West Coast Community Ramblings

I don’t know how to take a vacation. Maybe it would be different if I went to a typical vacation location. But even then I don’t think I’d know what to do with myself.

My vacations consist of visiting family and friends, which invariably means I end up visiting communities, and on my recent pilgrimage back to my native land of California I had the opportunity to visit several.

groundswell group shotA key goal in the trip was to visit the newly founded Groundswell Institute, which will be the site of the West Coast Communities Conference, October 9 – 11. This community, about a 2 1/2 hr drive north of the Bay Area, was started by a group of radical faeries from San Fransisco last August. They managed to purchase a full functional, permitted and certified summer camp, complete with commercial kitchen and cabin space for 80 people. The land is gorgeous, with a year round creek and spring (incredibly valuable in drought ridden California). They’ve already hosted 5 events since occupying the site and have a bunch more planned for this year.
oaec guest house for real

While in the neighborhood, I visited my good friend Janel Healy, former Twin Oaks Communities Conference manager, and now Online Projects Manager for the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. This community is heavily focused on educational programs. Janel showed me around their beautiful, brand new guest cabins, which were built to help accommodate more high profile supporters, like movie stars and politicians. It was interesting to see them and what they represent. In another context, the FIC and Dancing Rabbit, in considering a joint fundraising project, were faced with the concept of the culture of philanthropy. Basically, what do you have to do to be friendly to major donors? It’s a big question intentional communities with education and outreach missions need to face. Here I saw a direct manifestation of that.

tryon yurt group shotI made my way up to Oregon and made a quick stop at Tryon Life Community Farm, where I lived for a few months back in 2008. Tryon has been devloping it’s 6 acres and two large residential buildings into an education, demonstration, and events center for 10 years now. One of my favorite parts about the community is that they are surrounded on 3 sides by a 750 acre state park, but are only 5 miles from downtown Portland. You can be in the woods, gardening at this incredible community, and a 45 minute bike ride later you can be in the heart of possibly the most progressive city in the country. I got to catch up with my old friend Jenny Leis, a Tryon founder, who I’d first met when she did a visitor period at Twin Oaks in 2001. We’ve had the good fortune of staying in touch and getting to watch and cheer each other on as we’ve each grown as movement builders.

fullbloom1 copyAfter picking up Marta and Roberto, a couple more dear friends and former Twin Oakers, in Eugene, we drove down to visit Full Bloom community in the Little Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. A couple we’d met two years ago at the Communities Conference, Victor and Elena, had just moved there for a trial period and we wanted to check it out. Full Bloom has possibly the most beautiful common house I’ve ever seen. And for a community that is organized around individual finances has some of the strongest emphasis on shared facilities I’ve ever seen. There’s a steep buy-in ($150K) but that primarily goes towards building you a home. fullbloom2 copyThey’re looking to expand their educational activities and are actively looking for new owner/members.

Everywhere I went I shared about what’s going at Twin Oaks these days, talked up the West Coast Communities Conference, and generally got to talk shop and compare notes on the nuts and bolts of community living as well as what’s up in the larger movement. It was an exhausting yet inspiring vacation. I wouldn’t have it any other way.







One response to “West Coast Community Ramblings”

  1. paxus calta Avatar

    Please write more about your perceptions of communities, especially contrasting them and listing things you feel are best practices. Who has the best process and why? How do communities combat gossip? Who makes decisions well and how do they do that?