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Transformus Post Office

Glow in the dark croquette

Transformus is a regional Burning Man influenced event which used to be on a glorious site near Asheville, NC and has moved to a different beautiful place near Masonville, WV. Rick from Happy Hill came for the first time to this location and observed things i never would have noticed. Specifically, that the huge fields were not actually a monoculture, but a complex mix of different types of plants as part of a sophisticated wildlife and field management program. There is a huge need nationally for this type of soil regeneration and specifically Rick pointed out that they had planted Asclepias which are critical for supporting monarch butterfly populations.

Hammocks research is always part of our work
Dash’s happy place

Transformus was the first time i really got to see Dash (our new conference intern) shine. Dash is a gifted cook out of Boston who is helping to organize the Communities Conference and they put out impressive meals on the Camp Contact stoves. No matter where people were in the sprawling Tranformus campus, pretty much everyone made it back to camp around mealtime, despite there being a lot of great food all free at the festival.

Our neighbors had a durable climbing dome
Jade beside fire breathing 3 headed beast
There were inspiring multi level hammocks.
Ali relaxing at Camp Contact

Jason Taylor is a hero of mine. A Louisa local who did not discover the communes til he was a teenager, he is now an integral part of holding them together. From building the replacement Llano kitchen (after the actual Twin Oak tree fell on it and crushed it), to repairing the Twin Oaks sawmill and kiln, to repairing and running the seed packing robot machine at Acorn – Jason is our favorite handy person who keeping the communes operating. Jason is the site manager for QuinkFair, last year in that role he manifested all manner of elements from designing and wiring the solar system to leading the effort to build and burn the effigy.

At Transformus he led the screen-printing workshop, using Acorn’s new screen-printing device. This was a test run for the Communities Conference where we plan to print dozens of participants’ clothes (as we successfully in some years ago).

Postal recipients did strange things to get their mail

In the above picture Jason is paying for his postage due, by stuffing a huge pineapple top in his mouth. Which requires me to explain a bit about the post office.

The post office is a Burning Man inspired activity, which we ran at Transformus back in 2013 when i was a dual member at Acorn. Burning Man influenced events discourage the use of money internally (as does QuinkFair). Instead of monetary transactions they encourage cultural and comic exchanges. So to get a inter-festival letter sent, you need to pay into the post office with perhaps a skit or a joke or a dance. Similarly, your incoming letter is “postage due” and the postal carrier may try to get you to perform out of character. Asked to “read something that moves you”, a postal customers name Snax who was working registration at Transformus read the section of the Velveteen Rabbit on being real and started crying during their rendition – momentarily all activity stopped at the busy registration to witness this dramatic rendition.

The power of a post office funologically, is it can bring a little culture bomb into a camp. Another postal recipient asked for one of our “Daring” cards and got. “Make out with someone you have never kissed before, consensually, for 30 seconds starting now.” The dare was heard by a lovely person named Freefall, who after a short discussion about risks and STIs, they kissed. Somehow the 30 seconds recommendation got blown threw.

Postal Challenge Cards – back sides

One of the modifications we tested on the regular post office format is we developed a number of postal challenge cards. These including Daring, Beautiful, Funny and Wild Cards. This allows the postal customer to think about what type of way they want subsidize the mail service by delivering a tiny cultural performance of these different types.

An unlikely pair – Sarah Hailey of Happy Hill and Spacious of Camp Contact

Spacious is the principal organizer of the Camp Contact theme camps within several regional burns and at the big burn in Nevada. To the untrained eye, his principal contribution is a tremendous amount of specialty hardware – kitchens, giant shade structures, domes, chill spaces, solar powered refrigerators, drinking and cleaning water systems, showers, bikes, trucks, hand tools and much more. If you are a decerning organizer, you know that the inter-personal stuff is more complex than even the most sophisticated of these inanimate objects: lovely attendees, who can’t afford camp fees or telling prospective participants who make people uncomfortable that they cannot be part of the camp or figuring out how to cover an internal camp task which someone promised to take responsibility for, and then they flaked on it or dealing with people who promise to pay their camp fees and then do not or getting exhausted campers to break down many structures before the rain hits at the end of the event or figuring out just how much the camp attendees are open to building without deciding not to build it or not to come back to the next camp ‘cos it was too much to build.

Camp Contact would not exist without Spacious, the hardware (as complex as it is) is the easy part, creating a harmonious, financially viable, well-equipped camp with a bunch of diverse participants who are not always reliable – that is the heavy lifting of an organizer.

Early attendee at star viewing benches.
QuinkFair and Communities Conference organizers (L to R) – Kelpie, Orion and Jade

Perhaps because i am so disorganized, one of the things i appreciate in other organizers is being nimble. Being regularly interrupted and still being effective, being able to change plans gracefully on short notice, rapidly adopting to the shifting variables are all signs of a nimble event organizer. Orion Posey is the son of one of my favorite activists Susan Posey and the generous traveling electrician Milo MacTavish. Orion was supposed to be performing in a play near Norfolk, a few days before Transformus, but the play got cancelled and Orion reached out to me about being a conference intern. He agreed to come to Transformus, without really knowing what it is, but knowing that their festival activities would be secondary to the networking and outreach work we wanted them to do. Orion delivered a bunch of mail, dispersed a number of fingerbooks, acted as an ambassador from our events to workshops on topics we are interested in. With Twin Oaks population the lowest it has been in years; we can use all the help we can get, and Orion is the addition of a nimble set of hands.

Camp Contact at Transformus 2022

If you are interested in our small regional burn in Virginia Sept 23 thru 26 – check out QuinkFair:

If you are interested in intentional communities, consider our Labor Day (Sept 2 thru 6) event, the Communities Conference:

Call for Presenters -Twin Oaks Communities Conference

Should you offer a workshop at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference? [deadline Aug 1, 2022]

Twin Oaks Communities Conference (TOCC) is looking for some compelling workshop presenters on the topic of intentional community.  Perhaps you are asking yourself “Am I a talented workshop presenter?”  Here are some ways you can tell:

“Truth is in the room”: What we’re looking for are interactive workshops that draw from the participants and the collective truth from the room. We’re hoping for workshops that introduce participants to ideas that they perhaps have never considered before or advance beliefs which are challenging or engage everyone in the space, including the presenter. We’ve found that open-ended questions and role plays are methods that work well with our participants.

29597573_10156247620047365_7772699634743048174_n.jpg

The room has no walls, but the truth is still in there

Flexible  We’re looking for workshop facilitators that can sense the energy level of the participants. Does it look like a playful group? Perhaps games and simulations will be helpful.  Is this a serious (perhaps intense) group or topic? Maybe perhaps a Q&A or a hotseat format will benefit. Conversely,  perhaps the opposite prescription will work – the serious and intense folks could lighten up with games. The point is that you as the workshop presenter want to build a good connection with your participants and tailor your presentation to the group you have before you. You could do a go round (if there are less than 20 people) and ask everyone for a single sentence about why they are in the workshop. Their answers will help guide you to adjust your presentation for their level of expertise and their areas of excitement.

Flexible is key

Reflect on Impact: Is it possible that you are going to share an exercise that will engage your participants beliefs or behavior? Is it likely they will be amused and entertained?  We’re looking for workshops that will lead participants towards a greater understanding of themselves and how they present in community.  How can we have more healthy and transparent relationships with fellow communitarians? How can libraries of shared material goods be created so we are living more sustainably and cooperatively? Can we be in romantic relationships with more than one person, in the same place? What are the details we can learn and share to live together more cooperatively?  Perhaps not as fun as a beautifully illustrated atlas or teaching haddocks (or goldfish) to jump through hoops, but definitely a bigger takeaway.

Fish thru hoops

The conference itself can provide some chairs, and, with advance notice, some sound system, but we’re in quite a rustic environment. Your powerpoint presentation, for example, might need technology that will take a while for us to assemble. If you cannot provide what is needed for your workshop, please let us know well in advance. 

It’s important to us to maintain the low cost and low overhead for this conference, so we cannot afford to pay you to present, although we can provide approved presenters with a free or reduced cost ticket.

If you are convinced, here is the Call for Presenter form to complete,  and the deadline for submission is Aug 1st.  If you just want to buy a ticket and come to the event here is the link.  If you want to read about how to get the most out of this conference check out this article.  If you would like the irregular updates about this event you can either write to conference@twinoaks.org or RSVP on the event facebook page

Apologies in advance if you are really into teaching fish to jump thru hoops.

https://www.howspace.com/resources/how-to-facilitate-a-workshop#activate

It’s time to get arrested

The Supreme Court is the triumph of the Trump administrations authoritarian desires. Rights are being stripped by religious zealots who lied during their confirmation hearings and should be impeached, but wont be. You are frustrated, you are angry, you want to do something, but you are not quite sure what to do. Please note new information about bail from Angie at the bottom of this post.

It’s time to get arrested.

For many folks, this will seem counter intuitive. How can getting myself thrown in jail help anyone or anything? It just seems like a waste of time, money and a hassle.

It turns out it is one of the most effective tools mass movements have to change the political tide. It has been used effectively around the world, even in some of the most repressive regimes. In the US, the end of the Vietnam war, the death of new nuclear construction and getting the right to vote for both women (1920) and POCs (1965) in the US relied on civil disobedience to win.

If you want to dig into the logic and practice of civil disobedience, I encourage the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which goes deep into both how and why.

From the Boston Tea Party to Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March, and from suffragists’ illegally casting their ballots to whites-only lunch counter sit-ins, civil disobedience has often played a crucial role in bending the proverbial arc of the moral universe toward justice.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

But if you are willing to consider this option, i want to encourage you to go to this Saturdays action defending abortion rights in DC. Here is some of the more practical advise, i shared with Oakers who are organizing this action.

Who you get arrested with matters. The Women’s March organizers have an arrest training and orientation on July 8th at 6 pm in DC.  Folks interested in this should fill out the form of the principal organizers.  and plan on being there in person.  If you get arrested with or near the black bloc who are breaking Starbucks windows, your police experience will likely be much more headachy and physically difficult. Try to stay with other protesters the night before (avoid the temptation of hanging with DC friends not involved with the action).

The key piece of information, especially for people who have not been arrested before is the overwhelming experience of this choice is boredom and some confusion. You will spend lots of time after you are arrested waiting to be processed, sometimes in a hot police vehicle.  You will spend a lot of time in holding cells.  You will be told to wait often with no indication how long.  Your cell phone will be taken from you (typically) once you have been processed and usually (but not always) any reading material you have. Often you can smuggle a zine or some other pocket sized reading in. This is recommended to help cut the boredom.  And of course make friends with other arrestees.

Bail is complex. If you do need it, it is designed to insure you come back for your court hearings. When you do, you get typically get your bail money back (or 90% of it if you use a bail bond person). Angie is the queen of bail, she is copied on this message, supportive of this action and will have useful contacts on bail bonds services and how not to get stung by them. 

For 90% of non-violent actions in DC there will not be a need for bail money, assuming arrestees are willing to identify themselves to get released and go thru the legal system.  DC mostly has a “catch and release” policy around non-violent protesters – usually you are released with a summons to appear before the court. There is a high chance you will get a fine or community service at your court hearing, because you will almost certainly be found guilty – but this is not bail.  And thus not needed at the time of arrest.  

Separately, the organizing groups will likely have lawyer services available to folks risking arrest.  You should get their legal contact info and write it in marker on peoples arms. Also you should have a TO support person who is not getting arrested and is in DC and their number should also be put on peoples arms, with instructions to call when folks are released. 

While it is pretty easy to get arrested (block any intersection and refuse to move when the police arrive). After some hours of processing and being held, they will quite likely release people (who have identified themselves with id) on their own recognizance without a fine. Remember holding people is expensive for the city, they don’t want to feed you and also they don’t want the jails overwhelmed by protesters.  They also don’t want you once released to go back and immediately get arrested again, so they will often hold folks until most of the actions are over.

They will hold you and not release you if you refuse to identify yourself.  People wishing to do this type of action (refusing ID) should talk with action organizers to see what support and advice they offer.  I discourage people from carrying full wallets into arrest actions – instead ID, a metro card plus $20 or so, recognizing this will be taken from you at the time after you are processed (as will your wallet if you bring one). 90% of things confiscated from arrestees will be returned by the police.

People who require daily medication need to know they will be separated from their meds for at least hours, possibly an entire day if there are many arrests and lots of on going actions that the police/the city don’t want you to return to. People should not assume the police are going to be either reasonable or accommodating around getting your meds to you once you have been arrested and separated from them.

Wear comfortable clothes and while the action will likely be hot, your holding cell experience will be air conditioned (often set very low) and folks should dress accordingly (typically using layers). Skip jewelry. 

I personally discourage people from resisting arrest, especially on their first arrest action. Mostly because it is frustrating (you can’t do it for long without serious hardware) and the DC police are experts in compliance holds and you will feel disempowered by how quickly they are able to stop you from resisting and are likely to face more serious charges. 

If people want to “hit harder” then instead of arrest and release I recommend hit and run actions (this is not civil disobedience).  And if people are interested in this I have other contacts to offer.

Organizers have to make sure you have sufficient support people (not risking arrest) to accommodate how ever many people are getting arrested. The most important thing here is getting folks after they have been released. Especially for people who are getting arrested for the first time, the terrible part of the experience is not over until there is a friendly known face checking in with them after release.  This means some support people must be willing to stay until everyone is released, this could easily be 2 AM on Sunday.  [Here again I am assuming people want to ID and return for trial or pay the fine, refusing to ID can leave you in jail for days] assuming you have multiple vehicles in the city, a 3 arrestees to 1 support person is a good ratio. Several of the DC detention facilities are not near the metro, so getting people back can be slow or frustrating, every arrestee should have a metro card (which works on the buses) with over $5 on it.

It is wise if support people have something nice to give people when they get out – candy or some other appropriate treat.  Getting arrested for the first time often changes peoples lives, in slightly unpredictable ways. Some will never do it again. Some will realize it is their calling. Nearly universally it will result in detainees disliking and not trusting the police more.

Support people need to realize there is an important emotional part of their job. Even short stints in jail can mess people up. Mass actions arrests usually do not have you in solitary- so you might end up in gender segregated general population. If gender is unsure to the police, they will generally use the gender listed on your ID to determine where you are detained.  Police will not respect your selected pronouns.

It is important to remember that these are very popular actions. This means if you don’t bring a phone – every other person in DC will lend you theirs if you say “Hey I just got arrested defending abortion rights and I was hoping to borrow your phone to call my support people to tell them I have been released”.

As an organizer people are going to want to know that you are going to take care of them in their on going legal hassles. This means getting rides back to DC for court stuff (typically two trips) and labor credits for that work. Here I would assume you will be able to accommodate folks, we have in the past.

And while getting arrested is a fine, desirable and noble thing. People should take the decision seriously and not be shamed in anyway if they chose not to do it and attend the protest or do support work instead. Especially people in fragile or compromised mental health circumstances or who are likely to be traumatized by physical boundaries being disrespected by the police should consider support roles instead of arrests.  There will be many more options for getting arrested in the future – this is a long haul campaign.

If you are getting arrested for the first time for a protest, try to stick near someone you know and like who is also getting arrested – for the same crimes as you. Generally this will mean you have company and someone to talk with.  This does not always work, you can be separated for all kinds of reasons.

People need to be ready for police to completely change their behavior on short notice. They can be friendly and accommodating one minute and the next they can be pushing you around or using unnecessary force for no apparent reason. The police are not your friends in this situation- even if they mostly have been in your life before.  That said, DC police are better than most in dealing with NV protesters, because they have so much experience. 

A note from Angie:

Two big things- first, whenever possible (especially if you’re working
with low bail amounts), it’s better to post cash bail than to use a
bail bondsman. Bail bonds usually cost 10% of the bail cost, and you
do not get that back- even if you’re found not guilty, even if the
charges are dropped, that money is a set cost that the bail bondsman
receives. OTOH, cash bail is also a risk, especially if someone other
than the arrestee is paying- if the person doesn’t show up to court
dates then the bail may be forfeited. Think about who is paying the
bail ahead of time, have a plan for how you’ll deal with $50 bail vs
$500 bail vs $5,000 bail. And obviously, a 10 person bail of $50 is a
different burden than a 2 person bail of $500.

Second- there may be other, more violent protests going on in and
around DC this week. That kind of thing can impact how smoothly (or
not) your nonviolent arrest action goes. Cops are people, they get
tired and worn out and stressed (1312 tho, don’t get me wrong). If DC
cops are dealing with violent protestors on Wednesday, Thursday, and
Friday, the might be harsher on nonviolent protestors on Saturday.
The big one I’m watching is the trucker convoy, now called the “1776
Restoration Movement”. they have been in DC on the national mall since
the morning of the 6th, are violent, some are registered sex offenders
(including one who pleaded guilty to child molestation of a kid under
14),  and they’re all facist religious bigots. A few have been
arrested. The situation is fluid and changing fast.

A few of the 1776RMers know about the Saturday action, some many
attend, most are instigators and shit stirrers. If the action is near
the mall then it’s a major concern, if not it’s probably not as big a
deal. If you want more info let me know.

Best of luck with your action, and if I can help or support let me know!

Angie

Balloons is Popping

The pandemic disrupted my life a bunch. I was on leave from Twin Oaks and when the commune locked down, i had the choice to be in or out. Because Jade, who was not an Oaker, could not join me, we decided to leave Virginia and by summer of 2020 we were settled in Springfield Missouri hosted by the lovely and talented Bliss and her tennis prodigy son, Solace.

The best part of Springfield

Besides running the comic and poignant novelty textile company Lewd Linens, Bliss manages the Farmers Market of the Ozarks (FMO). As part of her management of this large market she needs to chat with vendors, collect fees, repulse anti-mask idiots and generally make sure things are running smoothly. This leaves her little time to monitor her own Lewd Linens booth at the market, so Jade and i stepped in and watched her booth on Saturday mornings.

Bliss promotes the Farmers Market of the Ozarks

Booth watching gave us time to practice balloon animal making, something Jade had been teaching herself by watching youtube videos. We gave balloons to kids at the market for donations. It was quite a hit and over the course of a Saturday morning we would often make $50 to $75 in donations from parents who were happy to have some small joy inducing present to give to their kids and because it was “pay what you like” everyone was a winner.

FMO balloon vendors

Fast forward to the 2020 elections, Jade and I joined the Flip team and worked in Maine to try to save Democracy from the Trump madness. Balloon making followed us and was incorporated into a number of political actions and our repertoire of balloon animals expanded. Jade taught the whole Flip Maine crew how to make balloon animals.

Flip Maine Crew: Tew, Spencer, Jade, Thumbs and Charles learn how to make balloon animals

But it was really not until we got to New Jersey that the balloon animal business took off. The Collinswood farmers market was initially very reluctant to have us be part of it or even near it. It was pre-vaccine covid and the organizers were under tremendous pressure to do what ever they could to minimize risk. A couple of folks drawing crowds of kids at no gain to the market felt like a losing proposition.

So we located ourselves a bit far from the entrance to the market, around the corner towards the parking lot and connected to kids as they were heading towards or away from their parents cars. Business was good and by the end of the summer of 2021, we had moved ourselves to across the street from the entrance and owner Dave had warmed up to us, because we were bringing in kids who were excited about getting this week’s balloon. And in my version of the story, because we were donations, no one felt pressured to pay anything in particular making it accessible to all participants and we actually give away a fair few balloons for free.

Enter Filbert. Just before Thanksgiving 2021, we met Josh who “used to be in the balloon game”. He had held onto his large specialty pump for reasons which were a bit mysterious to him, but he sold it to us quite inexpensively. This changed everything. We call the pump Filbert (because that is the company that makes it, because it is a funny name and because it actually fills the balloon extremely effectively, with a single push, as contrasted with 14 pumps of our previous hand pump). For a team that prides itself on quick turn around (otherwise you end up with a line of impatient kids and frustrated parents) this was a breakthrough.

Funological Heavy Equipment

Spot often comes and juggles and sells buttons with us. The juggling draws onlookers, especially kids and the coat tree holds the colorful balloons making us easy to find. As business grew we started to bring inventory to Collinswood, typically making 40 units (mostly swords and flowers) the night before we arrived, always selling out within the first couple of hours, despite replacing it often as fast as we can pump and tie. As we had bigger crowds to handle, Jade’s mom, Maureen joined us. Maureen worked the line, got orders from kids who were waiting (what color balloon, what type of animal), she counted and sorted money in our donations basket and would bring water and cookies she made for us.

Spot at Philly Pride

We have a collection of pitches we give to the parents “So if part of your balloon sword pops while you are still here at the market come back to us, we have the only free, while you wait, balloon repair service in New Jersey”. Alternatively, i say “If the balloon pops you might be tempted to explain Zen non-attachment to your 5 year old, or describe the ephemeral nature of all things. Don’t do that. Come get another balloon. We have a bunch of data on this, trust us, everyone is going to be happier this way”. We explain that we have the only warranted balloons in the state (likely the world) and if they pop we will replace or repair it for free and parents often laugh at this, but the kids always remember and we get perhaps half a dozen repairs most Saturday mornings.

And in our effort to reframe kids scary experience of balloons bursting we often say “When a balloon pops we tell people you should make a wish, but you should wish for something nicer than a balloon”

We do have quite an array of balloon colors and types. Typically we use 160 and 260 balloons (which are one and two inches in diameter and 60 inches long, respectively) and get a number of fancy colors including reflex gold and silver, which are popular blade colors for swords and neon pink which is often requested as flower pedals. In quantity, balloon prices vary from 7 to 10 cents. They are all biodegradable latex.

This last Saturday there was a street fair in Collingswood, which we walked to from the farmers market. We had lots of attention at both venues, we burned thru over 60 inventory items and spent much of the afternoon with no inventory and Filbert going full blast. Jade is modest about our take, but let me just say i have not been paid this well since is was a software development consultant 30 years ago. We’ve come a long way from the Ozarks.

FMO bathroom sign

Communities Bounce Back – 5 Events

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.

RSVP via this free ticket survey required (or via Facebook optional).

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 queergathering@twinoaks.org.

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

RSVP via Facebook or email gathering@twinoaks.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.

The Twin Oaks Conference Site gets busy

There will be an opportunity to tour the communities of Louisa county (including Acorn, Cambia, Community of PeaceLiving 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.

RSVP via Facebook or buy tickets at our eventbrite page.

QuinkFair

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.

Quink is about transformation

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.

RSVP via Facebook or Pre-register on our Eventbrite page. Tickets go on sale June 1.

Internships available

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

Pilgrim Passing

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.

The Stardust Tree House at Acorn

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.

At East Wind: Porter, Pod, Nyle, Will (with Layla dog), Jay, and Pilgrim (2010)

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.

The importance of the Right Allies – Serenity Community

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.  

The Floyd uprising changed policing in America.

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 servicesOver 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.

Serenity Community – circa summer 2021

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.  

OG Serenity

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.

Quink Books – Open your mind

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 (on left) coordinates fire and flow arts for QuinkFair

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:

The Dispossessed

That anarchist societies don’t make problems go away, they just shift how they are discussed and decided.

Be the revolution

Woman at the edge of time 

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.

The Fifth Sacred Thing

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.

One of the most often used images to depict utopia comes from this book

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

bring the books that sparked a quink thought

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.

A Festival with Homework

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?

Tickets are on sale here

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.

QuinkFair origins and inspiring festivals.

July is Smoking Spreadsheets

As regular readers know i name my months.  It is a practice i started when i was in the Czech Republic because the English translations of the Czech month names are so interesting and different from our month name origins.  

I am calling the July 2021 “smoking spreadsheet” which is a reference to the second set of books which were discovered and implicated Alan Weiselberg, the Trump organizations top money man.  [Two pieces of clarifying information about this name.  In fraud cases, a second set of books (which in Trump Organization’s case were stored in the form of a spreadsheet) designed to conceal compensation is basically a confession. And “smoking gun” refers to incontrovertible and clinching evidence of a crime.  Thus we have smoking spreadsheets.]

When i was younger, at the end of Trump’s term, i drafted a blog post of all Trump’s legal problems, because he was starting to get off on charges and i had not seen anyone keeping track of all the different cases against him.  The project was overwhelming.  It will likely never be published as a blog post, but you can read the draft here.

But this smoking spreadsheet is especially damning, because of the shoes that have not yet dropped.  One big shoe is Ivanka.  Ivanka was paid both as an employee of the Trump Organization and as a consultant to the same organization, this is not done and she did not properly pay taxes on these significant compensations.  The NYT has already reported on this, but Cy Vance Jr is not leading with this, because it would be much easier and less explosive to start with an unknown faceless technocrat instead of the darling daughter of a controversial high profile president.  But just like the illegal smoking spreadsheet has a tab implicating Weisleberg/CFO, it also has a tab confessing for each of the kids.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr has not said anything about Ivanka, but he is also meticulously building his case against Trump, trying to go for all the bigger fishes.  It seems extremely unlikely that the only person guilty of criminal conduct inside of Trump Org was Weiselberg, and thus the mostly unreleased smoking spreadsheets almost certainly will implicate other people, especially Trump’s kids.

Donald Trump (C) delivers remarks with his children (L-R) Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump during the grand opening ceremony of the new Trump International Hotel October 26, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Who will be loyal?