yesterday we celebrated Autumn Equinox (which was really earlier in the week, but we missed it — oops!). We all got six hours of “Holiday” labor credits, which is the equivalent of a day off. I had planned on working anyway because I’m saving up my labor credits to take a vacation later this month. Instead, I ended up spending most of the morning and early afternoon soaking up the company of our summer intern (we’ll call her Curly Sue), who’s parents came to pick her up yesterday. She and I had gotten to be fast friends (she’s the one with whom I made popsicles earlier in the summer), and her departure was more of an emotional experience for me than I had expected. I’ve had friends move away before (especially in college), but never someone who’s life was so intertwined with mine. Not just a housemate, not just a coworker, not just a friend; we worked together and lived together and ate meals together and played together for three months straight, every day! And now she’s gone back to Ohio to think about whether she wants to move here as a member. She was our conference intern, helping do the logistics organizing for our two major summer conferences, the Women’s Gathering and the Communities Conference. She developed deep relationships with many people here, and it’s strange to be here without her now. And yet, that’s the nature of this place.

Though the average length of stay of our current membership is about 7 years (our longest-term member has been here for 31 years!), there’s nevertheless a relatively high turnover rate; ten to twenty people a year. Since about the same amount of people join each year it isn’t a huge problem population-wise, but there’s a cultural phenomenon that’s developed because of it. Long-time members here have told me that they’re hesitant to get close with new members because they’ve had so many experiences of developing friendships with people who end up leaving soon after. In my two years here, this is really my first experience like this; I have close friends here and there are people who have left, but those two groups haven’t overlapped (think Venn Diagram) until now.

I want her to come back, and I have NO idea if she will or not. She was being really intentional about not making a decision until she was home and had some perspective. Wise… she’s not sure what she will do if she doesn’t move here, but it’s important to her to consider different options…

The rest of the day I puttered. I don’t do much puttering here because there’s always so many things I could be doing, both social and work (and often both at the same time). We don’t do regular weekends here — the cows need to be milked every day and dinner needs to be cooked and crops need harvesting and… and… and… But yesterday I was in a quiet mood after Curly Sue left, so I went up to my room and wrote her a letter, then decided to hang up a chair that had been leaning against my wall for awhile. Part of our hammocks business includes making hammock chairs that hang from the ceiling by one harness that splits into four sections that are anchored to the corners of a wooden frame that holds the woven seat. Confused? Here’s a picture. Since we make them ourselves, we have a bunch of “seconds” available for community use. I picked one up a few weeks ago, and finally decided to hang it yesterday. I love it! Someday I’ll learn to post pictures here and post a photo of my room, hanging chair included. After I got the chair hung, I was on such a roll that I decided to replace the electric drill and wrench for nails and a hammer to and hang up a framed piece of art that had been leaning against another wall for even longer than the chair. That done, I took out my trash and recycling. That done, I made my bed. That done, I organized my desk. That done, I started doing some web design I had been putting off for awhile (I learned html to adjust my blog template, and I got hooked! Thanks, motime!) And the point of this is that I LOVE what I accomplished through puttering! Those certainly weren’t my top priorities; I have lots more that I need to be doing, emails that need to be answered and proposals that need to be written about possible new businesses for the community (audio books! and Joe London suggested agritourism… thanks, Joe!), and outreach for the college speaking tour that needs to be organized… And yet, all of the things I did while puttering have significantly improved my quality of life. My room is transformed by the hanging chair and art on the wall, now even more of a sanctuary for me to do the emotional and mental exploration I want to do.

I’ve already had one brilliant epiphany in there since then: an urban woodworking cooperative! Rent a small space in the city and stock it with woodworking equipment. Members of the collective would pay a small monthly fee to cover rent and equipment maitenance. Wood could be either personally bought or salvaged from construction sites and hardware store dumpsters. There could be monthly classes about equipment use and basic woodworking skills. Why buy furniture from Walmart or IKEA when you can make it yourself? This is a key part of an empowered society: less mediation between the “consumer” and the “product”. When you make it yourself, you can’t exploit the labor. When you make it yourself, you aren’t supporting corporations and rich CEOs. When you make it yourself, you’re more connected to the product, more engaged with your world. When you make it yourself, you’re empowered to create what you want. When you’re empowered to create what you want,

you

are

free…

i hope the drama isn’t too much for you; I’ve been reading a lot of CrimeThInc lately… seriously, the DIY (do it yourself) culture is amazing and I encourage you to check it out. The next time you go to buy something, ask yourself “could I make this?” The answer is probably Yes, if I knew how, and the knowing how is just a matter of finding someone else who knows who’s willing to teach you, or a website or a book that has it all laid out. Or just try it yourself, and see what happens…

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