Farewell to one of the sweet voices of my childhood.

Phoebe Snow July 17, 1952 – April 26, 2011.


Oh, majesty of life, please don’t escape me.
It’s getting later and the windowshades are drawn.
I’m not the best that I could be
But I’m trying to wait and see
What can happen to a girl in her hometown

Oh, the wilderness
The unmade bed
The aching head
And oh the greying afternoon
The diary that ends too soon

Oh sweet belief in love, I know you’re somewhere
No love is perfect but a true one must exist
It’s getting farther down the year
I hope my autumn eyes will clear
And let me recognize his soul
When we have kissed

—Phoebe Snow “Majesty of Life”

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As a trainer, consultant and long time Intentional Community member, I sometimes get asked what it takes to form a Community. This is no casual question. I believe the statistic is that about ninety percent of forming Communities will fail within their first five years.

When I cross paths with folks who have a vision for creating their dream ecovillage, cohousing group, rural commune or urban group house, they usually want to hear what I have to say about land trusts, Articles of Incorporation, non-profit status, and various legal structures. This focus, while group organizers and leaders ignore group dynamics and structure, is, in my mind, the core reason why the failure rate is so high.

  • Does your group feel a time pressure when making decisions?
  • In discussions, does everyone speak?
  • Does your group accomplish its goals?
  • Do some people dominate? Is there burnout?
  • Is the workload uneven? Organizational structure vague?

I hear lots of stories and often people can’t put their finger on what is missing.

Great visions are inspiring. Yet having the most innovative, cost effective solar powered strawbale common house, or an intuitive, minimally impactful Permaculture design does not a Community make, if your group struggles to create member buy-in, or make decisions that include everyone and reflect common values in a well-defined way.

Typifying the trend, my friend Mare Cromwell said her recent attempt to form an new Intentional Community with a core group of friends, “fell down around communication…” These were good people with great ideas. And as a member of the Intentional Communities movement, I want to see us flip that statistic around!

So consensus author/trainer C.T. Lawrence Butler and I are offering skill building workshops designed to help Communities, activist groups, non-profits, spiritual groups, families, etc., succeed in their goals, not by legal structures (based in mistrust), but in the structures of group dynamics—decisionmaking, conflict resolution, mediation, listening, and communication that integrates head, heart and gut (centered in transparency and trust).

I’d never advocate doing away with legal structures. They protect Communities from misunderstandings or pushback from the larger world and they can represent clarity of agreements among members. But legal documents don’t substitute for healthy, values-based agreements. (I guess you could try to legally compel your neighbor to listen to you but it won’t succeed if she feels unheard.) And, most importantly, I believe a group that has excellent communication skills will arrive at the structures that are best for them because they’ll have the transparency to know what they know and what they don’t, and the ability to communicate their consensus to outside advisors and to delegate research. So as a consultant, I trust good process to lead to the right legal structures.

Instead, C.T. and I are curious about members’ “toolboxes” and how we can help groups succeed in their goals. You could be a Community finding property, identifying and vetting new members, building homes and generally living simply and cooperatively. Maybe you have a non-profit leasing a building, recruiting its board and offering programming and support to the local community. Or you’re a collection of neighbors forming an activist group to battle fracking in your region. C.T. and I want you to succeed in your goals. And we want you to experience that new paradigms like consensus can work for your group in profound ways.

In our Social Technology Toolbox Summer Camp, we will start with our new full weekend workshop, Consensus: Body and Soul. We’ll look at the structure of decisonmaking (the body) and the paradigm shifts (the soul) members and whole groups make as they become more effective. From this weekend workshop (Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday) the group will use their grounding in consensus to function as a temporary community and make decisions as a community while they partake of experientially based toolbox offerings.

Campers will explore ZEGG Forum, Enneagrams, and other tools and techniques designed to help group members see, hear and understand each other. Don’t we often just want to be heard? We’ll look at evolutionary perspectives like Spiral Dynamics and campers will offer their own content using Open Space Technology.

In addition to daily ZEGG Forums and plenary meetings, campers will learn a new component of effective meetings and group dynamics each day—facilitation techniques, agenda planning, minutes taking, process vs. content, head/heart/gut integration, etc.

Is it sounding too much like an office manager’s dream retreat? Picture us performing New Games  in the grounding, natural setting: Heathcote Community is a group that has survived the odds, founded in 1965. It’s a 110 acre land trust that nearly all wooded. There’s a pond and several streams, along which hangs the occasional Twin Oaks hammock. Our conference center is an historic mill on the stream, but breakout sessions will likely take us into the woods.

Lodging is rustic—camping or Heathcote’s bunkroom. The food is vegetarian/vegan, mostly organic. Many meals will come from C.T.’s Food Not Bombs cookbook!

To receive a brochure with the cost breakdown and application form, contact me, Wren, at curiocoast@comcast.net.

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Finally, a singer-songwriter who tackles the ticklish issues we’ve been skirting!

Join Jamie, me and the fine folks of Heathcote for a House Concert and fundraiser on May 22, 2011 at 7pm! RSVP at 410-458-2310

Although many of us in the Intentional Communities movement know C.T. Butler as a consensus trainer/ facilitator/mediator and the author of On Conflict and Consensus and Consensus for Cities, he is also the fountainhead and co-founder of the original Food Not Bombs collective. He’s co-author of Food Not Bombs: How to Feed the Hungry and Build Community, with FNB co-founder Keith McHenry.

In his role as consensus trainer, he met Douglas Rori in Nairobi, Kenya. Both were attending the IndyMedia Convergence leading up to the World Social Forum there four years ago. They’ve stayed in touch and C.T. has closely supported Doug’s work in establishing a FNB chapter in Kenya. So when Doug posted his new film on facebook recently, I was electrified by the parallels of the use of graffiti in Africa with the stories C.T. has told me about graffiti as a central artistic tool in FNB and his other activism in the 1980’s. Of course, the artistic bar has been shot into the stratosphere, as depicted in the thought provoking documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. And the art in Doug’s film is of that caliber.

I want to share Doug’s link because, wherever activists are working, I love the power of delivering our messages on our own terms. This seems more and more important as we find ourselves living on Earth, Inc.


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Jamie Anderson, the singer-songwriter who is doing a benefit house concert at Heathcote Community on May 22, has a fun video biography on youtube. Please take some time to get to know this artist if you’re not already a fan. Her work runs a wide continuum from comedic to sensual, employing many musical styles along the journey.

In the biography, she talks about how having a musician for a dad influenced her life’s path. I can totally relate. My dad was an insurance executive and I to this day have the compulsion to get paid for telling people that things could go very badly, we should all prepare for calamity.

My dad, Bill Dolen, was also a professional musician who played saxophone in the big band days. I felt deeply connected to him when I learned sax as a kid. Of course, I didn’t pick sax out of all the limitless instrument possibilities; I wanted to play flute. Nice, lightweight, girly. But my family had a saxophone in the house, so rather than renting a band instrument for me, we went with what we had. Of course, the frugality of that was slightly offset when my parents had to buy a luggage carrier with wheels because this petite eight year-old couldn’t lug her alto sax onto the city bus to go to school.

The weight of that sax in comparison to its new player was the ultimate killer of my musical career. Even with the wheels, I so hated the burden of dragging Dad’s alto sax to and from my downtown alternative school that I took to leaving it in the band closet with all the other instruments. I like to think it made friends, ala Toy Story or Brave Little Toaster. So that when someone broke into that band closet and stole the school’s wind instruments, my brass Bundy bravely went along, out of solidarity.

I felt crushed. I had lost my dad’s saxophone. This is when I learned that the one I’d been playing in the school band was not one he’d used in the big bands, but one that Mom had bought him as a gift. Uggh. Worse.

My parents got me a flute. I took private lessons. But that flute was not brave. It wasn’t Dad’s. I was never going to be the same pre-sax kid again. Hmm. Did Dad’s butch saxophone make me queer? Hmm…

What’s your musical biography? Post in comments here, or on our HCD facebook fan page!

See you all on Sunday, May 22 at 7pm at Heathcote Community for Jamie Anderson! RSVP at 410-458-2310. The event will include a fundraising dinner beforehand and a silent auction, details to come! And check out Jamie’s video biography below! I will be posting links to several of her songs in the weeks leading up to the concert.   —WT

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In my world, Permaculture education and comedic Lesbian folk music are a luscious combination, like chocolate and peanut butter. Remember those Reese’s commercials in which one person is walking down the street eating a chocolate bar and someone is walking towards them eating from a jar of peanut butter and they’re both so self absorbed that they don’t see the other, collide, and their food gets combined, thus delivering them to a higher level of Nirvana? Well, Jamie Anderson probably has a song about that.

I’ve been keeping it in the back of my mind that I’d like to get Jamie to Heathcote Community for our House Concert Series, and now that chocolaty muse has collided with Heathcote’s exciting new opportunity: An adjoining piece of land which we’ve always held dear is for sale, giving us a chance to greatly expand our organic farming and Permaculture education programs. Oooh! Peanut butter!

The Anacker Land

Open Classroom kids camp it up for the annual apple harvest in the Anackers' heirloom orchard.Heathcote Community was founded in 1965 when Bill and Margaret Anacker, members of the School of Living, sold  a 37 acre parcel of their land to SoL as a headquarters for the magazine Green Revolution and as a  homesteading demonstration site. As a 1960’s & 70’s style hippie commune sprouted and grew on the land, Bill and Margaret were very involved, mentoring young folks in homesteading and sustainability skills. The community overlapped onto other parts of the Anackers’ land and the community evolved into a wimmin’s land  through the 80’s and eventually a mixed queer & straight community of settled members. Over time, Heathcote acquired parcels we call the Farmhouse land and Cabin land, or, Back 70, both of which had previously been the Anackers’, and which helped us expand our membership and unify our little valley.

Now with Margaret passed on and Bill needing eldercare, the Anacker family is selling the 24 acre parcel on which Bill and Margaret homesteaded for so long. This land would give Heathcote our first substantial ridge top acreage, suitable for gardening/farming we haven’t been able to do down in our narrow valley and flood plain. This would allow us to expand our Permaculture education, internships and community membership, and provide crops for donation, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and/or market gardening, as well as allowing Heathcote to increase our food self-sufficiency.

We have some substantial pledges from large donors, starting us on our way. We’re partnering with Fusion of Baltimore as our fiscal sponsors. We’ve formed a fundraising committee and seek broad community support for bringing the Anacker land into the community.

Jamie Anderson

Award winning singer-songwriter/parking lot attendant Anderson plays tunes that go from sexy to silly, witty to whimsical.  She first hit my radar when Louisville DJ and Yer Girlfriend vocalist Laura Shine played her music at a time when we were first launching our Fairness Campaign there. She’s been on my playlist ever since!

She draws from many influences. As her website explains: She’s country without the big hair, bluegrass without the whiny tenor, blues without selling her soul and rock without the dirty t-shirt.

Besides songs that range from laugh out loud to tugging on your heartstrings, Jamie is adept at improving witty, thoughtful intros and stories. Her shows are great entertainment on many levels!

More nibblets from her site:

When Jamie isn’t touring, she’s taught songwriting, guitar and other classes at Duke University, arts centers, privately and at festivals all over the country. She has a chapter in Songwriting and the Guitar, a book that also includes Paul Simon, The Indigo Girls, Joni Mitchell and others. Jamie is a freelance writer whose articles and CD reviews have appeared in Acoustic Guitar, Curve, SingOut! and more.

Anderson’s awards include Finalist (USA Songwriting Competition, “Your Mama Scares Me,” 2008), the Jane Schliessman Award for Outstanding Contributions to Women’s Music (Women in the Arts, 2006), Best Folk Album (The Independent, A Promise of Light, 2005), Honorable Mention (Great American Song Contest, “Beautiful,” 2005), and others that only her mama cares about.

Save the date: May 22, 7pm. And stay tuned to Hippie Chick Diaries for more articles with links to Jamie’s songs and details about our silent auction and plant sales!

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