I like writing about the contrast between communities, because it is illustrative of the choices we make and the different cultures we craft. It has taken me over a year to write about this particular topic, because it was a secret for most of that time.
For a number of good reasons and some poor ones many communities place restrictions on the numbers of some types of pets which can be in residence. Twin Oaks for example, limits the number of dogs to 4 and the number of cats to 10. Dogs pack and thus howl at night, the number 4 was believed to be below the packing threshold (which it seems to be). Cats have a high impact on local wildlife, birds, mice, moles etc. In the egalitarian communities approved pets are budgeted for. And while every pet must have a sponsor who is responsible for their welfare, the vet, food and other costs are paid for collectively.
One downside is that many people have allergies and try as we might, pets get into public spaces and make the lives of people who can’t share spaces with them difficult. I am lucky and don’t have pet allergies, but i am highly aware of how we collectively basically discriminate against people with pet allergies in favor of the pets of some members.
One day when i was in the smoke shack at Acorn a grey cat strolled in who clearly felt like this space was theirs. The cat was aptly named Fight Club, because it was a stray which had been adopted by some of the members and it was above the current cat limit. So we just did not talk about it.
The idea that a public cat could be a secret intrigued me. I watched with interest as the Fight Club story unfolded. The advocates for the cat were quick to grab the first cat spot which opened up for Fight Club when another cat departed when its owner moved on from community. And despite the fact that the cat was then (and now) legitimate we kept the name. Good names are precious and this one had a lovely story to it as well.
Late last year, Acorn spawned Sapling. At first it was a residence of Acorn which was not on the main campus. But we knew it was quite likely to become its own community, since that is what most of the Saplingers wanted. We agreed on a number of rules in the beginning to make it easier to sell the property in the event that the experiment did not work out. One of these rules was “no pets”. Sapling is now its own independent community (and there is a guest post in the offing describing it). But a few months back when i came to visit Sapling a dog ran out and started barking at me. When i asked what the dog’s name was i was told simply “That is Fight Club”.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
“Looks for the place with the canoe in the front yard.” It is pretty safe to assume that another canoe was not going to make it into another yard in downtown Columbus OH on Halloween. And we were already warned that this was not going to be a “normal” visit.
By most measures the Midden is a fantastically successful community. And one key to their success is in their name.
A midden is an intriguing or marvelous rubbish heap. Pack rats and octopi make middens—so do ocean currents and human civilizations. We call our house The Midden because we make use of the artifacts (groceries, furniture, shoes) thrown away or overlooked by mainstream society. And all the while, we’re using this stuff to build more whole and meaningful systems to provide for ourselves. [All quotes from the Midden website]
We arrive in time for dinner. Much of the house is not here this evening. Some doing their political works, others touring, still others will be back later. The house is a lived in construction site, but most of the bed rooms look well lived in and are decorated with political posters and exotic art. We have arrived with the intention of working with them on our way back from NASCO, and we can already see that we will be working on blown cellulose insulation. I have a long love affair with insulation materials.
We also love to care for each other, share our skills and ideas, and do what we can to confront systems of oppression that bring us all down. We’re eco-activists, prison abolitionists, housing justice advocates, writers and theater artists, adventurous human beings and more.
They are also charming, dedicated, sarcastic, spunky, counter culture kids who are the newest member of the egalitarian community movement. They were great hosts, embracing us not just as guests but as valued co-conspirators in making things better. The refrigerator rivals a suburban fridge for high end fare, the only difference is much of it made a brief stop in a dumpster first. Amazingly they have only spent $340 on food for all 7 of them since the first of the year (excluding coffee). The kitchen sink is a perfectly positioned bathtub.
We believe in things like: doing it ourselves, anti-authoritarianism, using (and re-using) our resources responsibly, friends and hanging out, dumpstering, caring for each other and staying solid. You can read more at http://themidden.wordpress.com/.
While a couple housemates tell me that all the members like and respect each other, what really holds the place together is their shared commitment to political change. We try to kidnap Cole and get her to come to NASCO with us. She wisely resists, thought she was tempted by the idea of doing her own guerilla skill share.
We’re solid. We defend space that is safe, secure, and reliable for ourselves and our friends. We know where we stand in relation to the neighborhood, the city and the community and we own and shape that position. We practice security culture. We protect ourselves (to the best of our ability) from crisis both within and outside the house. We hold practices and policies that keep us stable, effective and creative as individuals and as a group. By pausing to think about what we think, want, and need, we make ourselves resilient and able to adapt to change.
We do end up spending a day helping install insulation. Billy from the Baltimore Free Farm scrambles thru the crawl spaces pumping fire resistant paper into the hollow spaces between ceiling and roof. We put in a long day of insulating and shlepping the heavy blower machine to the third floor. And we are satisfied that the house will be much warmer this winter for our efforts.
The Midnights (as I like to call them as a compression of Midden-ites) are game to guerilla workshop material to NASCO 2014. When I say we are going to run 24 new workshops, Alex instantly replies “We will do 6 of them.” We have met our partners in crime, and they live behind the canoe is Columbus Ohio.