Sunday, August 29, 2010

Delicious Happenings

[Amazing Southeast Asian Food]

The night before last we were more blessed than usual with a delicious dinner mostly from the garden. (and that's saying something!) Harlan spent the day creating a Southeast Asian feast. The flavors were fresh and amazing, and the visual presentation with nasturtium flowers and pickled carrots made it pop on the plate. Thanks, Harlan!

[Rada Dada visual display]

One of the visitors right now is an artist who travels around the country creating Dada inspired visual displays for museums and performing arts centers. He gave us a little taste of his show after tea yesterday morning. I think the slogan on the back of his van sums it up pretty well: "unexceptional tricks". That's Dada!

[The storm looked fiercer than it was]

Yesterday afternoon I ran around making sure everything was safely stored for rain. The temperature has dropped significantly in the last few days and some scary roiling clouds filled the sky. It turned out to be all bark and no bite. Those terrifying clouds dropped about five minutes of sprinkles and then graced us with a dinnertime rainbow.

In between all of this, I'm sitting on a milking stool inside my loom carefully tying hundreds of knots. They should be done today with samples woven tomorrow. On Wednesday we leave for Renaissance Faire setup.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Meetings, Trailer Enhancements and Loom Setup

Today was a big, long day of meetings. It started with another training session with the two alternate bookkeepers. They're getting the hang of it. Next, they'll do the work as I walk them through it, then they'll do it themselves while I watch.

After that, the Caretakers had a meeting to figure out how we wanted to perform our first round of visitor checkins. Then, we spent a chunk of the afternoon doing them. I stepped away for a quick one-on-one with the CFO, but we missed our connection. Then I went back for more visitor checkin time before pulling away to work on weaving for a while.

Before dinner we had a pow-wow with the three of us who will be working the booth in California to work out some trip logistics. After dinner we had one last conference call with the organizers of a gathering that starts next week.

[Parts to build a roof, back doors and clothing racks. Thanks, TJ!]

It's coming down to the wire for this big show. We leave in a few days to set up the booth, then come back and get ready to pick up the inventory and head down. I've realized that I don't have the time to modify my trailer before the show, so I've hired TJ to do it for me. He's got great ideas about how to make it waterproof and solidly locking so I can safely store the inventory in it during the show. And yesterday he bought all the parts he'll need. Yay!

[Lots of knots]

[From my perspective: simply tie the 1200 threads on the left to the 1200 on the right, in order.]

In the meantime, I'm tying on the next warp so I can weave a sample to bring to setup. This will help Annie to make decisions about which weft colors to use.

I've finally gotten permission to train Wispr, my apprentice, to weave Annie's cloth. It's going to be a lot of work to get him trained well enough to identify and solve problems on his own, but I think we can do it before I leave. In the worst case, he'll work until the first big problem and have to stop until I get home. I kind of doubt it, though. He's pretty smart and took to rug weaving like he'd been doing it for years.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stargazing Thwarted By Forest Fires

For the last week, the days have been ridiculously hot and dry. There's baking sun all day and almost no breeze. It's the height of fire season. Luckily, the nights have been very cold. This allows us to open up the cabins at night and trap the cold air. With a sleeping bag to insulate the door, my cabin stays 20-30 degrees cooler than the meadow all day, allowing me to do my weaving work. It's impossible for me to operate a machine that basically amounts to a treadmill when the temperature inside the studio gets above 85.

[Orange light with smoke shadow]

[Smoke in the sky]

Tonight after dinner I exected to sit at the top of the meadow and bid my last farewell to Venus and Spica for the season. The Sun is about to overtake them until November, when it will have passed and allowed them to show up at dawn.

These plans were scrapped when I came out of the house this afternoon to find the sky full of smoke. There's a fire about ten miles away in Glendale. During dinner we noticed things falling from the sky. They were leaves, burnt to white ash, looking a lot like snowflakes.

We're very lucky that it isn't closer to us. We spend much of our energy on fire preparedness because it's a serious threat up here.

[What I expected to see: the last glimpse of Venus, Mars and Spica as the sun set.]

The funny thing about stargazing at Wolf Creek is the effect of the hills. When I look at sky maps and astronomy programs, I have to remember that we can't see the lowest 20-30 degrees of the sky. Things rise almost two hours later and set almost two hours earlier than in other places. All told, our days are about 3 1/2 hours shorter than flat places at the same latitude. We have much longer twilight time instead.

This means that the full moon rises at 8:00 in other places, but we don't see it until 9:45. It also means that most people will see Venus in the evening until late September and again in the morning starting around Halloween this year, but we will miss her from late August until late November. It gives me more appreciation to know that the objects in the sky move quickly and won't always be around very long. I can't procrastinate if I want to spend time with them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Storm Has Lifted

Holy cow, that cold kicked my butt! It was three days of really weird malaise. Stuffy head, fever, body aches, nausea, fatigue, yuck! Every few hours the symptoms changed. At one point I sat inside on a beautiful day and watched a movie just to stay awake. You know I'm sick when that's what I want to do!

Yesterday it lifted and I felt AMAZING! It's funny that after a couple days of sickness it's hard to remember what it's like to feel normal. I started to think that I felt OK, but I was just too lazy to work. And then, when it did lift I remembered what it's like to have energy and enthusiasm.

The weather is funny right now, too. One day will be 95, the next day 70. The nights are getting consistently colder and beginning the fall color show.

[The little maple is always first to change]

I'm a little sad that I'll be away at a show during my favorite time of year here. The fall colors and the transition to Winter are a spectacular event here on the land.

[More candle flowers]

The visioning for this community and for the monastery of my dreams is going beautifully. Yesterday we had an impromptu discussion about responsibility, followthrough, investment, and how to encourage them. It seems like changing people's habits is too large a task. Instead, we could focus on encouraging the perseverance of people who already have these traits and wait for those who don't to toddle off.

In the foundation of a new place, we can teach these skills and make them a requirement for long term participation, but it seems like Wolf Creek has been too juvenile for too long to embrace this idea. I mean, we get skewered for asking unstable and disruptive people to leave. Imagine what it would be like if we started dealing frankly with people who simply don't contribute to the community.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer Cold, New Trailer

[First Tomato, much tastier than it looks]

The last few days have been a complete waste because of a fierce summer cold. I sat down to weave yesterday and realized I was too weak and dizzy to do it. I spent the rest of the day in bed with Yin Chiao and water. Somehow I managed to go over the notes from my Craigslist trailer search and make a few calls.

While I was in Garden House, Vibrant offered me a bite from the first tomato of the year. Wow! I almost forgot how good homegrown tomatoes are. They then proceeded to make a whole dinner from the garden. The deep-fried stuffed squash blossoms were the decadent treat, but the entire dinner was fantastic.

Today I woke up feeling a bit better, but headed rapidly downhill as the sun came higher in the sky. As I was walking back to bed with a dose of Dayquil, one of the trailer prospects called me back. It was a great deal from a local seller so I (somewhat foolishly) jumped on the chance and went to get it.

Thankfully, TJ had offered to come with me. It turns out that his tool bag contained just the right stuff to reconfigure the electrical connection to the trailer and let me drive it home without a trip to the auto parts store for an adapter. Thanks, TJ!

[New trailer, awaiting modifications]

The next step with the trailer will be to seal it from the rain and make it lockable. This little trailer is going to make it possible for me to come home from Faire with the 20' tent, the broom booth, the demonstration loom and all of the inventory. If I seal it right, it will also give me a dry place to store the tent and broom booth between shows.

So, now I'm back in bed with a splitting headache. If I keep up with the Yin Chiao and water and sleep through 'til morning, I think I'll be back in weaving condition.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Delivery Day

[Stacks of handwoven cloth, ready for delivery]

We're getting ready for California's Northern Renaissance Faire. This means that Annie needs cloth not only to be woven, but shrunk and sewn in time for the show. Today I drove up to drop off a batch of cloth. It's always a little sad to see a big empty space where there had just been a beautiful pile of cloth, but I'm getting used to it.

It is beastly hot up here right now. The spring dried up a few days ago so there's no more infinity pool to cool us off. The creek is just a warm, slimy trickle as well so yesterday we took a couple hours and visited a spot we call "the teacups". This place features natural pools carved out of solid stone. It's downstream a couple miles after another creek has joined in the flow so the water is cool and fresh. Just what we need on a hot Summer day.

[Teacups and STOP signs for a G-rated blog]

Today, along with my work, I've begun the search for a trailer so I can haul the amount of stuff I'll need to bring home from Faire. I don't know if it'll come together before I leave or if I'll need to get one in California just for the trip home. We'll see...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weaving Snapshots

There's not much time to write and still get my weaving caught up. Here are some snapshots of the cloth I'm weaving right now.

[Blue Bobbins]

[Roll of Cloth]

[Many Piles of Cloth]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Meeting Week Is Over

[The beautiful hills at sunset]

We have one week every month with two conference calls with higher committees containing members who live off the land. This meeting week ended on Friday with a conference call to help the organizers of a new gathering. They seem to have their ducks In a row well enough, especially considering that it's their first time organizing a gathering.

Yesterday my friend, Ptery, introduced me to a new plant, used for food by the native people of this area. It's called "biscuit root", and it loves the infertile, rocky soil that we have in abundance.

Digging it up yields a root about the size of a cigarette. It can be peeled and eaten as is or dried and pounded into a flour. It's delicious: complex and sweet without any of the bitter flavor found in other local carrot relatives.

It's in seed right now, so today I'm going to go spread the seeds to some new rocky outcroppings. This practice is referred to as "The Hoop", recalling the people who traveled around the area harvesting in season and sowing in season to be sure there would be food plants growing when they returned the next year. It's still possible to identify areas where these people travelled by the unusually high volume of edible native plants.

[Ptery digging in the rocks]

[Biscuit root plant]

[One root, half peeled]

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Perseids

[Stray dog that visits at night. She's very sweet.]

We did it! Last night we had a successful teleconference. There were only a few discussion items on the agenda and we got through them fairly quickly while making sure that everyone's opinion was heard.

After that, we kicked off an experiment: 24 hours without canned music. (I'm old enough to remember when this was the norm here. Canned music used to be the exception, used for special events.)

To begin our day of quiet, Piwacket made a pot of popcorn. We brought sleeping bags into the meadow and watched the Perseid meteor shower until the middle of the night. I planned ahead by doing double-time on the loom, taking a nap, and drinking coffee after the meeting. This combination let me stay awake until about 1:00. I slept in the meadow until dawn, waking up a few times to watch the meteors. It wasn't a spectacular display, but definitely worth it. There were a few half-sky streakers that left bright trails.

Today, I've got to do a bit of weaving, but I want to make use of this special quiet day by picking blackberries while listening to the birds. I did weave extra yesterday. I can weave extra tomorrow. A day of quiet is super special.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meetings are Easy!

[The Schedule Board]

It's true! The painful Great Circle and Coordinating Council meetings really are the outliers. Meetings aren't usually torture.

On Tuesday we had our weekly land meeting with 25 participants. Actually, we had three weeks worth of business to cover - over 30 topics. Some of them were discussions, some were project check-ins, policy clarifications, new ideas, and more. We set up other meetings throughout the rest of the week, signed up for chores, reached consensus on expenditures, and got through it all pretty painlessly. We listened to each other, made compromises, and ended the meeting all on the same page as to what we're doing this week.

The following day, the newly consensed Caretaker Crew had our first meeting. This one had over a dozen fairly detailed items on the agenda. We defined a format for the meeting, tackled some complex issues, and got ourselves on the same page in terms of the work that we need to do as leaders of the community. Again, it was efficient, respectful and productive.

Tonight we have another meeting that includes the folks who live off the land. I truly hope that we can all keep the same productive decorum throughout this meeting. It doesn't have a large or difficult agenda, so I think we can probably do it. If we can't, I think it's time to take a step back and figure out what needs to change.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Keeping Hope Alive

[Candle Flower, Arum italicum]

It gets more and more difficult to hold hope for this organization.

On Sunday night, we had the most spectacularly unproductive meeting I've seen in recent times. It felt completely dominated by power games and refusal to listen to each other. We weren't even trying to make big decisions, but mostly to collect agenda items passed down from Great Circle and prioritize them for handling in other committees and future meetings.

It is the first time in at least a year that this committee wasn't able to finish its agenda. (...or even begin it, really. This has almost never happened.)

I still hold a tiny flicker of hope that this was a fluke and not the intended result of flooding the committee with new people. This meeting did not reflect the ordinary way that we conduct business. It did, however, fall directly in line with the story that our consensus process doesn't work. I find it interesting that the people who have told me that story are the same people who have assumed a key role in making it real.

For now, I'm calling it a coincidence and remaining hopeful that we can get back on track. Perhaps we could avoid this situation by trying a new policy: when joining a new committee for the first time, a person might take a passive role by listening to how that committee conducts its business before jumping in to tell the group how to run things.

On the other hand, I'm excited about the land meeting today. We are consistently able to get through huge agendas with many people and keep each other informed and plugged into dozens of projects every week. I guess this is what frustrates me so much about these other committees - I know it doesn't have to be like that.

On the weaving front, I am working my butt off to get caught up. The gathering season has been especially taxing and set me behind by a few dozen yards. I should be caught up in a couple of weeks. Then I have to draw a boundary with this community: I must step away regularly and get my work done. We now have six caretakers to spread out the workload. I need to take some time every day for my weaving in the same way I take time every day for bookkeeping, meetings, and other sanctuary responsibilities.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Community Bonding

[Rogue Community College Theater]

Yesterday a few if us were thinking about why we're so tired and came to a realization: we've been sprinting for a month! First, we had to prepare the land for an outside gathering. During their gathering we had to run our own kitchen, feeding 20 people in a small cabin. We also took on a significant role in facilitating their gathering.

Then we were to have a week of light preparation before enjoying the Summer men's gathering. Instead, we planned menus, shuffled money to pay for gathering expenses, bought food, created accounting and registration systems, cut fire breaks, and more.

Then the gathering arrived and required our constant attention. Somehow, in the midst of it, we met every day to craft a few proposals for Great Circle.

Then Great Circle happened. It came at the tail end of our crazy month, so it's no surprise that we weren't at our freshest. We got through it mostly alive, though.

Yesterday we received a generous offer from our friend, Ocean. He is a theater director in Grants Pass. This is the closing weekend for their production of Annie, Get Your Gun. He called us up and offered free tickets to anyone who wanted to go.

The show was amazing! It didn't feel like small town theater at all. The performers were real professionals, top notch singers and engaging actors. It was the most fun I've had in a long time.

Piwacket had overseen the creation of an awesome picnic dinner: trays of carmelized onion, turkey and cheese crostini, watermelon, and a fantastic quinoa salad.

Knowing that our folk can be rowdy, we sat way up in the back separate from the paying guests. (You can see how many we were from the photo... 15 or so, I think.)

All-in-all, it was a perfect night, and the perfect way to bring us together after a month of grueling work.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Trash Talk!

[Hops plant climbing a pole]

I've gone through lots of growth in the last few years. I finally decided to stop dabbling in different crafts and focus on just weaving. Then I decided to get even more serious by turning it into my livelihood. This meant learning to manage my time and money like an adult. (shudder)

Then I moved to Wolf Creek Sanctuary and started taking on a leadership role in bringing consensual reality back into the core of this culture. All of these things involve personal growth, but with an outward focus: the business, the sanctuary, etc. At this Great Circle, I realized another part of my leadership role here on the land: personal deportment, even outside of meetings. It's the first time in a while that I've had a strictly personal goal.

It's very easy to believe that the structure of our decision-making process is the only thing that matters when we sit down to govern ourselves. This week, I've come to understand that this isn't the case. When leading members of the community are heard speaking about others without discretion, it creates fear. This fear undermines the trust that's required for the consensus process to work.

The trash talking behavior also discloses a lapse in the embodiment of our subject-SUBJECT ideals. When someone speaks about another without the chance to hear that person's perspective, he has silently decided that he knows the other's motivations. Our foundational beliefs tell us that this intimate knowledge of another person isn't possible. The other person needs to be given the chance to speak for himself. (This is the definition of subject-SUBJECT reality.)

To break the cycle of trash talk and enhance the reality of empowered communication even outside of official meetings, I sat in a circle with recorded minutes and made a promise to the community: if I feel the need to "vent" frustration about another person, I will then speak to that person directly within 24 hours. I have asked the community to hold me to that promise. They've agreed. This isn't meant to shift the responsibility to them, only to give clear accountability to encourage me to follow through.

I've been living with this promise for about two days now. (Although yesterday shouldn't count since I accidentally slept through most of it...) It is having an immense impact on my world view! I find myself happier, less stressed out, and more optimistic about the future. I find myself believing better of people, giving them the benefit of the doubt, and actively looking for ways to understand their behavior. I found myself in conversation with someone who was speaking ill of a third person while I gently defended this person who had been a "sworn enemy" just a few days ago. Even if I hadn't defended him, my support for the person in front of me but silence on the topic itself could have helped keep the ill will between the two of them from becoming stronger. I also find myself feeling more open to the people around me. I don't need to defend myself so heavily because everything doesn't feel like a fight.

In making this promise, I am not saying that I will ignore people's behavior and neglect to hold them accountable for their actions, only that I will do it directly instead of talking behind their backs. I can't believe it took me so many years to come to the realization of how important this is for me and for the community. Better late than never!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Great Circle

[The place where it all happened]

The last two days have been the most grueling time I've ever spent working within the consensus system. It was the semi-annual meeting of the general membership of our organization.

Throughout the history of our organization, there has been a schism between the folks who live in the city and the folks who live on the land. In recent years, this has grown to the point that we've found it difficult to govern ourselves. The difference of opinions has come to dominate most of our interactions.

In this two-day meeting, we attempted to address the "root anxiety", as it were. And we did. The first day saw no decision-making at all. Instead, we went over many of the business items and just discussed our opinions on them, trying to find our common ground.

The second day was more difficult as we sought consensus on these things. Most difficult for me personally was my proposal for Caretaker status here on the land. There are very few differences between Caretakers and visitors: they are obligated to take responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the land and the functioning of the community in exchange for housing and utilities. Visitors work here, but don't answer to the greater organization and aren't guaranteed housing. They also have to pay utilities in the Winter.

My proposal was debated hotly for over two hours while I worked to understand and address every concern. In the end, the deciding factor was the fact that there are others to keep my strong personality in check.

On the day of decisions, I mixed up a new version of a very old recipe. It's a toilet water that helps a person feel fresh and cool. It's part of an old purifying ceremony that I use to prepare myself for deep spiritual work or clear the air after an emotionally difficult experience. Boy, was I glad I had it with me!

Agua Florída (Water of Flowers, Florida Water)
By Blossom Merz
(All oils are the highest quality essential oil. Synthetic or "perfume" oils will not give a satisfactory result.)
In a 10 oz bottle, mix the following:
2 oz 190-proof grain alcohol
32 drops lavender oil
32 drops sweet orange oil
20 drops white grapefruit oil
20 drops lemon oil
5 drops clove bud oil
1 drop cinnamon oil
1 drop kewda oil (Rare, expensive, and undetectable in the final result. Used because it is historical, going back to Old Testament times.)
Shake hard for 1 minute, then add:
8 oz water
Keep tightly sealed, shake before using.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day Off, Then Another Fundraiser

After feeling completely burned out on Friday, I decided to take a day off from bookkeeping. The last of the food had been purchased and we were slightly over zero. So I relaxed and enjoyed the company of my friends for the day. Nobody else seems to care about the bottom line anyhow. I got to go to heart circle, talk with friends, and just relax for a whole day. Yes, I made my dinner announcements, but without specific numbers. Nobody complained.

Then today I realized something we could do to bring in the last bits of money. People have been saying throughout the gathering that they didn't bring cash and that they'd go to the computer and donate through PayPal. It's tough to remember and follow through once you walk away from the circle.

[Credit card donation station sign.]

So, today we got wi-fi to the parking lot registration tent and set up credit card processing. It worked! People realized that the gathering was over, they hadn't donated, and we were making it easy for them. They paid for their rugs and gave us general donations to pay our expenses.

It ended up running over my commitment to typeset the proposals for Great Circle so we won't be as prepared as I'd like. Ah, well. We're more prepared than most others who bring proposals.