years old, but it is newly updated. Importantly, It is again true that Twin Oaks no longer has a waiting list.]
For most of the last 9 years there has been a waiting list at Twin Oaks. It is now gone.
People seek explanations for why we dropped down into the mid 80s of adults, when we had been at our population cap of 92 for so long. There is no single reason.
But because there are now spaces available to people who come to do the visitor period, it is worth reviewing why it might be a good time to ditch your mainstream life and consider living in a full service commune.
No Bosses: Our managers are nothing like your manager. They don’t generally fire people, they don’t determine raises or promotions. Instead they organize trainings and make sure the needed materials are available and the machines are functioning properly. Every one of our ‘managers’ also works on the production line. Because all jobs are volunteer, managers who exploit their co-workers find themselves lonely. This drives the MBAs a bit crazy.
No Money: Can you imagine going through your day and not touching cash or credit cards? The commune strives to and largely succeeds in providing all the things people need outside the conventional money system. Food, housing, clothing, medical services, education, and entertainment are distributed freely and fairly. You work your quota (currently 42 hours a week) and all your needs are met.
No advertising: Transformative festivals like Burning Man make a big deal out of being non-commercial and largely advertisement free. For many attendees the break from the constant onslaught of commercial images and invitations to buy things, most of which you don’t want, is a big relief. But you can’t live at these festivals. You can live at Twin Oaks, where if you stay off the internet and don’t read one of the many magazines we collectively subscribe to, you can avoid advertisements indefinitely.
No punch clocks: One of the other things the boss you don’t have is not doing is keeping track of your hours. In this trust-based system you record the different work you do. Our flexible work system means you can always find work in the hammock shop or in the kitchen and if you want to be scheduled you can be, but if you prefer to figure it out yourself each day, that is available also.
No fear: What do you feel if you hear someone behind you in the dark whom you don’t know? While it is not true to say we completely escape all crime, we avoid so much of it that some visitors realize the difference between where I live and where they live is that there has been a constant mostly low level threat for most of their waking hours, which vanishes in this prosaic collective rural living.
It is not just what we don’t have that defines us, the things we do choose and possess are crucial.
We strive to be self-sufficient: We build our own buildings, organically grow most of our own food, run our own businesses, teach our kids, and create our own holidays and culture. The community has spawned and nurtured painters and poets, quilters and woodcarvers. We’ve had folk singers, rock bands, chanters and primal screamers. You can find someone to teach you how to juggle, or program a computer, or deliver a newborn calf. We stage our own theater productions and provide an unusually appreciative audience for visiting performers. We have our own coffeehouses, writing groups, and social clubs.
Economic self-sufficiency means we have seven businesses:
- We make about 8,000 hammocks a year and sell them online and in stores and at the craft fairs we attend.
- We make 400,000 lbs of tofu. We are just starting a new line which will enable us to double production.
- We indexed 60 books last year, mostly with academic presses.
- We have a contract services business which does demolition, elder care, house cleaning and removes the basketball floor at midnight on Thanksgiving at UVa John Paul Jones Arena.
- We do seed growing and wholesale distribution of Acorn’s Southern Exposure organic and heritage seed business.
- We run conferences and gatherings, like the upcoming Womens Gathering (Aug 19 thru 21) and Communities Conference over labor day (Sept 2 thru 5) as well as the Herb Workshop.
- We sell beautiful organic ornamental flowers.
We live lightly on the land: We heat our buildings with sustainably harvested wood from our land. Most buildings have a solar hot water preheating system and half of the newest residential building is off the grid completely, using only electricity provided by the sun, with residents agreeing to keep consumption low and use efficient appliances. We sort our waste into over a dozen different categories and reuse and recycle fiercely. The food we don’t grow we buy in bulk, which cuts down on packaging. We have our own sewage treatment plant, which runs at well-above state required standards and are planning a constructed wetlands. We have 20% the carbon foot print of our mainstream counterparts, mostly because we share things so robustly: clothes and cars and buildings and bicycles and musical instruments.
We are self-selecting: You cannot simply move to Twin Oaks tomorrow, and strangers who just drop in are politely asked to leave. You need to write us first and link up with one of the regularly scheduled three-week visits, or just take our Saturday tour. During the three-week visit, we orient you to our culture and more importantly, it gives both you and us a chance to live and work together. Then we ask visitors to go away for a month and think about whether they really want to live in our slightly odd and extraordinary village.
[This is the big asterisk part] *But it is not paradise: There are all kind of good reasons why people leave my commune (or never come in the first place.) Some people want more independence, they don’t want to have to ask the health team for some expensive exotic medical procedure. Some people want more of their own space than their own room. Some members leave because they don’t find the romantic partner they want, or the one they had ended the relationship and it is too hard to see their former partner every day. It is hard to make enough money to take long trips or far away vacations (our members get a tiny allowance of $100 a month.)
And then there is this resume problem. If you want to be a millionaire or CEO, you should probably skip the commune step. This is not to say that some members have not used the community as an applied university. And we have had many general managers of million dollar businesses who were in their early twenties. But when they ask you how much you were paid at your last job, your next employer is likely to be unimpressed by in-kind wages.
The real question to ponder is, “Are you ready for a radical departure from what you are used to?” Community could be the answer. And now that there is not a waiting list at Twin Oaks, perhaps this is the right one for you. Here is a recent video by BBC 4 on Twin Oaks
If you are interested in applying for membership click here.
The post originally appeared in the CommuneLife blog.
Many years ago in the bright Nevada sun of Burning Man, I was talking with Rob Brezney, the author of Free Will Astrology. He made the case that part of what hampers efforts to build a more just and positive future is a lack of the right words. He complained that the English language was asymmetric in a fashion that favored negative terms: jealousy, paranoia, contagion, trauma. He helped popularize the term “pronoia” (paranoia’s opposite), the belief that the universe and the people around you are conspiring to do good things and/or make you happy.
Activists and organizers, politicians and propagandists will oft tell you that we are in the business of storytelling. These new words allow us to tell new, richer stories. You want to coin something that is simple and elegant, yet compelling and desirable. A word that once someone hears it, they will start to use it and think about how to bring it into the story of their lives. One of the long lever words we have been crafting is “quink”.
Quink is the opposite of trauma. It is an experience which lastingly transforms your life for the better. A quink is a spark, a moment that shifts your life path, or helps you move out of an unhealthy situation. A stroke of enlightenment, falling in love, finally kicking your addiction to a drug or a toxic relationship- these are all quinks. Quinks can be a coincidence like bumping into an old friend at the farmers market, going to a mind blowing festival, or reading just the right book at the right moment.
We thought we should design an event around sparking quinks. Thus, Quink Fair began with the question “What if we took the best aspects of our favorite festivals and fused them together in one event?” Quink Fair! is a celebration which invites change by exploring the participants’ desires and obstacles. Quink Fair! draws deeply from Burning Man, an interactive art event based around the principles of participation, and self-expression with no paid performers and no passive audience. From the Rainbow Gathering we draw decentralized organizing and generous sharing. From the intentional communities movement, we bring the importance of cooperation, sustainability, and consent. We also draw from the communities movement the idea that we are better off sharing our lives and our possessions than taking on this world alone.
Through a colorful and chaotic mix of exhibits, theme camps, music, guides, oracles, workshops, dance, and your own curiosity, we will seek experience and insights as a catalyst for personal growth and cultural change. And at the very least, it will help you find a good story. Join us at Quink Fair in Louisa, VA, July 12-15, 2019. This is a 4 day, 3 night camping event, food included. Tickets are $90 for adults, $45 for children 11 to 15, kids 10 and under free. See www.quink.org for more information and to purchase tickets.
Bring your spark.
This article originally appeared in July 2019 issue of Echo World Magazine.
Put another way, what kind of guidance can you provide to someone who is coming to a festival so that the experience will be positively transformative and healing? From the start we have to recognize we are guessing. We do not actually know much about these mysterious quink things and we know even less about how to induce them. But our ignorance is no excuse for not making clever guesses and trying to figure it out through imaginative experiments how we might do this. This post is a bit of what we have come up with so far.
In contrast to the Temple of Oracles, which uses various different divination techniques (tarot, runes, I ching, etc) to help people consider future paths, Ignition uses personality tests, typology systems and self reflection tools to help people figure out who they are and thus where they might go. Ignition is a theme camp at Quink Fair! located near the entrance to the festival designed to guide participants towards quinks .
While we are still deep in the design phase of this experience, what we have come up with so far is certainly worthy of discussion.
Ignition will offer Myers Briggs tests, one of the better known systems, and help participants interpret their results. This pseudoscientific analysis is based on a theory of different personality types and how people differ in making decisions and interpreting the world around them. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) is based on the analogy of psychiatrist Carl Jung that there are four different psychological functions with which humans experience the world: sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking.
A different tool set being used at Ignition is the Enneagram of personality, which is a set of 9 personality types. Again using tests and assessment tools, Ignition guides will help participants figure out how the information directs them to experience the festival and where accessible quinks might be in their lives. If you want you can take a free online Enneagram test here.
Transparency Games are being used in some intentional communities to help members self reflect and build empathy and trust. These tools have been developed to make it possible for people to have intimate conversations in a safe environment without lots of training in advance. One of the most common and powerful games of the transparency suite is called Hot Seat.
5 Paths to a Quink. This is the new stuff which we are developing for Ignition. The basic idea is that you might well come into Quink Fair with an idea of where your breakthrough experience might be lurking. These 5 paths represent some of the largest vectors for personal change. The job of the Ignition guide is to start asking you the pair of most central self reflective questions for each path. Our best guess as to the 5 paths is the following:
- Don’t Know
Love while the simple path name is “love” really this is a more general category of love or alliance. It is seeking the person who will be your principal ally in getting to your quink. It could certainly be a romantic relationship, but it might also be a coach or counselor or guide – either in a peer relationship (as thru co-counseling) or a professional who you pay, or someone who is willing to volunteer these services.
The guiding two questions to the participant for this could be:
- What are the key things you have learned from your love/alliance relationships?
- What do you most hope to find in your new significant relationship? [This can be an existing relationship which is being amped up for the quink experience.]
Spirit is the name for the spiritual path to quink. We give enlightenment as a quink example, but there are books and books and gurus and guides on enlightenment and it is hardly a clear process. Of the 5 paths this is the one that i am most uncomfortable giving advice in. Here are the two guiding questions I would ask of a participant who is excited about seeking quink through spiritual means:
- What are your core spiritual beliefs?
- Where will progress on this path take you?
Community is the path which Quink Fair! is most excited about introducing people to. There are lots of different ways to explore this, and the starting two questions for Quink Fair participants excited about community as an entrance ramp to a quink experience might be:
- What can you offer community that you believe is desirable to them?
- What do you want from community?
Project is again a short hand label which includes all jobs (existing or new) and avocational activities (unpaid projects) which might help you find purpose and direction. There are definitely quinks over here, and there are all manner of other distractions and problems. The two questions I have here are:
- What endeavor inspires you ?
- What does success in this endeavor look and feel like?
No Clue – Some participants will show up with no idea where their quink might be hiding. And we will have directions for them. Of course the same tools can be used like transparency games and different personality tests. There will also be opportunities to integrate workshops to explore different paths and opportunities to have a follow up with a chosen advisor during the festival for people who desire.
The guiding questions will range from “Which circumstances made you feel most empowered or aligned in your path?” to “What are the circumstances that trigger you the most?” We hope/believe that these types of inquiries can help people get in touch with the hopes, desires, fears, and challenges they can address at QuinkFair or after.
I don’t consider myself a spiritual person. I was raised in a religious family, and in a small town where the church was the center of community and social life. As I’ve grown, religion and spirituality have been less present in my daily reality. Part of this is no longer living in that small town, but the larger part is that I am a practical person and there are few spiritual paths that fit the way I approach the world. Prayer may be emotionally helpful for someone coping with the death of a spouse, but a casserole or helping with child care are equally (or more) important things that will help them get through this week. The church community I was raised in had a healthy balance with an emphasis on practical support, but that’s been difficult for me to find as an adult.
The one religious sentiment which resonated…
View original post 881 more words
The idea was compelling, study the really exciting festivals and celebrations, take the best pieces of these cultures and combine them into a beautiful Frankensteinian creation. The tricky part is establishing which are the finest parts and figuring out if (and how) they fit together.
Central rituals are a major difference between Burning Man and the Rainbow Gathering. At Rainbow thousands of participants hold hands in silence in a giant ring on the 4th of July. When the moment feels complete the children run into the center, break the trance, and thus commences wild dancing. At Burning Man there are two central rituals, the effigy burn and the temple burn, both of which revolve around fire but have very different flavors. The former is a pyrotechnic exhibition of tremendous scale, with fire dancers and a giant man which blazes for hours leading into a bacchanalian celebration of wild dancing in the desert.
Burning Man Fire Eaters
Photo Credit: rosehalady0 from Pixabay
The temple burn is a more somber and self reflective ritual which is powerful like a brilliant funeral can be. It is all about letting go of things, your sadness at a deceased friend or relative, your addiction to online games or a dysfunctional relationship, or realize it really is finally time to quit the job which is not working for you.
We decided to embrace the Burning Man central rituals. There were several reasons for this, the first is an effort to bring people who are familiar with or excited by Burning Man culture to the event. It feels like especially the temple burn is potentially quink inducing, and a bacchanalian celebration is practically guaranteed to be a good time. While the rainbow ritual is elegant, accessible and unifying, it did not feel powerful enough for us to embrace for Quink Fair. One of the key ideas of Quink Fair! Is to introduce creative people from mainstream cultures to the intentional communities (and especially income sharing) movement.
Free is nice, but quite limiting
Tickets are another important cultural aspect, and major cultural difference. Part of the brilliance of the regional and national Rainbow Gatherings is that they are free to attend and no one is “controlling” a gate that keeps some people out. Despite it’s inclusion principle, Burning Man is a privileged event. The low income tickets are $240 and literally thousands of people pay over $1,000 to be assured to get in. This is before you pay for a camp and gear, and transportation to this remote site- it’s quite normal to spend $1,000 or more on these expenses, especially if you’re traveling from far away. The advantage of the paid ticket model is organizers can pay for porta potties and event insurance and art grants, and what ever else is important.
Burning Man preaches “radical self-reliance” which means a number of things, but near the top of the list is “bring everything you will need” and packing for attending this harsh desert event is a complex and expensive affair. Rainbow Gather’s unofficial motto is “Welcome Home” and true to this tagline is the idea that when you go home you need to bring the fewest things of any journey, since your stuff or your support network is already there. From a festival organizers perspective, when you have well stocked and equipped participants you reduce costs and you share the provisioning burden for the event. But if you can welcome almost anyone, including people who have little gear or money, then you are a more diverse and inclusive crowd and you provide a more full service experience.
This is where the Fair part of the name comes from
The Quink Fair! “disorganizers” made the choice to have ticket prices, but make them fairly low ($90 for three days) and include work exchange options. And of course we hope we have the money we need for porta potties, insurance and art grants and more.
Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay
Kitchens and food are another major cultural difference. At the Rainbow Gatherings perhaps 1/3 of the camps are free kitchens serving to anyone who comes to them. At Burning Man people are responsible for bringing their own food to this difficult environment and preparing it. There is some food being given away at BM (clever DC friends are doing a pizza delivery service this year), but it would be an odd diet and an organizing struggle to attend this event without food or a camp which provides it for you.
For Quink Fair we’ve gone with a hybrid model around food. Haven House theme camp (run by one of the disorganizers who threw a temper tantrum upon hearing food wouldn’t be provided) will provide 3 meals a day, plus drinks and snacks between meals. This is free and available to all who want or need food, or who just enjoy sharing meals with a group. But some (perhaps most) attendees will still bring some of their own food and/or cooking equipment, either for their own use or to share. It’s a combination of Burning Man’s freedom with Rainbow’s safety net, which we hope will bring the best of both systems;
And Rainbow was a huge influence. We want to make food accessible, we want to decentralize organizing as much as we can, we want anyone who really wants to attend to be able to come.
Image found at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/481181541408416340/
Rainbow, Burning Man and the Communities Conference (which we draw inspiration from) all have workshops offered by participants. The communities conference curates them by selecting headliners and scheduling open space separately. We did not want to go this way. There is a large collection of workshops, some given by event disorganizers, most by participants and there is no distinction between which are organized by who.
There is a lot of experience in the group of disorganizers who are trying to pull this event together, but we can’t be certain that we have made the right choices. We’ve likely made wrong choices but that’s part of the adventure of a new event. We have been talking a lot about our own quink experiences and how they can be replicated at this event. Almost everyone we talk with is enthusiastic about the idea.
Lots more information to be found at www.quink.org where you can also buy tickets. If you are excited or intrigues you, go to the facebook Quink Fair! 2019 event and click “interested” or “going” and we will send you more information. If you have questions, suggestions, or want to lend a hand, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Other blog posts about Quink Fair!
I was panicking. I was thinking i had again taken on something larger than i could pull off. I had believed optimistic promises of support and had over estimated my own capacity to plug volunteers into useful work.
I even considered canceling the Quink Fair! event because i could not see how it would come together. Then i realized there was another way. And if you will excuse the martial overtones. I decided it was time to call in the cavalry.
I’ve described Angie before as a plug and play organizer. Someone with the capacity to walk into almost any circumstance and make it be better. It is a rare mix of self confidence, common sense and the capacity to not get stuck in other peoples mistakes. Angie has these in spades.
She is also quite busy. She has been the driving force behind birthing the Karass Inn in Chester Vermont which was started by ex-communards. Which now in it’s third year is well established and profitable.
“Can we agree we need a website within 48 hours?” I thought we needed one last month. But by adding Angie to the mix, our additional capacity to do things spikes. What she is really saying is “if you can’t get your people to pull this together in 2 days, i will do it myself. ” And she can, she is not a pro at it, but fully capable. As she is fully capable for running registration, or coordinating workshops, or doing outreach or staying within budget, to getting more training. And most importantly, she can play an anarchist chief of staff. This is where you ask volunteers what they are excited about working on and when they think they will have measurable progress, she will nudge things along.
She is a perfect nag that does not need training. She knows how to ask people to show up, she knows how much and what types of pressure motivate people and knows how to stop short of pushing too hard. The website was up in 48 hours and more serious promotion for the event has already started.
She is also good at untangling organizational messes i get myself into around events. Sometimes you need the cavalry.