May 30, 2008

Dusk Weaver Requests Membership

To help organize my thoughts, I’ll answer the “Suggested Topics for Discussion” from the UA visitors’ packet in the same order they are given there.
Are you seriously interested in moving into community or just curious at this time? Both serious and committed.

What is your time frame for moving here? Yesterday.

How did you hear about Union Acres and who referred you to us? I heard about UA at the time of its founding, and I was updated about UA over the years by both Caroline and Anthony. When I had at last taken them up on a standing invitation to visit here, Caroline provided me with the visitor packet and legal documents.

Have you read our visitor packet and documents? Yes, I’ve now read these pages carefully, but it would be good if I continue to read them, because they have so much to say.

What level of membership are you interested in? Associate, for now.
What kinds of things are you hoping/looking for in community? Creating extended family, sharing for the simple sake of sharing, living more lightly on the earth as a result of sharing, seeing myself more clearly in the mirror that close community creates, and understanding other people more clearly by virtue of living so closely with them.

What kind of experiences, if any, have you had in community? For more than 40 years, intentional community has been a vital part of my life, so it is challenging to even sum up those experiences. First, I was a communitarian of sorts by “chance,” not by choice, because I was raised from ages 8 to 18 at Thornwell Orphanage in Clinton, SC with 350 other southern children of Presbyterian background. The irony of us children at Thornwell was that instead of growing up “rootless” without much in the way of family ties, we bonded more tightly with one another than happens in most nuclear families, so that we each ended up with hundreds of brothers and sisters… that is, we made family where we found it, and what a family we made! We learned that through proper teamwork, we could accomplish nearly anything, and that the ties we made there would likely last a lifetime.
From Thornwell, I went to private college, and shortly after that I married an Atlanta woman with two young children who, like me, was keenly interested in moving “back-to-the-land.” Soon, our young family encountered books like Walden Two and Walden Two: A Twin Oaks Experiment, and we decided to seek intentional community living in place of one-family homesteading. This in turn led to a year of visiting many communities from our private homestead base, followed by a one-year odyssey across America in a more rigorous and risky search for an ideal community. An irony of this period was that we were often completely “homeless” during our search for home.
During the entire odyssey, I wrote a half-page weekly feature of our adventures for what was then the fastest growing daily newspaper in America (The Gwinnett Daily News in Atlanta). When we ultimately chose to settle in a southern California eclectic spiritual community named Sunburst, the newspaper series eventually led to a book for Harcourt Brace entitled Sunburst: A People, A Path, A Purpose. At that time, Sunburst was the same size as the Thornwell of my youth (350 residents), and the experiences there served to reinforce my earlier experience of working with others to manifest almost miraculous results.

The depth and breadth of experiences at Sunburst make it seem as though we were there for 50 years, although it was a mere 5 years by the calendar. Next, we returned East with the idea of joining The Farm in Summertown, TN, but we soon realized that it was not the place for us even though we greatly admired the community for many reasons. At that point, we retreated to two years of private homesteading on the Apalachee River in Northern Georgia, and this was followed by a visit from one Anthony Beckett (who had previously visited Sunburst during our time there, and who had met us at Pepperland Children’s Camp prior to that). Anthony told us about an intentional community named Golden Hill that he was part of in NE Georgia; he invited us to take a look-see; and then he kindly put our entire family up for months when we decided to try resettling at Golden Hill. I ended up living in three different homes within that community for a total stay of 23 years, and that’s where Anthony, Caroline, and I worked together as a construction crew before either of them migrated north to what is now Union Acres.

My account above seems to me so chopped up and overly brief, and it lacks every one of the thousands of rich and rewarding community stories that one inevitably gathers over the years, but I trust that you get the general idea how much a positive part of my entire adult life community living has been and continues to be.
What experiences have you had collaborating with others or group endeavors? Please see the answer above, and while you’re at it, be certain to buy your very own copy of Sunburst: A People, A Path, A Purpose, posthaste, so that you can save me both from my own loquaciousness and from carpal tunnel syndrome… nyuk! nyuk!
What kind of leadership or structure are you hoping for in community? Leadership primarily from the group at large, not from some self-appointed “big cheese,” not from an already beleaguered founder, not from a tiny core group of three overworked community public servants, and most certainly not from a guru type. I’ve seen each of these in action at one time or another, either as a visitor or as a resident member in community, and I strongly prefer widespread acts of spontaneous volunteerism and other forms of more effective leadership from the ranks. As far as structure goes, I very much prefer the proper application of consensus (which I like to call conscious consensus) and the kind of by-laws Union Acres has evolved in which the community tries to foresee and address all likely issues in adequate detail without writing a seven-volume encyclopedia of do’s and do not’s.

What experience, if any, have you had with consensus decision making? Golden Hill used consensus decision-making as a basis for community for a number of years (with mixed results). This was much less successful than it might have been due to the lack of training/reading/experience that most of us had in what constitutes consensus. You might say that we lacked consensus on what consensus means. The solution for Golden Hill, and I think the solution for most any group practicing consensus is for its membership to have an understanding of consensus as it has been practiced historically by other, successful groups. An obvious example is the Quakers.

Do you enjoy group processes such as Business or committee meetings? Frankly, I don’t relish the thought of almost any meeting of any kind, but to my own amazement, once I am there and the meeting is underway, it grows on me and I am soon very glad that I joined in.

How do you handle conflict or conflict of interests? What pushes your buttons and how do you handle it? Patiently and diplomatically, I hope. I’ve been told that I do well with this, but if I start tooting my own horn about it, then I’ll muck up the very next trying moment that comes along, just as sure as shootin’.
A noteworthy exception to my usual easygoing and tactful manner pops up whenever one person in the group lays back until the eleventh hour of an involved and important discussion, then he or she finally speaks up with objections that would have been a thousand times more helpful and appropriate early in the discussion. Aye! that pushes me buttons a’right, mate, and I handle it by stating publicly that I think the delinquent person has created undue delay and difficulty for everyone involved.

Another button-pusher for me is to have someone pervert the consensus process into an I-don’t-personally-like-this-so-I’ll-simply-block-it-from-happening logjam; that is contrary to the whole spirit of consensus, and my response to this situation is similar to that of the I’ll-bide-my-time-then-rock-the-boat-at-the-last-minute scenario. In the second example, I would call aloud for the blocking person to be more inclusive and considerate.
In either of the two situations above, if a given individual repeats such behavior, I would then be compelled to call on the group for censure of that person and/or for direct action to protect the group’s proper consensus process, for there are well-established steps for dealing with such infractions.

Are you on a spiritual path? Do you have any preference for the spiritual or religious beliefs of those around you? Yes, but I don’t talk about it much with anyone besides Caroline, because it seems so precious and almost ineffable that the instant one starts throwing words around, something delicate gets crushed and it no longer has the same purity of power as when it was simply felt within. As far as other people’s beliefs, I am very grateful for the variety of positive spiritual and religious experience that abounds, and I don’t want to shortchange anyone else the opportunity to seek as they will and as suits their personal growth.
However, I cringe at the very idea that any one of us has spiritual/religious answers or experience that someone else “must” adopt or else the second party is presumed to be lost at that time or even doomed for eternity. Put another way: I’d enjoy spending years in the company of a respectful southern Baptist, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, or what-have-you, but I’d not enjoy a single afternoon in the company of someone who shares virtually all of my personal beliefs, but someone who then turns around and thinks that other people had better get onboard with those beliefs… or else.

Have you experienced therapy or sought other modalities of personal growth? Not sure what this is asking, but I have treated the business of Life itself as a therapy and an opportunity for growth. Thankfully, the only clinical type therapy I’ve felt a need to seek out has been marriage counseling, and some of that was a great aid in helping me realize what I wished for in a partner and what I had to offer to a partner in return. If I’ve missed the boat on this question, I invite someone to rephrase it so I can answer more appropriately.

What are your skills and how do you see yourself contributing to our community? I’ve been blessed to apprentice under some excellent teachers in several crafts and skills, so I offer to do what I can and what is needed from that core of experience. As fulltime work, I’ve done professional proofreading, editing, non-fiction authoring, ghostwriting, photography, electric wiring, house framing, finish carpentry, electronic wiring, draft horse training, voiceover work, songwriting, performing music onstage, steel tying for commercial concrete structures, tour guiding, leading seminars and workshops, speaking publicly, digging ditches…aw, heck! I can’t remember all of it in one go… lots of stuff is the answer, and I’m grateful for it. Anyway, if a need arises for UA, and if I can and have already done a good job of such a thing in the past, count me in on the doing of it again. How’s that?

Realistically, will you have much free time, skill, or interest to contribute toward community activities? Are you aware of any shared interests we may have? See longwinded response immediately above this question/answer, and please be aware that there’s never as much time as we might like to do all the things we’d wish. I expect to often be pretty busy with the homestead goings-on that can keep homesteaders hopping, and in our case, they may sometimes keep both Caroline and myself fully occupied for a week at a time (such as when the honey comes in or the blueberries ripen). However, I would definitely make frequent showing in our group efforts, and I’d anticipate tackling those particular projects for which I’m well trained with a lot of gusto. If one of us has skill at a certain job, it seems only reasonable to put it into full action on behalf of the group. Oh, and yes, there are many shared interests that I see among us already: energy efficient building design, gardening, broad-based spiritual teachings like that of Eckhert Tolle, live music, and many more.

What are your hobbies and how do you like to relax and play? I’m an inveterate music nut; I love to play original live music and I love to crank up a customized stereo and play Bruce Cockburn’s “Waiting for the Moon” upon a summer evening. I’m crazy about bodysurfing, but that’s kinda tough luck here in the NC mountains, and I’m wild about the game of volleyball for many reasons. Snow sledding is a favorite with me, even though Sufi the dog and I wiped out totally this winter when I was riding a children’s sled down from The Van Goggins with Tristan (aka Tree) and Forest. I can’t get enough of gardening, even if it does often entail hard work, for it is near to the center of my soul. High on the list is hiking and simply sitting still at a waterfall to listen. Reading is a luxury I relish but have not taken much time for in the past 5 years. Prose writing and songwriting are a delight to me, even though they do also require a certain amount of head-scratching and brow knitting. And, remember that you did ask the question, but no such list would be complete without mention of holding hands with Caroline while we watch a favorite movie along with a passel of you folks… and don’t forget to include a coupla huge bowls of popcorn in that scene, along with hot tea for winter viewings and fruit smoothies for warm weather get-togethers.
We are a family oriented community. Do you enjoy children? You bet! I was a child once myself, and many have said I still am one. Seriously, I think that children can help any adult to retain (or to regain) a sense of wonder and newness about life, and it is an absolute privilege to offer them in return whatever insights and guidance one has gathered over the years. If it does indeed take a village (or community) to raise a child, then I say that children help very much in giving vigor to a village or community.

Who would you live with on your property (e.g. family, kids, pets) and what, if any, is their interest in community? In case anyone reading these answers of mine is unaware, I’m applying for Associate membership, and I’ve joined Caroline and Tristan (Tree) on the homestead they have called home for years now. Obviously, they are already a part of UA, and all three of us are very interested in being part of a dynamic new chapter in the community’s story. And as regards pets: I’ve brought with me from the Golden Hill homestead in Georgia two, neutered cats named Snowbolt and Lucky Spots, but they have always stayed close by home and they aren’t aggressive (in fact, one of Snowbolt’s nicknames is Skittish Kittish). If either of them ever do show up at one of your homes and/or cause undue trouble in the community, please be assured that I would take action to aright the situation at once.

What is your economic situation? How do you imagine making a living here? Economic situation, you ask? Hmmm. Best described as “dire straits”… please make your donation checks out to Dusk Weaver at… just kidding. I’m working a combination of construction, ghostwriting, and music for pay, and these have supported me adequately for the past ten years. I’ve been working here since last Thanksgiving and I have a new book contract to bolster several construction jobs that are lined up. No complaints.
Are you willing, if you should ever sell your property at Union Acres, to limit the resale of your lot to someone who is adopted through our membership procedure? Please see the answer to two questions previous… applying as Associate member at this time.

Hey, thanks for reading my answers, everyone. I am delighted to be here, and to be requesting membership with UA. Please consider me for that membership, and I’ll look forward to the Sharing this Sunday for Forest Tapley, Wayne Endter, and myself, to be followed up with the Potluck and Talent Night.


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