I’ve spent the past two days in the mountains of southern Virginia, at another community (Tekiah, a pod of Abundant Dawn).  I’m here visiting Paxus (the long-haired, big-nosed magician from many earlier posts) and his family, who are staying here on vacation from Twin Oaks for awhile.  The land here is magical, especially in this mid-autumn time of warm days and brilliant leaves and long afternoon shadows.  After a day of preparing carrots for storage (trimming the tops and scrubbing off the dirt), I spent the past hour sitting on a hillside, watching the sun filter through the leaves and dance on the wings of circling turkey vultures.  The giant birds were floating lazily overhead, rising high on the updraft of warm air over the nearby river, then folding their wings and plummeting downward headfirst, only to pull out smoothly and float upward again… aviary bungee jumping.

Being in a small community is such a different experience, compared with life in a large community like Twin Oaks.  There’s much less structure here — no labor system, everyone just does what needs to be done.  And “what needs to be done” is much clearer, because it’s all so concentrated.  The folks here aren’t directing musicals or running three businesses or feeding 100 people.  Abundant Dawn is divided into a handfull “pods”, small groups of people who are responsible for their own day-to-day lives.  The whole group gets together for dinner three times a week, and they have agreements about their common use of the land.  Most people have jobs outside of the community to support themselves financially.  Pax, Hawina, Spot, and I (and two-year old Willow) have been doing chores around Tekiah during our time here, working in the garden, hanging laundry, preparing meals, and cleaning.  I’ve really been enjoying the lower-key nature of it, doing a job until I’m done with it instead of operating on a schedule (like so much of my life at Twin Oaks — we have a labor system of assigned work so we can make sure that everything gets done — pretty necessary in a group of 100 people).  We all woke up late this morning and didn’t really meet for breakfast until 10:45.  We ate together and each talked a bit about how things were going for us, individually.  Through the check-ins, it came out that there was some underlying friction between a few different configuartions of people, so we decided to arrange the day so that different people could spend some time talking together while other folks worked and played with Willow (the highly energetic two-and-a-half year old).  Around 2:00 I realized I was ravenous, so I stopped working on the carrots and prepared lunch instead.  This “oh my gosh, I’m hungry!” never happens at Twin Oaks, because lunch is always at noon and dinner is always at 6.  Eating meals is so much a part of my routine that I just don’t have to think about it — it automatically happens.

There are really interesting (ha) Open Relationship dynamics going on here, too.  Hawina and Pax have been in a relationship for nearly 11 years, and Willow is their son (they co-parent along with a few other people).  Pax and I have been lovers for nearly 2 years, and he’s just spent the past 4 months in Europe with Hawina and Willow.  And now we’re all here together!  The last time we tried to do this it was a bit rough… differing expectations and indirect communication…  this time it’s working much better.  Last night Pax and I slept together, and we were “on call” if Hawina needed help with Willow during the night(changing diapers, bouncing back to sleep, etc).  She was in the room next door, and she’d just knock on the wall when she needed help.  Pax would jump out of bed, go to help with Willow, then jump back into bed 5 minutes later.  The night before, Pax and Hawina spent the night together, and I slept alone.  And since I’m leaving tomorrow, tonight Pax and I are going to spend the night together and not be on call! (Willow’s fairy godmother, who lives here, will be the nighttime goddess)

We’re working it out… and right now it feels worth it.  Hawina and I had a bit of discomfort yesterday around expectations for time with Pax, and the three of us talked through it until we got to a place of saying “Let’s try arranging time well in advance so that it doesn’t come as a suprise, and see how it works.  If it doesn’t, we’ll try something else.”   Oh my, this takes a lot of energy and talking and flexibility and emotional exploration — and that’s the piece, the emotional exploration, that’s the piece that makes it worth all the struggles.   This type of thing just doesn’t work if there’s not intense and deep self-reflection going on — so, just like the meals at Twin Oaks, it becomes a natural part of my life.