I just had my first garden shift of the season.  I had forgotten how much I loved working in the garden!  I hadn’t remembered it as horrible, I just had forgotten the feel of sitting in the dirt with my friends, talking quietly about the nature of life and analyzing relationships and gossiping about other people while working with plants and the earth.

We spent the whole garden shift this afternoon weeding, first the spinach and then the strawberries.  Kassia and I sat across from each other and worked down the rows together.  We became fast friends early on in her time here, and then slowly drifted apart because of busy schedules that didn’t keep us in each other’s orbits.  It was fantastic to spend three hours weeding together, talking about our complicated lives and our experiences of last night’s party and our reflections on shared friends and intimates.  We reaffirmed our appreciation and affection for each other and made an intention to spend some time together at least once a week.  At the end of the garden shift we looked at our schedules for the upcoming week and made a date for an early morning walk.

We talked a lot about last night’s party, a “women’s only” event where everyone dressed in costume and came as a character.  This was the second in a series of women’s parties on the commune, and it was fantastic.  The two women who organized it had crafted individual invitations for each woman in the community, designating a character and specific personality traits for each person.  I was “Eloise Petunia Feingold”, and I dressed in a flowery white dress with a big white lacy collar and white stockings.  I pulled my hair back conservatively and spoke with a southern accent.  When I got to the party, I refused alcohol (but accepted the hot cocoa with “bananna flavoring”, i.e. bananna schnapps) and talked about Jesus and feigned dismay at all the other wild characters.  There was the wayward Catholic schoolgirl, two Spice girls, a sultry and fiery Flamenco dancer  (who was played by a woman who can spout off passionate monologues in fluent Spanish), a creature known as “Crystal Meph-estopheles” (devilish and feisty, saran-wrapped, with horns), a sparkly and new agey woman from the future, a flowery pagan calling herself the “force of nature”, a tap dancer, a harem dancer, a “raver”, and a botanist, amongst others.  Everyone was suprisingly “in character” for most of the night, and we played different party games to draw out crazy interactions and weird connections between people.   I loved playing with all these women who I’ve known for years, some of whom I’ve been really frustrated with lately.  It was fantastic to see different aspects of folks, watching people bloom under the threat/invitation of possibility.  One woman in particular delighted me with her improvisation capabilities, when usually I cringe whenever I talk with her.  Other women who I haven’t had much of a connection with suddenly were my playmates and co-conspirators in silly party games.

There was only one woman there with whom I experienced a deeper distance than usual.  She’s a new member, and it felt like she was pushing too hard to be “in” the party.  She monopolized one of the games and carried jokes too far to a level of discomfort and weirdness.  I was talking with Kassia about this on the garden shift, and I reflected that I think she’s just trying to find a way to create a space for herself here.  I think it’s a process that every new member has to go through, and people do it in different ways.  I commented that I’d love to see a videotape of myself during my first few weeks of membership, to see how I worked to create a space for myself.  After saying that, it came to my awareness in full force that I created a space for myself here by getting into a romantic relationship right off the bat.  That’s how I found my place here, how I originally defined myself in the context of Twin Oaks.  I’ve certainly defined myself in more complexity since then, and it’s an important insight about what is perhaps a personal pattern: defining myself in terms of my relationships (how very Confucian!).

And now it’s dinner time.

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