When the nation was exploding in protests over the murder of George Floyd, some skeptics, perhaps tired of the nations inability to hold Trump for any of his many crimes, said “these protests won’t change anything”. They were wrong.
Viewers of mainstream news could be forgiven for thinking the big effects were removal of confederate statues and the confederate symbol from the flag of Mississippi and NASCAR races. And i fear the biggest effect of the Trump presidency is that many news sources now focus more on telling us what we will get upset about, rather than what is actually important.
However this short list misses most critical reforms and changes, many of which took place shortly after Floyd was murdered. Some terrible laws were cancelled, including A 50 in New York which protected criminal bad cops by hiding their disciplinary records and complaints filed against them. Colorado stripped cops of qualified immunity. LA cut over $150 million from the police budget and redirected it to other community services. Over a dozen police chiefs were forced to resign, including in large cities like Atlanta, Tucson, Richmond and Louisville. Police chiefs almost never resign suddenly or are fired. Letitia James, the Attorney General of NY State made history by being the first AG to sue their own police department for use of excessive force. At one point, i started to track all the things which had actually changed because of this uprising, it ended up being overwhelming by it and i quit.
The communes also changed. There were disruptive internal protests at these intentional communities about systemic racism and there was a lot of education of white communards about how despite their best intentions they were maintaining racist systems. And in part because of these internal protests POC members of communes started more seriously considering options which had only been discussed before. Importantly, a number of BIPOC community members realized there was a need for a BIPOC led income sharing community near the cluster of communes in Louisa county. And so Serenity Community was born.
While Serenity (taken for the name for the starship in the Firefly TV series) is still forming, it is already making good things happen. One of the things we are especially excited about is that Serenity has taken on the difficult task of dispersing scholarship (discount) tickets for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks who need economic assistance to come to QuinkFair. Recently, has also agreed to take on the granting of scholarship tickets to other economically disadvantaged participants.
And while they have been actively dispersing scholarship tickets, there are still more people who want to come to this event than can afford it. If you could help grow these scholarship funds it would be quite helpful. If you are on Facebook, you can donate at this fundraiser or you can venmo 541-505-0803, be sure to include a note “QuinkFair Scholarships”
George Floyds death forced America to admit it had a systemic racism problem and while these important changes are to be lauded, we know the real work lies in front of us, but i am glad and excited to have the talented and energetic Serenity folks help in crafting a more fair and equitable world.
Good festivals build on people’s excitement, this is why so many events are designed around performers and their personalities. But there are lots of other excitements which are available.
As we have been talking about quinks more, people keep asking for examples – and especially what are common quinks? Things that don’t require the heroics of breaking a toxic relationship or the mastery of enlightenment.
Wolf suggested Quink books. Almost everyone has read a book that has changed their life in a way which they look back on positively now. These books hold a power and story for you and as organizers we want to bring that to our event.
On Friday Oct 1st at dinner we will have the participants of QuinkFair bring copies of their favorite books to dinner with the intention of discussing them, why they changed their lives and seeing if that is a message someone else in the group needs to hear.
We ask that people consider bringing a copy to give away. [If that’s not doable (financial challenges, difficulty finding a copy, etc) then you could also print the title and author on one side of a 3×5 index card and write why it was so important to you on the other side. We’ll take photos of these cards and share them on the QuinkFair blog, as well as on Facebook. ]
These are the three clear quink books for me and a sentence about what i took away from them:
That anarchist societies don’t make problems go away, they just shift how they are discussed and decided.
Was a compelling smack in the head about how my blindness to gender and racial inequity did not exempt me from at least learning about them and hopefully doing something about them.
This book taught me that a good author can have me crying by page 4. It showed exhausted heroes who looked a lot like people i loved. And it showed our type of consensus decision making in impossible situations sparking effective non-violent resistance.
What are the books that changed your life and why? Can you provide copies for others to learn the things you did and perhaps other important lessons?
QuinkFair is a transformation celebration borrowing from several festival cultures and striving to spark positive and healing experiences. It takes place on beautiful private land in rural Virginia in the town of Mineral on Oct 1 thru 4. Tickets are still available.
For some event participants this has been a lovely exercise, they get to go to their favorite used book store, shop for the books which help them become who they are and then bring them to the event and press them into the hands of someone who you hope has a similar strong resonance with the book.
Evolutionarily Stable Design
Say you have an event where you have brought together 200 participants and perhaps 100 of them are hunting for a new community (the others are from communities or are just community-curious). Let’s say there are 40 communities represented. How do you get the key information to the right hunters so they can make good choices?
I don’t know exactly who developed the Meet the Communities format that the Twin Oaks Communities Conference has used for decades, but it is an evolutionarily stable format, because it works so well.
You could say it is basically formatted around the controversial propagandist axiom “there is no such thing as a long story”. You line up all your communities and say “you have 1 minute to present yourself and then people who like you will come for more personal and longer talks after all the communities present themselves”. Yes, the communities movement basically invented speed dating.
After these introductions community presenters spread out to picnic tables and put up their signs and hunters who were intrigued at the short presentation come and have a longer, more personal and more focused conversation.
There are some organizational pieces you have to include to make it work. You need someone who is watching the clock and when people hit their 1 minute mark gently moves them off the stage. Ira did this for many years. [Which resulted in Pat Therrian intentionally running over her time so Ira would have to grab her, which Pat quite liked.] And you have to explain to the sustainability network guy how, while his project is important, he can not get up and present himself as a place based residential community.
Another proof of evolutionary stability is imitation. The West Coast Communities Conference (when it was happening before the pandemic) also used this format as does the QuinkFair event happening Oct 1, 2, 3, and 4 in Mineral Virginia. These are the communities who have been invited to present themselves during MtC (most of whom have confirmed and/or said they are likely to attend) on October 2 in the morning.
|Abrams Creek/CFNC||Storm Mountain WV|
|Baltimore Free Farm||Baltimore|
|Community of Peace||Louisa|
|Cosmic Honey||San Francisco Bay a|
|Cuckoo Compound||Cuckoo VA|
|Cville Ecovillage||Cville VA|
|Federation of Egalitarian Communities||US|
|Foundation for Intentional Community||North America|
|Living Energy Farm (LEF)||Louisa|
|Magnolia (LEF affiliate)||Louisa|
|Open Circle||Etlan VA|
Sadly, there is no Twin Oaks Communities Conference (TOCC) this year and QuinkFair is quite a different type of event. Nevertheless, this long held tradition will be repeated in an undisclosed location in Mineral VA on October 2.
This is an ambitious event. We are striving to create a temporary community celebration where we positively change the lives of participants. This experience strives to strike the delicate balance between joyous celebration and transformative self reflection. We want you to have a crazy good time, and we also want you to walk away from the event a wiser, wilder, and more inspired person.
To this end we are trying some unusual things: this festival has homework you need to complete before arriving. We are asking everyone to bring a very specific type of memory. A rememberance where you made a choice and things in your life improved. It could be a little thing, standing up for yourself or taking a small risk. It could be a large thing, like breaking an addiction, falling in love or reaching a spiritual enlightenment. Reflecting back on the lock downs, how are you different in an improved way and how did that happen? This memory will be the core of a story we want you to tell.
Homework for a festival?
What the talented storytellers explain is that the way you improve your story is to often retell it. And this is also the way you understand your own story. But we are often discouraged from telling these types of stories culturally because they are immodest. Yet especially in these extraordinary times, modesty is dangerous and we need to honor and herald these heroic choices.
What event is this? QuinkFair is an event on October 1,2, 3 and 4. It is located in Mineral Virginia to be close to the communes of Louisa county. A festival inspired by many other events and cultures including the rainbow gathering, burning man, and the intentional communities conferences.
The story we are asking you to develop is about a quink from your life, a quink is roughly defined as the opposite of trauma, where after some identifiable event your life improves or you experience a healing. When people share these positive stories we observe two important things happen. The first is that you think more about these experiences and pay attention to how they might happen in your future life and how you might best ride them. And secondly, these are intimate stories of (in part) how you became who you are and this vulnerability brings intimacy with the group.
Beyond crafting a story, we are asking folks to consider presenting about their quink experiences so others might learn from their paths. Examples bondage class, group building with challenge course material, or try your hand with divination at the Temple of Oracles. We discourage the term audience in favor of participant and co-creator or maker.
We borrow from other festival cultures and are strongly committed to both a high consent culture and a decommodified one. Consent culture means we have a shared respect for bodily autonomy and feel safe. For example, one of our the consent examples on the QuinkFair website suggests to “Ask open ended questions- for example, avoid saying “It’s okay if I hug you, right?” Instead try saying “I’d like to hug you, how would you feel about that?”
Decommodified cultures don’t use vendors internally: no vendors, no service fee, no barter, no corporate sponsors, no money based markets, and nothing for sale.
Can we guarantee you will have a quink at this event? Certainly not, but we do have both clever guides and powerful tools to help you find at least where you might look for your future quinks. We also have intentional communities and especially (income sharing) communes coming to present themselves, so perhaps your Quink will be leaving your straight job and moving to a commune in the country?
See who is going from Facebook
Lots more info about this event at www.quink.org
We have a strict “vax or test” covid policy, please understand it before you buy tickets.
There are things Twin Oaks does reliably well and funerals are one of them.
I dislike most funeral formats. Too much religious singing or scripture, often reflecting the wishes of the minister rather than the person who passed. Too much waiting around for people who are not skilled at public speaking struggle to prove they really cared in oft too long and pained presentations.
Ex-member Kate facilitated the funeral in a Quaker style where people shared what they were moved to say. Almost everyone was funny in an appropriate way because we knew it would take powerful joy to cut the tragic sadness of losing this person with incredible potential. Very few prepared remarks (though Carly penned this amazing piece), lots of short heartfelt memories.
As an event organizer, I evaluate this from two perspectives: First is “What would Gwen think?” And I think she would have been very pleased at all these people from her life saying these comic and amazing things about her. She would have felt seen and celebrated.
But the other perspective is what it must be like to be one of Gwen’s girlfriends in attendance. What would it be like to be among so many people whose principal connection with my partner is that they raised her? Would they be like that relative who does not see how embarrassing it is to show these old photos?
No, we are better than that. There were some endearing stories of young Gwen, like the one Tigger, her father, told of Gwen at 4 years crying:
Tigger: Gwen, no one gets their way by whining and crying
Gwen: Dad you don’t know anything about whining and crying.
But this is a story of Gwen in control and defiant and it reveals perhaps the most important not-quite-secret ingredient in what makes commune collective child raising so great. We teach defiance.
We teach kids how to hide from their parents when that is appropriate. We teach kids how to know when to break any rule. But more importantly, we teach how to be a conscientious rule breaker. How to know when you’re breaking rules and which rules are silly and should simply be ignored and to know what rules matter and why.
Gwen was the closest thing Willow (my daughter) had to a sister. But in some ways commune life made them much closer than most siblings would be. For almost a decade they were in every class, preschool or play activity together. They ate most meals together, hung out together at most parties and celebrations. And they shared approximately 2 bazillion hours of various video game chats together. Most siblings a year apart in age spend much less time together.
Gwen’s coffin surrounded by family and clan
Understandably Willow is pretty broken up about it. She was crying often during the funeral. I don’t consider myself a particularly great parent. But one thing I feel our family did well with Willow was encourage her to cry things out. No shame in tears, they are expressing needed emotional release. Let them flow.
But I am not worried about Willow though she is clearly hurting. Because emotional resiliency is another not-so-secret ingredient.
Editor’s Note: Though it is a bit old fashioned, i try pretty hard to run blog posts past people who are featured and named in them, to make sure they are comfortable being represented this way. Willow gave her blessing and happily thought i was actually a fine parent. Kate who facilitates sacred ceremonies, was happy to be called out. And Gwen’s dad Tigger approved this text before it was published. Carly shared her letter and amazing pictures. Thanks to Summer for more pictures and Kelpie for edits and tech support. Thanks to all of them for quick turn around on this recent event
Gwen, it is incomprehensible that your spirit has flown so soon.
I have known for a few days but all of me is still crying out NO. It cannot be. There must be some mistake. You knew that road, you have things to do, the world needs you. You are too loved to be gone. But it doesn’t work like that.
Eighteen years. I am reeling, we are all reeling, that that is all you got. Sweet, fierce, wise Gwendolyn.
Going through my photos, through the heartbreak and tears, my overwhelming sense was of how loved you are, and what an incredible life you lived.
Like Hawina wrote, ‘All the mountains that Gwen would have moved will now be dismantled at a slower pace…’
Gwen at the Women’s march – Mountain moving will be delayed
I wish I could be with all those who loved you over the coming days. Many, like me, remember when you were born (sheesh your mama was ready to have you in her arms!). I remember your new baby smell. I remember holding your hands as you began walking, the youngest at that year’s Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering. I remember a wicked glint in your eye and hearing stories of you through the years, over the seas, and thinking, yes, this one will move mountains.
I will be there in spirit as beloveds carry your physical self to rest in the Twin Oaks cemetery, not far from where you were born. A circle complete far too soon.
All my love to your mama, dad Tom, Jonah, Robert and Madge, Willow, Hawina, Pax, Sky, Kristen, Keenan, and all the other mamas and papas, primaries and the many in your community, Twin Oaks and beyond. You gave so much in your short life. A little piece of all our hearts go with you.
Fly high beautiful.
Words by Anissa, pictures by Instagram
I have 10 minutes today to present on how communes can help us move away from money centric economies. I love this topic and have quite a bit to say about it. So much to say, that it does not all fit into the time i have.
I think recruiters have an obligation to talk about the shadow sides of the things they are promoting. Here is the slide i did not have time for on the disadvantages of commune life in general.
- Press your buttons
- Sharing work, home, and money with a large group can be intense
- Less autonomy (health care, kid care, snap long distance trips)
- Less Privacy
- Romantic breakups can be harder
- Insular – reduced access to urban culture
- Small social circle
- Dramatically reduced chance of getting rich
- Maybe shunned by family and old friends
- No 401k (although there is phased community retirement)
Most of these points are self expanitory but i want to elaborare on the first one. Joining a commune is going to push your buttons. If you know what your buttons are, then you are signing up for a personal growth class by joining. You will be confronted with this and have to grow, or suffer. But the second possibility is that you do not actually know what your buttons are, and then coming to the commune can be a difficult and disorienting wake up call. You could find out that you are crazy jealous and the partner of your dreams is polyamorous. You could find out that you need much more alone time than you thought (because it had not been much of an issue before, because it happened “naturally”) and you need to adjust your schedule accordingly. Maybe you like to make your own choices about which brand of shampoo or kind of desert you want, this could require some adjusting.
There are lots of advantages to living in a commune, but contrary to other peoples reporting, we have no illusions that this is utopia.
I learned a lot of things from Coyote, one of the first things i learned from him was about death. In 2001, a few years after i had moved to Twin Oaks, a long time member Kana died. Coyote said an insightful thing about him. “When someone like Kana dies, you have to become stronger – because they leave the kind of hole in you that you can only fill with yourself.” Today i find that i have to be stronger for Coyote is irreplaceable to me.
But were he consulted, he would choose a different story to be remembered by, one i heard him tell with relish a number of times.
In the summer of 1982, a handful of armed FBI agents arrived at a cabin door in Indiana.
“Are you John Steven Fawley?”
“Would it make any fucking difference if i said ‘No’, officer?” asked Coyote in a most respectful tone.
“Absolutely none, Mr. Fawley”
“Then please come in officers, mi casa su casa” Coyote offered with a wave of his arm in greeting.
Inside they found 1254 marijuana plants growing.
Coyote would admit his role in the crime of growing these plants, he would take full responsibility and tell the judge that he was changing careers and the money would have allowed him to transition from teaching to what would ultimately be taking care of special needs kids.
In his contemporaneously delivered speech to the judge he would promise that “i am not a troublesome individual” the judge believed him, Coyote did no time in jail.
Coyote’s birthday was the day after Christmas which is also Chairman Mao’s birthday. And while he had myriad critiques of how the Chinese tried to implement communism, Coyote did have a deep respect for the vision of this revolutionary Chinese figure. Perhaps 50 years ago, and perhaps under the influence, Coyote and friends called the Chinese embassy and wished Mao a happy birthday and commented on the coincidence. The embassy staff person said “Chairman Mao and all the people of China wish Mr. Coyote a very happy birthday as well”.
He wanted to be nimble in his thinking, he did not want to be stuck in habits over substance or ethics. Coyote taught me everything i knew about baseball, about the shortstop being the soul of the team and what kinds of things to say in the club car of a train to sound like you know what you are talking about with respect to baseball. Coyote was a big Yankees fan, had been for decades, had cheered them on as they won numerous world series. We even donned nicknames for a hot minute, with him being Yankees owner Steinbrenner and me being the couch Joe Torre. The idea was he was increasingly stepping away from managing the communes affairs and i was stepping in to replace him.
But then in the summer of 2004, Dick Cheney was invited to Yankee Stadium just before the Yankees beat the Boston Red Socks. He was photographed with Joe Torre and sat in Steinbrenner’s box seats. That was it, Coyote retired as a yankees fan, threw out the baseball hats and other memorabilia and never went back, he dropped baseball as well, and since then i stayed away from club cars conversations about baseball.
But it is another parable of Coyote’s life that taught me the most, a parable i failed to tell him, tho i am sure he would deny it.
Coyote was a smart, literate and articulate guy. But as he grew older he seemed to drift towards being a curmudgeon, people annoyed him, the commune bureaucracy did not function as smoothly as he would have preferred. Having been a high functioning person for his whole life, it bothered him when others seemed to show up with weak effort. Those of us on his informal “care team” spoke about his growing resentments and if there were ways we should try to push him away from them, as he was needing increasing care from the community and all caregivers are volunteering.
And then over some weeks he seemed to chill out and become more grateful and less curmudgeonly. Oh he still had complaints, but they were toned down and less personal. He found his place in the collective which encouraged him to have a different voice.
Unlike most people, Coyote decided he would not become a curmudgeon and instead would be mostly grateful for his circumstance (“i’ve painted myself into a perfect corner” he used to say) and not let his furstrations poison his interaction with others who he was becoming increasingly dependant on.
Coyote was an avid reader and writes to his favorite authors. He wrote to the poet and revolutionary Wendell Berry who sent him back the powerful poem HOW TO BE A POET (to remind myself). Which includes the lovely lines:
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
And desecrated places.
Coyote’s funeral is this Saturday at 1:30. His final resting place will be sacred for us. It is possible for non-members to attend, but you need to follow the strict rules about social distancing and processioning. Hawina is coordinating outside guests coming to this event. You must contact her (at email@example.com) if you are not a current inside the Twin Oaks quarantine bubble and are interested in attending.
There is a gargoyle foundry in District 7 of New Orleans, but you won’t find it on google maps. You need to know someone to get in. A couple handfuls of vagabond communards are doing impressive work, flying below the radar of the local media. These are the folks who could direct you to this fanciful craftsperson village. My favorite work is storytelling, and i am flattered i got asked to tell you this one.
Gargoyle making is a special art and there are prerequisites which can’t be skipped. First you must build walls that hold your resource sharing community at a small but safe distance from the tsunami of disaster capitalism just outside.
This gargoyle foundry molded the impressive fixtures for these nearly impregnable walls. Adorned with blacksmith spikes at the top, these sturdy swinging doors separate this world of gritty makers from the profusion of AirBNBs which litter New Orleans and exacerbate the city’s acute housing shortage.
Within these tall walls there are shacks, tree houses, beached boats, buses and all manner of makeshift housing fashioned from salvaged materials in an area that sustained heavy damage by Hurricane Katrina. Many of these homes were demolished eventually by the city after its occupants couldn’t afford to move back right away after the hurricane. These mostly queer/POC/trans/indigenous craftspeople have salvaged and cobbled together this punk makers ecovillage, sometimes called the “Worst Steel Workers of America.”
After housing you need an income engine, an enterprise of some sort that covers the costs beyond what you can dumpster dive, salvage and barter (which is an impressive amount in this situation). Before making gargoyles, the blacksmith forges are crafting replacement parts for the beautiful balconies of the French Quarter. Aligned with long time local metal workers, the gargoyle foundry is the only place which can seamlessly mend broken balcony components in the state. Most of this work was sent overseas, until the virus struck. Business is brisk now.
Wolvie and their comrades have woven together disparate communities: metal working punks with Christian land owners, conventional business interests with anarchist communitarians, and long term locals with transient counter culture folks. And there are much more than just metal forges in this operation; there are wood working shops, ceramic kilns and artist studios. When asked about the difference between working in Baltimore where they helped starting the Free Farm, and the gargoyle foundry in New Orleans, Wolvie shared that the south was slower culturally, you have to work with locals for quite some time before they trust you. But a lot has happened in the few years since i last visited them.
It is hard to start an intentional community. It is nearly impossible to spark an income sharing community with a cottage industry. Yet this gargoyle foundry is treading this unlikely path. This requires navigating legalities and building neighbor relationships. The center of their neighbor relations policy is high prioritizing the needs of the neighbors. The Worst Steel Workers provide advice, tools, and muscle power along with a hefty dose of barter, lending, and gifting to serve their neighbors. These good neighbor policies have resulted in several free or inexpensive sites and buildings which feed their expansionist plans.
Wolvie’s message is clear: “Seize land”. They put their own chains and cell phone number on a nearby warehouse and waited for the owner to call. When the initially upset owner finally did call, they were able to strike a deal, where in exchange for repair and security for the warehouse they could legally use the formerly abandoned facility without taking ownership, but also without rent.
When i asked if people could join the Worst Steel Worker union, Wolvie laughed and said “Sure, if they want to come to a pandemic hotspot, we are open for more hard working folks who want to live collectively like this. It might not work out of course, but they are welcome to come and try.”
They have yet to forge their first gargoyle, but have made great progress with the many other prerequisites including cannons, brass knuckles, impregnable doors and guillotines as well as all manner of custom metal craft pieces. They have already sparked an inspiring, gritty community of talented mostly young people who have the solid foundation needed to craft both the good life and impressive gargoyles.