Archive for February, 2011

February 24, 2011

A Pre-Post Post

We’re currently staying at Walker Creek Community in Mt. Vernon, WA.  This is our first truly rural community, and it’s been dumping snow on us since the moment we arrived.  We were originally planning on going to River Farm in Deming tomorrow, but I don’t think we can leave until some serious melting and/or plowing occurs.  So in the meantime, here are some lovely pics of Wintertime.

February 23, 2011

Dumpster Score #17: Everett

We’d heard rumors, usually starting with, “If one bottle breaks, they throw the whole box away.”  Finally, the legends became reality: dumpster beer!

Trader Joe’s: 1 bottle La Fin du Monde, 1 bottle Don de Dieu, 2 bottles Trois Pistoles

Bimbo Bakery (only cuz the TJ’s on the other side of the lot was empty): 1 box Little Bites blueberry muffins, 1 box Barritas fresa (strawberry cookies), 2 boxes assorted donuts, 2 Country Buttermilk loaves, 3 Extra Sour Rye loaves, 1 Country Potato loaf, 2 bags English muffins, 1 Nutty Grain bread loaf

February 23, 2011

Lakeside Collective, Seattle

Oh dear… it’s going to be difficult for me to describe the Lakeside Collective. I guess I’ll start with something personal and just say that certain little things about this community made me super nostalgic for the TTT. More so than other places we’ve been to, and of course we’ve been to many wonderful and fun communities on this journey of ours. But yeah, something about this place just made me miss the TTT terribly, which unfortunately meant that I spent most of our time there in a bit of a sad slump. Maybe it was all the cats and their constant drama, or the kinds of books on the shelves, or the reliability of the kitchen hang, or the never-ending debate over what it means to eat ethically. Though there were some major differences between the TTT and Lakeside, such as size (Lakeside is nine people, the TTT nearly 20) and the fact that Lakeside is an explicitly anarchist collective whose members are quite diverse in terms of jobs and schools, the general vibe was that of a house of good friends who loved and trusted each other and whose goal in living together was to create an egalitarian, creative, life-affirming alternative to mainstream capitalism and institutionalized oppression.

Lakeside has two types of regular meetings, one for business/finances/house maintenance issues, and the other focused on Collective Liberation. The Collective Liberation topic that was discussed last week was food ethics. Lakeside is only two years old, and the founders (who happen to live at Clearwater Commons now) are strict vegans. Though there aren’t any strict vegans currently living at Lakeside, the founders’ belief that all sentient beings should have the right to complete freedom is still held to be a community-wide ideal. Lakeside gets a lot of their food from dumpstering, however, which means that common food often contains animal products. Communal dinners are still vegan, though, also like the TTT. Though I would have liked to have sat in on their Collective Liberation meeting, they decided through consensus that they’d prefer it to be for house members only, since people would be sharing personal information and stories. The TTT had similar votes about guests at meetings, and I definitely remember how much more comfortable and open we all were when meetings involved only our housemates.

The Lakeside Collective’s house and the surrounding property are incredibly beautiful; the members seemed to maintain a daily practice of consciously appreciating their view of Lake Washington. Their enormous picture windows overlooking the lake face east, which was especially lucky for us because the weather was unusually clear, giving us a spectacular view of the rising full moon. I spent one day helping garden, which was a big chore indeed. We successfully weeded and mulched two large areas (including a concentric circles vegetable garden), but there was still a lot of land that was being left to the blackberries. The property is owned by the couple who’s starting Clearwater Commons, so Lakeside probably has the best possible landlords for an intentional community.

We stayed with Lakeside for about a week, and it flew by. When we weren’t gardening, we were cooking and eating, which might sound familiar to anyone who knows us. We had had great plans to go to the city and watch movies (we picked up free tickets to Taqwacore), attend Community Fitness classes (I won free passes at Sunset House), and dumpster (…free food), but we didn’t end up doing any of those things. Instead we watched Babies on Lakeside’s living room projector, practiced chi gong on Lakeside’s enormous deck overlooking the lake, and ate dumpstered food Lakeside’s members scored at the cornucopia that is Lynnwood Trader Joe’s. Overall, I kind of pretended that I lived there. And honestly it felt like I did. Leaving made me think about our departure from the TTT, which made the drive out of Seattle and up to Mt. Vernon (where we are now) feel different from any of the drives we’d made since leaving LA.

I set out on this journey to better understand intentional communities, but also to define the term movement. I wanted to answer the question, “Is there an intentional communities movement on the West Coast?” I’m not sure I have an answer yet, and sometimes I wonder if I’m so immersed in the scene that I miss the forest for the trees. Maybe what we’re doing is just the same thing people have been doing since the ’60s (and earlier), trying to live outside capitalism (or at least exist simultaneously in a non-capitalist culture), getting “back to the land,” dismantling the patriarchy, rejecting the rat race… all those things have been tried over and over again; people have been dissatisfied with mainstream American/materialist culture for so long. Intentional communities are just one of many ways to live our ideals. They are networking tools, support groups, accountability systems, and incredibly satisfying and rewarding places to call Home. When I lived with the TTT I often felt like we were the only ones trying to do what we were doing. I knew we weren’t, but we were so isolated from other communities (and so self-absorbed) that it often felt as if we were completely alone. I no longer feel this way. I hope that current members of the TTT are reading this and gaining a better understanding of the network of which their house is just one small part. It really is a huge network, more huge than I’ll ever know from this one trip.


February 19, 2011

Intentional Community Cartoons!

We all do love making fun of ourselves.  I found these in the book Is It Utopia Yet?: An Insider’s View of Twin Oaks Community in its 26th Year by Kat Kinkade

(Click on the images and they’ll enlarge.)

February 19, 2011

Emma Goldman Finishing School, Part II

We were invited back to the Emma Goldman Finishing School on Beacon Hill in Seattle for a Wednesday night community dinner.  It was really good to see everyone again, and it’s a whole different experience walking into a house where you’ve already spent some time (esp. coming late to a community meal), a whole different level of comfort/discomfort to get used to.  An applicant had also been invited to the dinner so everyone could meet him.

I felt a little (just a little) guilty about asking a bunch of questions about the community after Max and I had already kind of “gotten our chance” the previous week, but I couldn’t help it.  There were questions, they needed answers.  I asked the community members how they dealt with oppression (sexism, racism, homophobia) within their community; if Emma’s had always been majority white, why this was, and if they were doing anything to change it; and what the individual members’ biggest challenges had been.  Their responses were varied and really interesting, especially when I (again, can’t help it!) compare them to the TTT’s situation.  Since the Emma Goldman Finishing School is a community focused on social justice, members seem to be quite able to identify oppression and express their concerns.  What to do about it is a different matter, as I know from my experiences with the TTT.  Historically, classism seems to have been a major concern at Emma’s, especially with the 100% income-sharing community economy they have adopted (see Emma Goldman Finishing School, Part I).  Racism has also been a heated discussion topic, especially since the community has always been mostly white.  When I asked why this is, those who responded seemed to agree that theirs has been a “white culture” from the start — the founders were all white, and the issues that the community is used to addressing are issues with which white activists are usually involved.  As a community they have thought of joining forces with activist communities of color… I should have mentioned the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites in Seattle, which might be of help.

I loved Emma’s and found everyone there to be warm and welcoming to us, but I do hope that they aren’t complacent about this “white culture.”  The importance of having different perspectives, experiences, understandings, and support systems exist within a community dedicated to anti-oppression is something about which the TTT talks at length.  I feel that I have a deeper understanding of sexism than racism in my life, so the easiest way I can express what I’m thinking is: “I would not feel comfortable living in an otherwise all-male community (regardless of its stated politics) because I would fear that my voice would not be heard on issues where my perspective is different than that of a male’s.”  It has been similarly difficult for people of color to live in majority white communities (the TTT is an example), which means, to me, that racism is happening in those communities.  I think this needs to be addressed head-on in communities which identify themselves as anti-racist (obviously it should be addressed in ALL communities, ideally).

It might seem like I’m picking on Emma’s, given that plenty of other communities struggle with these issues and I haven’t pointed them out.  The reader should know that the Emma Goldman Finishing School is one of the most politically radical, putting-theory-into-practice communities we’ve visited, and I greatly admire them for it.  Given their focus on social justice (and the fact that Emma’s is considered to be a safe space for many people who live outside mainstream norms) I was surprised by the fact that their members had always been majority white, and I simply hope that this issue is addressed asap, in their community as well as in ours.


February 19, 2011

Community Agreement to Maintain a Safe Space for Dialogue

We are currently staying with the Lakeside Collective in Seattle; the following is written on a board in the living room where community meetings take place.  I thought we all (the TTT, the world) might benefit from it.


  • respect individual experiences
  • be self-responsive (take care of yourself)
  • confidentiality
  • respect
  • open-mindedness
  • compassionate accountability: we “call out” issues (not people) because we are all lovingly invested in collective growth
  • trust and respect the process: we are all folks in process
  • this is a space to be honest: use your best words
  • balance participation: speaking and listening
  • listen to learn, not just to speak
  • say “Check” when done speaking
  • silence is okay — it’s a space for processing
  • mutual responsibility to define terms
  • acknowledge the vibe!
  • we are going to make mistakes: discomfort is part of the process
  • compassion (loving heart) — trust we are all invested in collective growth as our common goal
  • speak from your experience (avoid generalizations)
February 16, 2011

Dumpster Score #16: Lynnwood

That’s right, two in a row.  Gotta love TJ’s.

Trader Joe’s: 6 apples, 4 avocados, bag mini zucchini, 21 regular zucchini, 2 salmon fillets, container fresh guacamole, 8 mini eclaires, 12 boxes tomatoes, 2 boxes strawberries, box grapes, box cucumbers, 2 boxes cherry tomatoes, 3 bags green beans, bag cauliflower florets, box pancake mix, 3 lbs pasta, box mushrooms, bag pears, bottle champagne pear vinaigrette, 2 romaine heads, bag oranges

February 16, 2011

Dumpster Score #15: Lynnwood

Trader Joe’s: 5 cartons eggs, 1 container crescent rolls, 1 bag salty crackers, 8 avocados, 4 carrot muffins, 6 bags mixed greens, 3 heads romaine lettuce, 1 bottle Thai yellow curry sauce, 2 sticks pure butter, 2 sushimi grade wild ahi, 1 wedge Swiss cheese, 11 lbs fondue brie (that’s a lot of brie!), 1 bouquet flowers

Albertson’s: 1 onion, 5 bananas, 1 pear, 21 apples

February 16, 2011

Clearwater Commons, Bothell

Clearwater Commons is a ruralish community in development. They’re located in a really interesting area north of Seattle. We drove up from the city on this semi-highway, uncertain about what the community would look like. We had been told that it was a fairly rural area, but we were pulling off a fairly suburbanish road. However, we turned the corner and all of a sudden were staring into this idyllic landscape. There was this beautiful creek running next to an old farmhouse(ish), a  little barn, AND A LITTLE HIPPIE SCHOOLBUS EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE AS OLLIE. So we were really excited, because we had never seen a housebus the same size as Ollie, and we’re always thinking about how we can use space, etc etc. It was painted in pretty classic hippie colors — dark green, dark red, schoolbus yellow, and had a big graffitish “Love Eternal” sign painted on it. Also, a sign that said that it ran on veggie oil. We asked around and were informed that the owner and occupant were not around, but one of her friends told us that she could show us the interior. It was really neat, because it was a completely different floor plan than our own. We have a bit of a limitation with the oil barrels inside the bus in the back, so we’ve divided up the living space into the “garage” in the back and the kitchen and living space in the front. This person had the veggie oil under the bus, so she had a bed in the back, really beautiful wood flooring throughout, and a kitchen and woodstove towards the front. It felt REALLY spacious. We got to show the friend our bus and it was fun comparing and contrasting and enjoying the school bus love. We decided that the other bus must be Ollie’s older sister as it’s an older model bus and has a bit more mature colors, etc.

Behind the farmhouse and the bus were the markings for the new houses that were to be built. Maybe 6 or 7 utility markers gave one a kind of vague idea of what the place might look like in maybe 5-10-15 years. A group of adults and children were milling about, organizing into a work party, so we headed up the dirt road to go see where we could be useful.

We got a short tour around the area and found out that they needed some help pulling blackberry bushes. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Himalayan Blackberries are invasive species in the NW and end up being huge bushes with huge thorns and kind of difficult to pull root bulbs.  Oh Boy! Anyhow, we ended up chatting and pulling a few blackberries and then chatting and then pulling a few more and ended up spending the better part of an afternoon that way. We met some nice new friends who were closer to our age and weren’t necessarily planning on living in the to-be-constructed co-housing units, but were living on the land helping out with construction and enjoying nature. They had actually helped found Lakeside collective  (a community we’re planning on visiting in the next few days) and had a bunch of fun stories to tell (including driving a veggie oil van cross-country). We’re actually hoping to see them when we visit Lakeside, so we pulled a few more blackberries, said goodbye for now, and piled back into Ollie and onto the road.


February 16, 2011

Jackson Place Cohousing, Seattle

My friend Catherine, who was my crew mate when we worked for Earthcorps a few years ago, is a student at Evergreen State College and is currently doing research on cohousing communities from an urban planning perspective.  She came up to Seattle last weekend to see a few communities, and we were able to join her on her visit to Jackson Place Cohousing, a 60-person community that was founded about 10 years go near downtown Seattle.  From the street Jackson Place looked less like an intentional community and more like a modern apartment complex: the buildings were all in a row and appeared identical, a bit like those eerie housing developments you see coming up out of otherwise barren land along major freeways.  Once inside the property, however, the community was much more friendly and clearly kid-oriented, with small neighborly paths leading from house to house, garden patches, and little plastic cars and toys scattered everywhere.

Jackson Place is a different kind of cohousing community than N Street (Davis) or the Ravenna Kibbutz (Seattle) in that it was built from scratch, with the planners and architects intending to create exactly what the community members wanted from the beginning.  There are still many people living at Jackson Place who were part of the original planning group, which speaks to the success of this method.  Living at this consensus-based community is not cheap, however, and emphasis is placed on social interdependence and raising children “in community” as opposed to providing low income housing or focusing on any particular political stance.  Houses are sold by members as they become available, for upwards of $300,000.

An awesome part of Jackson Place is that one of its houses is owned by an organization that provides housing for people with developmental disabilities, and three people currently live in this house and are fully participating members of the community.