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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Before i met Cassandra i had already lost a bet because of her.
It was Acorn’s Land Day, perhaps 15 years back. Suwelo and i were talking when this young woman walked by and Suwelo said to me “i bet she is an air sign.” In a world in which you believe in astrology, this comment made perfect sense. The woman in question seemed to float by more than walk, aided by flowing garments and the perfect light breeze of the Acorn’s early spring Land Day. But in the world of probability, there was a 3 in 4 chance Suwelo was wrong and i said “i will take that bet.”
Then having made the bet, we had to find out, so we chased after her around Heartwood and Suwelo asked without prompting “What sign are you?” and then realized the question without prompting was presumptive and followed it up by saying “Don’t worry, i am harmless.” To which i reflexively replied. “I am not.”
Cassandra successfully backed the conversation up to something more civil. She got us to introduce ourselves and then she explained that she was in the region having returned from a long trip to India. A trip which would change her life forever in a tragic way.
When she did finally confess her astrological sign, it was Aquarius and i thought i had won the bet, because that was clearly a water sign. Again i was wrong. But the clumsy introduction won Suwelo not only the bet with me, but the attention of Cassandra and they were happily involved for many years after that, and i visited them in several residences in Cville.
Cassandra was unsure of her taken name because it felt too heavy and she could not live up to the embedded assumption that the person with it would have prophetic, if not tragic capacity. Suwelo and Cassandra stumbled for some days trying to find a name (i of course suggested a naming party, but that was not what she wanted). And finally in frustration Suwelo said “i am going to open the dictionary, point my finger blindly into it and we are going to choose the name closest to my finger.” He did. And he pointed at the name Cassandra in the dictionary. She let go of her concerns and embraced it.
Cassandra always wanted to live in community, and many of us wanted that to happen as well. She was an enchanting personality, funny, caring, and empathic. But in India she had contracted an illness she could not shake, nor i believe was it ever really properly diagnosed, which fatigued her in a way that prevented her from working quota (a requirement for these communes). We discussed several different approaches to the problem, but the nature of Twin Oaks and Acorn egalitarian policies made it impossible to swap disability payments for quota. I’ve rarely been so saddened at the ableist policy of my home communities.
Cassandra was a facilitator of lovely small gatherings. My path continued to cross with her’s from the organizing she did with the local poly group in Charlottesville. Mac and i attended a couple of these gatherings back when i was a dual member at Acorn. One thing we lose with her passing is her mastery of how to make people comfortable talking about intimate things. In her more artful way she was gifted in inspiring participants into informal transparency games.
Cassandra also looked at my OKCupid profile and started to tell me all the things that were wrong with it. I realized that i had done it poorly and she offered to help fix it, including answering questions for me to filter out non-poly people from finding high matches with me. Unsurprisingly, after she answered a bunch of questions for me hers and my profiles matched much better.
Cassandra was easy to love and taken from us too soon. She died quietly, in the company of her new husband Randell and old friends from Acorn, Flame and Raven. Thus in essence with the community she always sought.
Cassandra saw a world of people living in harmony in community. She saw and crafted intimate groups taking care of each other in mundane and profound ways. She saw something possible and beautiful. But most people did not believe her, perhaps fulfilling her legendary name. It’s now up to the rest of us to continue her work and dreams.
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.
Like most white Americans I did not learn the history of the burning of Black Wall St until the George Floyd protests. And I am a bit embarrassed about my minimal knowledge of the history of Union organizing and civil rights. Unsurprisingly I do better with anti nuclear activism history
But the question I find surprisingly few US Americans (including highly educated ones) can answer is “Why was the US attacked on 9/11?” It seems like an important question for us to have a consensus historical answer to. It is not like this was something Osama bin Laden was cagey about. He gave three very specific reason for the attacks on the U
- the US boycott of Iraq which had already killed 600k children
- US construction of military bases in Saudi Arabia
- US political and military support for the Israeli’s war in Palestine
The more you dig into each of these reasons the more reasonable it becomes (if you lived in the region) to think the only way the US will stop doing these things is if you strike them dramatically at home. While bringing these issues to the attention of the world – because each represents an injustice or danger of US expansionism.
But with perhaps the most dramatic terrorist attack in history, in the US least, bin Laden and friends lost control of the message. Instead George W Bush told the country “they hate our freedom” as preposterous as that is. I find that collectively we are much more likely to remember the “Freedom Fries” debate with France that the actual US instigated actions that sparked this retaliation.
Interestingly, this is another thing the US tends not to recognize – 9/11 did not start these wars. There were already happening, people in the Middle East were already dying because of US policy , but people in the west were just ignoring humanitarian organizations which were trying to call out these injustices. 9/11 was a surprise because we were happily ignoring our policy effects in the Middle East.
While we are fighting the Big Lie, it is important to remember we have likely been duped by other politicians.
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 
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
I often find people comparing Hitler to Trump and i find it quite problematic. It displays an ignorance of history that US Americans are famous for and it elevates Trump’s impact in a way which feels problematically inaccurate. So let’s just dive in:
Genocide: Hitler is responsible for killing millions of Jews, Romani, disabled folks, and other ethnic and religious minorities. Beyond those murders, millions were tortured, enslaved, and raped. Trump banned people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, tried (with varying levels of success) to build a souther border wall, and called Mexicans rapists. Trump sent unmarked Federal Troops after BLM and antifa activists there were a handful of fatalities.
Press: Hitler’s Ministry of Propaganda closed 3/4s of the nations newspapers and all we under strict editorial control, Nazi controlled press dominated almost all media. Trump referred to the mainstream media as “fake news” but was unable to bar reporters he did not like from the White House press corps. He can take credit for the birth of terrible news sources like Newsmax and One America Network, it is unclear if these will survive the lawsuits which have been brought against them by voting machine companies.
Military expansion: Hitler drove the growth military to over 30% of the total population (over 22 million people), as well as indoctrinating children through the paramilitary organization known as Hitler youth. Trump’s military growth was flat compared to GDP and never reached Obama’s highest spending levels. Trump created the Space Force division of the military, which will likely just get folded back into the Air Force where it mostly came from. The US active military is less than 1% of the population (about 2 million people).
Homophobia: Hitler’s Nazis put 100,000 LGBT folks into concentration camps, destroyed scholarly work on sexuality and banned gay organizations and burned progressive sexual institutions. Trump banned new transgender soldiers joining the military, and appointed anti marriage equality supreme court justices. Biden reversed the transgender ban on his first day as president. Trump’s supreme court is his most lasting legacy.
Dictatorship: Hilter’s party took complete control of the government, all other political parties were disbanded and outlawed. The Nazi’s ruthlessly killed hundreds of political opposition within Germany. Trump lost the House, the Senate and the White House and was unable to get a single one of his appointed judges to rule in his favor. Trump’s supporters’ assault on the Capitol was uncoordinated, fanciful, ill conceived, and destined to failure. Hitler burned their Capitol and pinned it on the communists and used that to seize power. Trump got crowds to chant “lock her up”, Hitler did it.
Fascism: Hitler seized control of the entire industrial infrastructure of Germany, this is what fascism used to mean. Trump claimed to be a businessman and capitalist. He moved resources away from the government and towards corporations and established wealth. Hitler built a ruthless, dedicated and effective secret police network. Trump diminished the power of his intelligence services by regularly replacing their heads and firing generals he did not like.
Military Action: Hitler invaded 20 countries. Trump bombed Syria and assassinated an Iranian General. Trump withdrew the US from support of the Kurds in Syria and started the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Trump supported proxy wars in Yemen and Palestine.
Death: Google sez: “Some 75 million people died in World War II, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians, many of whom died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation.” Without Hitler as the charismatic leader of the Nazi party, that probably would not have happened. Trump can take significant responsibility for spikes in mass shootings and racist police killings and assaults, the murders and suicides associated with Jan 6th failed insurrection, unnecessary starvation and abuse on the southern border..
As terrible as Trump was, Hitler was a whole different class of monster.
Minimizing the impact of Hitler by comparing it to Trump’s antics is something someone from the US is more likely to do than someone from Europe or Asia.
What is important and similar in these men is that they both succeeded in driving a significant fraction of their population into doing destructive, damaging things, which are not in their best interests. He held rallies which, visually and content-wise, bear some similarities to rallies in Nazi Germany. QAnon has not gone away, the Proud Boys are seeing a spike in recruitment. Nor is the 2020 election defeat of Trump anything like the 1945 demise of Hitler, this threat is active and must be addressed.
Like Hitler til the end, Trump has not significantly been held responsible for his failures and crimes. Recent raids on Giuliani will put tremendous pressure on him to flip on the former president. Trump may yet face the music.
Edit help from Angie Tupelo
“If the vaccine is effective, there is no reason for people who have received the vaccine to wear masks or avoid physical contact. So maybe it does not work and they are just not telling you that.”
Tucker Carlson on Fox News April 13, 2021
And with this Tucker Carlson announced he is running for president. Trump proved you need no experience nor governance talent to hold the highest office in this land. But more importantly,Trump proved that a good angry story is far more important than the truth, especially when you have the Fox News amplifying the grievance behind the message.
Do i know for sure this is Carlson’s intention, certainly not. I am speculating wildly. But this speculation might be useful, if it encourages us to focus on how the raging culture wars are affecting us. And even if he is not running for president, Carlson’s pronouncement says several other important things. It says Fox News is committed to profits over public health. It says that Fox News is not afraid of lawsuits like the two cases brought by voting machine companies for Fox’s promotion of the Big Lie. [ Each of these cases is suing for amounts which exceed Fox News 2020 annual income of $1.5 billion.] It says we are entering a new realm in which press freedoms and first amendment rights are used to actively disinform people while the government appears unable to stop them.
“But is this really different from Fox harping on Hydroxychloroquine as a covid cure?” you might well ask. I think so. While Trump was in power, Fox could make great ratings by covering him and amplifying the points which made him successful. Without Trump’s lead, Fox is making their own news, and more importantly enabling destructive white suppremisist tendencies of the population by fueling their endless set of grievances. The Murdock network is choosing the build on the alt-facts model after the Trump champion is dethroned.
Trump’s retirement does not mean we get to relax.