Tag Archive | chubby squirrels

Chubby Squirrels is Dead. Long Live Point A

i am distractible.  Thomas put it well when he said “Paxus is best in the first 24 hours.”  Appropriately, he said this after i had done some of the initial organizing work around securing the land for Sapling, the newest up and coming income sharing community in Louisa county.  I talked with real estate folks and did other logistical work right after Thomas discovered property which is located half way between Acorn and Twin Oaks.

And it was Sapling which helped kill the new community project i was dreaming of which had the unfortunate name Chubby Squirrels.  But i have no sadness about Saplings start, in fact the opposite.  Much faster than i would have with a new community, Sapling is helping to manifest the idea of a local eco-system of communities in the county.

acorn and leaf cartoon

For almost 20 years there were only two income sharing communities in central Virginia: Twin Oaks and Acorn.  Yet we already knew that many people were looking for community and the waiting lists at both of these existing communities scared and/or discouraged possible new members.  But perhaps even more important, communards make mistakes.

There are people who come to live in community, who are good for us and we are for them, but they screw up.  They get into a relationship which they freak out about or perhaps they take on too much responsibility and drop it in a non-graceful way.  They accidentally and regrettably poison their relationship with their community and sometimes need to move on.

If there is another community which appreciates their gifts and community spirit and can forgive them their mistakes (made somewhere else) then we don’t have to lose this experienced person from the movement.  Several of our better members have stayed in the movement by shifting to a new community.  By having a larger number of communities in the county, we increase our chances of retaining some of our best talent.

Starting communities is tough business.  Perhaps 19 of 20 fail in the first two years.  To beat these odds you need to look for what ever advantages you can find.  In Louisa county the biggest advantage you can have is to be closely affiliated with an existing community.  This has provided financial stability (Acorn’s seed business is the biggest customer for Living Energy Farms crops, for example).  There is also a cultural bridge.  Sapling consist entirely of former Acorn members, most of them still actively involved in Acorns seed business.  There are numerous cross community friendships and intimacies.  We share a rich local social life.

Twin Oaks hosts many events which neighboring communities participate in. Beltane procession circa 2013?

Twin Oaks hosts events which neighboring communities join in. Beltane procession circa 2013?

And frankly, Twin Oaks and Acorn have their hands a bit full helping with the two start ups of LEF and Sapling.  It is not time to add to this by trying to create a new community in the county.  Instead these start up communities should get more stable and settled in and then they too can help more new communities start in this area.

So it is time to let the Chubby Squirrels idea die.  And instead, i can be distracted by the lusciously vexing proposition of starting income sharing communities in urban areas.  Viva Point A!

Edited by [Marcello Aurelio Lanfranchi]

Reality Squirrels – self poisoning ventures?

Every few months we get an offer.  Some reality show wants to come and film the communes of Twin Oaks or Acorn.  For a dozen good reasons and twice as many bad ones we always say “no”. Reality TV is notorious for using the film they shoot to tell an entertaining story, rather than an accurate one.

One couple of friends of mine participated in the Wife Swap program.  The show producers decided that part of what they wanted to achieve was a “Wife Swap has lasting positive impacts on these strange players” story line.  So they edited the film dramatically to show that the jobs that they had acquired before the show, were rather the result of the show.  Another friend who dared to be in this format was talking about how he loved the density of collective living.  But this was edited to the slightly preposterous phrase “i love density.”

pigeon house surreal

loving density in the abstract

The communes do not want the lives of their members as disrupted as they certainly would be from this high impact venture.  The disadvantage of commune life being reflected negatively more than compensates for the advantages of the cash or the exposure.  Since we cant control the content, we dont want to risk them doing something terrible with the footage.

So why are we thinking about inviting a reality show to film the early days of Chubby Squirrels? Partly because having an income stream would allow the project to start faster – moving in perhaps as soon as the later half of this year.  Partly because it is somewhat daring and reckless and it might just be fun.  Yasmin teased me that her Hollywood friend that they would love a commune founding tale with a character named Paxus Star in it.

may the force be with us

may the force be with us

And it is certainly not without risks.  It is like taking a  poison of uncertain strength and hoping it turns out okay.  Some wonderful prospective squirrels would not put up with their lives being broadcast and remixed in such away.   Though the significant majority of prospective Chubby Squirrels i have spoken with say that they would be game for this reality adventure.  Further dangers are that some chance the show itself will make the future of the community unworkable by depicting it in such a negative or controversial light.

About 1/3 of the people who i have talked with about getting their message out through their reality TV show experience being more important/effective than the parody that was made of them.  These are much better odds than we get when we start campaigns against reactors.

As always i am curious about my readers thoughts.

Are you a Chubby Squirrel?

Paxus asked me to write a guest blogpost giving impressions of the
pre-conference Chubby Squirrels meeting and the in-conference info
meeting.These are scattered impressions and hardly comprehensive.

Though we weren’t a large group, everyone got a lot out of the main
meeting on Friday. I’m a communes neophyte so I learned a huge amount
in a short time about some of the many, many variables possible in
commune personality and functioning. Some of the more experienced
people who were there told me later that they too felt like they
learned a huge amount.

The most information-dense part of the afternoon was a long brainstorm
about the principles and qualities we’d like to see in Chubby
Squirrels. The qualities and principles that would induce us to join
the founding team and to live there. Off the top of my head, some of
the principles most essential include: income sharing, consensus
decision-making, radical hospitality practice, and a culture of mutual
emotional support, caring, transparency, and warmth.

Also essential: a welcoming place to activists and to single moms and
their kids, and dumpster diving/dumpstered food processing as a
community practice, if not business. We talked about the other
possible business ideas (taking up an Acorn Community seed business
overflow/spinoff and helping to run a conference center), about a free
school for the kids, and had some sillyness thrown in (including
trampolines and rooms with all-mattress floors on our wishlist).

Just letting ourselves dream our dream community was a delight. (I
invite you to try it! and maybe leave your list in the comment boxes.)
I left the meeting refreshed and excited.

The most moving part of the afternoon for me was when we did fluid
sculptures (a playback theater game), led by Abigail. A few people
took turns naming their biggest fears and visions around community
life. And then groups of three took turns enacting these. To a one,
the teller teared up both at the enactment of their fear/past trauma,
and the vision of seeing success and loving support manifested before
them. This is beautiful and cathartic practice. I highly recommend it.

The in-conference meeting was super promising. A really nice turn-out
and lots of genuine enthusiasm, both from prospective Squirrels and
from supporters. The list of principles was pretty universally
embraced (especially dumpstering!) and a few things were added. One
was desire for a community that includes a strong contingent of
artist-activists. (I liked this one a lot.) Another was that the
community offer and encourage some kind of  community-wide
very-ecumenical ‘spiritual’/mindfulness practice (quaker meeting?
silent sitting? singing together?) Nothing mandatory, but part of the
community’s intentions.

The biggest point of contention remains… the name ‘Chubby
Squirrels’. So many pros and cons. Me, I’m a fan of its charm.  Feel
free to weigh in.

Yours in warmth, eye contact, and affection!