Sep 26, 2008

Journey of People - Hollywood, Amtrak

Whew, in the past week I’ve been a busy dizzy puppy. Packed up my life in the ecovillage tent, dropped the kids at school then met sarah at the Nanaimo ferry terminal on her way back from teaching a Vancouver prenatal weekend class. We spent a romantic few hours on the beach before handing her the keys – tag, you’re in – and jumping on the ferry myself.

Spent a beautiful night catching up with friends in Vancouver. One of the benefits of moving but not too far away is that, while we won’t see all our mainland friends much, when we do it will be great visits. Whether it’s them coming to Duncan or us popping over, there’ll be more time, sleep-overs, the full attention of visitors rather than a playdate squeezed in between other appointments.

Then a 31-hour greyhound ride to Hollywood for a 3-day Birthing From Within training. This is the same program that Sarah teaches, and the first time they’ve had a group of men join in. It was powerful to more fully understand the workings of Sarah’s magic, and even moreso to engage in dialogue about how men can better be supported in their own personal journey through labour, fatherhood and personal growth. Becoming a father is a huge time of transformation, and we as a group committed to further exploring ways to better support men’s journeys.

Now a beautiful 41-hour train ride back to Vancouver, mommy picking my up at 3am. Lotsa time for connection with people on the train – here’s a sample of the folks I’ve met and topics discussed:
  • First seatmate – daughter’s art career, a page-by-page recounting of her daughter’s horror book plot, secret of marriage getting better after 33 years
  • Marcos and Maggie & Earl – a friendly san diego roofer and his tijauana mama, and a cincinatti businessman with little to add
  • Jen – soon-to-be brady bunch mixed mom, church involvement, car accident, foster kids, fresh organic tomatoes, boys’ shelter, gym fitness instructor
  • Marius – philosophy, music, art, god, Evergreen College, moontribe festival
  • 3 old people – played dominos & cards the whole trip wearing matching shirts
  • British journalist – Zimbabwe reporting almost got him arrested, dog cloning
  • Irish journalist – following the footsteps of her lost irish immigrant grandpa
  • Klamath falls cafĂ© – town doesn’t actually have a waterfall (tourist gimmic), best thing in town is the happy hour Mexican karaeoki
  • Korean guitarist – living with band, vegan
  • Kristi – showed me all her doodles, leaving 2-year California boyfriend
  • Louis & Todd (Kansas City) – dad’s garage, girly action on other trains, seattle gangs, drug rip offs, assessment of every woman on this train
  • Lounge attendant – sex on train (usually prohibited), ringworm in the shower, house of blues, Disneyland
  • Lynn & Heather – H got pregnant with L at 17-years-old, and now Lynn’s 18-year-old daughter is pregnant. Interesting talk about how teenage pregnancy is perceived differently now, how they looked at abortion and adoption options.
So many other peoples’ stories, feeling very honoured and open today. Not sure if I’m just more in touch with my feminine after the birthing workshop, or if this new Writer identity calls to people.

Sep 14, 2008

Folding Underwear

Here at O.U.R. Ecovillage in Shawnigan Lake, our tent home for another couple weeks, lives are weaved together both formally and informally. On the formal side, we sign up for a chore each week - this week I'm cleaning the composting toilet and the shower in the greenhouse; last week I was in charge of putting out granola and fruit for breakfast then blowing the horn across the valley to roust everyone. We also put in 10 hours a week of work on the buildings, garden, office, etc as needed, though that's hard to balance with being with the kids and all the work of prepping for the move.

It's the informal connections that touched me yesterday. We took our visiting Texan friends on a hike up nearby Mt. Baldy (with stunning views of the lake to the West and the ocean and Mt. Baker to the East, though the boys were engrossed in crystal hunting), and took along one of the other boys living here for the hike, allowing his parents to get their work done. Arriving back just in time for lunch, I found that someone had taken our sleeping bags out of the washing machine and hung them up to dry. After lunch I took our other clean clothes and someone else's off the line, folding them into their laundry bag, then put up our second load to dry. While Zekiah and I napped, Galen played with another family. At dinnertime, a volunteer took Zekiah into the garden to help with picking the salad greens, while I went back to the laundry line to discover that someone had folded my clothes into a neat pile. Someone produced icecream to adorn the homemade apple pie for dessert, and someone else procured wine for the campfire sing-along that ended around 1:30 in the morning, with people from 20 to 70 years old joining in.

Living in community requires alot of meetings, conflict resolution, consensus training, and hard work. But it's the easy flow that makes it magic. The ever-present opportunity and impetus to gently touch someone that we all crave and have so much trouble creating in the day-to-day modern world. We don't have to be isolated, don't have to be alone. I'm thankful each day for this brief opportunity to once again live in this natural, connected way that we hope to eventually create in our new home.

Welcome all - you are welcome into our lives, welcome to play with our children while we fold your underwear. It's as easy as Yes, as comfortable as Thanks, and as natural as Friend.

Sep 8, 2008

The not-so-simple country life

Ah, the move to the country, back to the land, to a simple life… send the kids for fresh eggs from the chickens every morning, raise tomatoes in the greenhouse, and pick guitar on the porch as the sun sets. What could be easier?

That was our dream vision until we walked the land that is soon to be ours (our responsibility, that is) with the people who have lived it for the past 30 years. It turns out that while we will do the work, many others will be the ones who try to live offa da fat of da land:

- raccoons eat chickens during the night, and ducks during the day

- voles eat much of the fruit. I don’t actually know what they are, but their cat catches one per day

- rats have pooped so much in the crawlspace that the fumes are noxious and borderline dangerous, so it needs to be cleaned and sealed with plastic

- bears stroll up that beloved creek to eat our beloved berries, and occasionally dip their snouts into the chicken feed, leaving long cylindrical lick-holes as far as their tongues can reach

- ravens and eagles just love to snack on chickens

- human neighbours don’t tend to steal anything, but will shoot any dog that goes near their sheep

- frost will sneak in early onto our property as the cold rolls down towards the river but gets stopped at our treeline, regularly killing their market flowers and our winter supply of vegetables

- hundreds of mould varieties will feast on our lovingly-prepared root cellar supply of veggies and fruits

- deer will of course be thankful for lettuce and pretty much anything in the garden

- those delicious, invasive blackberry bushes will soon take over the whole garden if we don’t regularly cut them down and burn their roots with a blow-torch

A huge huge learning curve, that’s what we’ve bought. Now when folks ask what we’re planning, we just shrug and say we’re planning to read a lot, try to learn the land through the winter, and start slowly. A tomato plant here, a rabbit hutch there, over the years it will add up to a productive piece of farm to sustain our family and community; but not in the first year. It’s very seldom that I’m intimidated, but a simple walk with people who Know this life drove home the point that it’s a lot of work to properly care for this land that has become our home, our responsibility. To properly nurture and honour it will be a hard, rewarding, and enriching way of life.

Sep 4, 2008

First Day of School

First day of galen's grade one experience at Sunrise Waldorf School was pure magic. We brought him to the kindergarten playground, where the kindergarten teachers gathered all of us, led the kids to the door of the grade one classroom to cross the threshold, one-by-one each student was greeted by Miss Jewel, shook hands and said good morning as they will do everyday, then shown in to find their cubbyhole, shown around the classroom, then left with the others as she returned to bring the next new student across the threshold.

We were about the only parents without a camera, but the image of galen looking solemn and twitching with excitement at the same time, literally taking then letting go of our hands as we walked from the playground to the classroom, unsure of whether to cling to the old or dash into the new, that image will never leave.

We then joined the entire school in the auditorium, waiting for the grade one class to be paraded in while fellow parent Massimo played gentle guitar. The class was welcomed, galen and minna and isaiah were specially mentioned as the only new kids this year, some routines were explained, the song and prayer was introduced that they will repeat every monday at assembly for the next 8 years.

A grade 8 buddy was assigned to each grade one and they gave a rose to their buddy to welcome them. At the end of the year, galen will give a rose back to her to help and support her in her transition to secondary school.

The teacher recalled how a current 8th grader once sat in this same grade one row, and immediately after the ceremony the mom went and had a baby, who is now sitting in that row. We are walking into a beautiful world of tradition and patterns that will bless us our whole lives.

Sep 2, 2008

living in a tent

it's late and i'm the only one up on this farm we call home, the stars are above, a scurrying little animal is gnawing at the wall of the office i'm sitting near to get the wireless connection, crickets chirp, life is so peaceful and beautiful and clear and open and easy, unfolding just as it's meant to be, i'm letting go of my usual need to dictate the pace, direct the action, just letting it flow over and unfold as and when it should, trusting. over the past four days have met all the other parents in both boys' classes, a big gang of potential life-friends, and while of course my eyes were open to who might be a good match, i felt no rush, no need-based push to make it happen too soon. we'll have years together, don't need to find my best friend the first day, don't need to impose a quick first impression on anyone, just see what happens. not that we won't make dates, engage people, etc, but from such a position of strength and faith and trust, just being open to who is meant to be part of our lives in so many different ways. i'm even feeling the same about that for the boys, rather than desperately trying to help galen find that best friend, just help him engage with his peers and find his place. part of it is this place, this open community that continues to embrace and welcome and share, don't have to fight to get in, just breathe and be breathed in.

in case this is making no sense, we are living for 8 weeks at an ecovillage in Shawnigan Lake, living in our tent, sharing communal meals and chores, learning and helping build eco-friendly buildings, working in the organic garden and with the chickens/pigs/turkeys/ducks, pouring 2 scoops of sawdust on our poop in the composting toilet, hanging out with 20-somethings here for 3-6 month internships in the sustainable building school and other families interested in making this their life home when the 10 houses are built around the upper pond. While it admittedly is frustrating occasionally to have purchased our dream property but not be able to take possession until the end of September, this is an experience I wouldn't trade for anything, and the knowledge and insight and ideas and partnerships gained here will help us so much as we begin to create our own community on our land, in whatever form that ends up taking.

living in a tent is even more glorious than it may sound. it's big enough for two double blow-up mattresses, the kids sharing theirs right beside us (a good warm-up for the house, where we might end up sharing one family bedroom), one suitcase each for clothes, a single small shelf for some books and games. Warm, intimate, lets us fall asleep and awaken together and be part of each others rhythms. Small enough that we must and want to be outside or with the rest of the community for all waking hours, not craving nor slipping into escape, but fully engaged with the world. after dinner tonight we walked up to Vision hill and just at in the setting sun, looking over the farm and wetlands and mountains. Galen found a small altar and added a black feather in honour of his first day of school, then caught several types of bugs to look at then gently release. Zekiah just let me hold him, closing his eyes to drink in the warmth of the sun. There was no tv or computer or games shelf to distract us, just being a family together, and readying to sleep and dream and wake together.

speaking of which, they've all been asleep for 3 hours and i'm starting to shiver out here. gonna turn off this beast and walk back slowly under the stars (we don't have a working flashlight) to snuggle in with my beautifuls. May we all know and live such Peace