I’ve practiced my form of simple living at Heathcote Community for nearly fifteen years. Our population has hovered around a dozen adults, dipping down to eight and now climbing to sixteen adults and six kids, with several more interns on the way this year. I can tell a difference in the energy and intimacy between Heathcote at eight and Heathcote at sixteen. I wrote about our dinner cleanup becoming more hectic, and I now have more interactions with more people, thus more processing, and processing delayed more often, as we maintain busy lives. This has made me more curious than ever about larger Intentional Communities, such as Ganas in New York, which has around eighty members, or even Auroville, in India, with over two-thousand members.

In my history with community life, I was never much of a traveler until the last couple of years. I would sometimes get down to Twin Oaks in Louisa, Virginia. And when I was searching for Community I visited Spiral Wimmin (Kentucky) and also Wygelia and Woodburn Hill Farm, both in Maryland. Typically, if I’m going to visit another Intentional Community, it’s on business, such as my trip to The Farm in Tennesee for a Gaia University organizing meeting or to Seven Sisters in Pennsylvania for the School of Living quarterly meeting. But I have never even visited most of the other Communities of the School of Living, Heathcote’s land trust organization. Since the spring meeting is held in my Community, I see my friends then. Heathcote always has wealth in our visitors from all these places and more.

I have friends all over the world and I’m starting to visit them!

I traveled with poly partner Harold to Harbin Hot Springs in California, for the World Polyamory Conference a couple of years ago. Although this was an interest community and not a landed community, I count it as part of my evolution into an Intentional Community networker and traveler. The hot springs were magical. And we did the tourist thing in San Francisco’s Chinatown and the redwood forests!

Near the end of that California trip, my Goodwill suitcase started to disintegrate. It took quite a bit of nudging on Harold’s part to convince me to invest in a new, durable, quality piece of luggage. The moment I did, the universe must have identified me as a traveler because that suitcase and I have been going ever since! It’s taken an adjustment in my self image to make the shift to keeping a travel kit in the bag, rather than completely unpacking after a trip. New paradigm!!!

Last year my then partner, Iuval, I visited Woodfolk House, The Possibility Alliance, Red Earth Farms and Dancing Rabbit in a whirlwind tour to find a Community or land we could agree on. Too bad we didn’t get to add Sandhill and East Wind to our Missouri tour. Some day I’ll make it back, maybe in May if I can attend the new Villages in the Sky festival, a sort of temporary community akin to the Rainbow Gathering and Burning Man.

Some smaller, more off-the-map Intentional Communities I’ve visited include Baltimore’s Red Clover Collective, The Hermitage in Pennsylvania, and Heilbron Springs in Florida, where I interviewed the ever interesting Tipi Frank.

I’ll visit another School of Living Community, Julian Woods, in May. I’ll be there as part of a two-year course in meeting facilitation with Sandhill’s Laird Schaub and his partner, Ma’ikwe Ludwig, a member of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. (We’re looking for other communities in the mid atlantic region to host this course for a weekend. The students will provide free facilitation for your group. You can leave a comment on this post or contact Heathcote at education@heathcote.org.)

I attended a temporary Intentional Community this summer, Network for a New Culture’s Summer Camp in West Virginia. That Summer Camp holds reunions. I’ve attended two, at Reed Street in Philadelphia and Chrysalis in Arlington, Virginia, both urban Intentional Communities.

And I visited another kind of temporary Intentional Community recently. Sweeties Jas and Erika scooped me off for a weekend at Gibson Hollow, a cooperatively owned land in Virginia, where about nineteen urban dwelling members share a getaway for weekends and holidays. It backs up to Shenandoah National Park.

Now as Harold and I are furthering our skills as ZEGG-Forum facilitators, we’re planning to deepen ties in his Virginia Beach area tantra community by holding monthly ZEGG-Forums. ZEGG is an Intentional Community in Germany which has developed their forum as a tool for IC’s and other groups to get to the heart of what blocks their relationships and common work. We’ll travel to Ganas again in June and October to complete our certification as facilitators. In the meantime, I’ll start traveling to Virginia Beach once a month to co-lead a forum group with Harold. I’m liking the sight of me on the beach once a month!

I recently visited nearby Liberty Village Cohousing, one of fourteen member groups of Mid Atlantic Cohousing, serving Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC and Virginia. I was at Liberty Village to visit C.T. Butler and attend his consensus workshop. He and sociocracy writer John Buck will be comparing C.T.’s “formal consensus” model with sociocracy in a workshop at Mid Atlantic Cohousing’s Growing Smart Communities Conference, March 20, 2010. Heathcote’s own Karen Stupski and Patty Ceglia will also be there, teaching Permaculture!

I almost squeezed another trip in there—C.T. invited me for a Long Island getaway. I’d never been there, but while I was waffling (the Ganas trip was coming up and I hate spending so much time away from hearth and hound…), we were hit with the double blizzard!

I may find myself and my suitcase in Las Vegas next month! Any poly gals out there want to marry me on the fly? A sister student in the ZEGG-Forum course is inviting me to facilitate or “weave” at her wedding there. I love her concept of weaving the two families together in her ceremony. And although the little math I know is enough that I won’t be gambling in any casinos, I would love to see the Las Vegas Strip and all the lights. Yes, I would probably post about the unsustainability of pumping all that energy into the middle of the desert, but you would nod and forgive me; I know it’s already been said, but not by this hippie chick on the spot!

I see that ic.org lists ten Intentional Communities in Nevada, all in the forming stages. They seem to have a range of diets, levels of simplicity, etc., and various unifying values. It would be shiny to visit one while I’m there!

I can tell I’ll have to expand on these many destinations in posts to come! I have sights, sounds, smells, touches and tastes from every Community I’ve visited. And the ZEGG-Forum and meeting facilitation courses will keep me on and off the road for another couple of years.

So I’m learning the tricks of traveling. I need to become a lighter packer, certainly. I’m so lucky to have Heathcoters John and Gloria in my dog co-op; they keep Tuatha well hugged and warm when I go away. My house is actually a kind of doggie day care. I have a huge area of woods fenced in behind my house so Heathcote dogs Tuatha, Rochelle and Chance can bolt around, cussing at squirrels all they want, then plow through the doggie door, tracking in all the snow, mud, leaf bits or whatever will stick to them.

Tuatha is not excited about my itinerary. Now he naps in my suitcase, on the off chance that I leave on a trip while he’s snoozing!

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From Wren: I’m passing on this early announcement of an exciting new Summer Camp. I was asked to help organize it, but my schedule didn’t sync up this year. Still, I’m very excited by what Teryani Riggs and friends are creating. Please check it out! –WT

Hi folks,

Just wanted to let you know of an amazing event coming up in late August 20th-29th in Floyd, VA.

For those of you who’ve been to other Summer Camps, please notice that this camp is far from a carbon copy of either SC East or West.  We’ll be focusing on much more than human relationships.  At this point our camp not only includes standard Camp fair such as HAI, NVC, Erotic Edge, and daily Forum, but also Rewilding, Elements of Symbiosis, Beyond Patriarchy, Reconnecting with the Earth, World Cafe, Theater of Change, as well as interweaving art, dance, and music throughout the entire camp.  We also have a really strong and talented organizing team, a wonderful site and host community (Anahata), and a HUGE commitment to social change.  Please check out our vision statement and see if it excites you:

Join a dynamic and experimental group of social pioneers as we embrace the opportunity to be the change that facilitates personal and global breakthrough.

We are all aware that the world is at a momentous tipping point at which global ecology and culture will either break down or break through.   At points like these, small groups can have influence far beyond their size. There are no ready recipes for building new ways of living—the inner and outer devastation of the planet and its peoples has become far too pervasive, and the challenges far too complex.  Yet, we must take responsibility for our future—for ourselves, for the Earth, and for the future generations of all beings.

At CulturEvolution Summer Camp, we’ll embark on a 10-day experiment in creating a space for breakthrough in our individual, social, and potentially global dynamics.  Through creative group endeavors, we’ll be exploring

-    Our intrinsic connection to the entire web of life—how to better understand and augment the symbiotic connections among all beings. How can we align our actions to support both ecological and social sustainability?

-    Creativity as “community glue.”  Using art, music, and theater, we’ll dive into the depths of our primal beings and our creative source, and from these depths bring into being the world we want to evolve into.

-    The nature of love, Eros, and conscious human relationships.  What do we need to create true connection, within ourselves and with others?  What skills do we need to build to make relationship choices out of love and joy, rather than fear?

Our intent for Summer Camp is not merely about co-creating a fun, interesting, heartfelt group experience, but also to leave folks with clear direction, skills, hope, and connections for further transformation.  Whether your focus is ecological sustainability, permaculture, community, conscious relationships, alternative economics, spirituality, and/or creating peace, we hope that CulturEvolution camp can be a springboard for your work in the world.

Registration will probably open in late March.  Please note: this year we’re keeping camp to a max of 40 campers (in addition to the 20 or so organizers and presenters) so we may very well sell out.  We’re really committed to going on a deep journey together and are hoping for folks who will commit to the entire time.  At this point we expect to have a “closed” camp (no new campers arriving mid-camp).

Feel free to pass this along to anyone who would be excited by it.  If you’re interested in coming or have any questions, please let me know.


“…to defend and conserve oneself as a human being in the fullest, truest sense, one must defend and conserve many others and much else. What would be the hope of being personally whole in a dis-membered society, or personally healthy in a land scalped, scraped, eroded, and poisoned, or personally free in a land entirely controlled by the government, or personally enlightened in an age illuminated only by TV?”    Wendell Berry

Teryani Riggs
The Living Awareness Institute


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Tuatha vs. Autumn

Wren on February 21st, 2010

Many faithful pet pooches honor the tradition of the leaf pile fight. Who knows why they feel compelled to attack flying handfuls of dried leaves, even as the handfuls fall apart in the air?

At least in the case of my dog, Tuatha, I believe that he’s acting on my behalf. He must know, because he’s smart in that creepy way, that fall leaf piles are a sign that winter is not far off. And since he knows I hate winter, again, creepy smart, he takes up arms—or teeth—to prevent summer from giving up the stage.

I have decided this. Don’t correct me; My life is small and I have few entertainments. –WT

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Open Classroom: Follow the Learner

Wren on February 20th, 2010

Yippee! I wish I had bet money. I imagine some people thought I would have trouble finding Singing in the Rain coloring pages. How could you doubt my Googling prowess after I came up with coloring pages for our STOMP! unit?

So the fizz is fading on our origami unit and it’s time for the members of Open Classroom to consense on a new unit. Decisions are made by consensus, just as in Heathcote’s adult community. So the kids are brainstorming ideas on lists and then ranking them.

Our origami unit was my idea. The kids had a presentation on paper airplanes in their science club. Suddenly they were making and flying paper airplanes at a rate of about three per second, all over the community. The problem was, they were picking them up at a rate of about one per year. Any piece of paper was a risk of being folded and flung–receipts, committee reports, shopping lists and virgin copier paper–That was the most coveted by paper airplane manufacturers and least tolerated by communal adults who preach “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Now normally I would be happy to follow the kids where there energy goes. I’m sure they were learning all kinds of useful principles of aerodynamics and gaining fine motor skills. But when they cracked into the very pricey virgin construction paper it was time for some structure, if not redirection.

How about origami? It’s peaceful–you make bird sounds instead of those spitting machine gun noises. And cranes fly–You hold one in your hand and fly it around; You don’t throw it. And because it took you forty-five minutes and two interns to figure out how to make it, you want to keep track of it and admire it for a long time!

Origami, Japanese for “stop tunneling through the expensive paper as if you were trying to get to the Earth’s core and neutralize it before we all explode!”

We also repeated our annual ritual of filling the mill windows with snowflake cutouts. I love this shot of paper snowflakes looking out on all the buildings and cars nearly hidden in snow.

So what unit will we choose? Our intern Gloria brought lots of resources from her job, teaching science and math. We read a story about Harry Houdini and some energy welled up around magic. The kids constantly invent their own board and card games. Some game theory might be interesting. Maybe Spiderman–Our youngest member refuses to answer to any name other than Peter Parker these days.

In any case, I’ll be looking for everyone’s “buy in.” My role is more that of facilitator than teacher. So what are the common values that inform the decision? Our shared love of learning and curiosity, our preference for experiential learning, egalitarianism. So where is the energy flowing? I like C.T. Butler’s point that in consensus, one “consents” to a decision. It’s a decision one allows to go forward, it doesn’t have to be everyone’s first choice. This is people’s first misunderstanding of consensus, I think. Then they mistakenly believe that every member of a group has to be involved equally in every decision. Every member has equal weight in every decision, but the group can empower committees and managers to make certain decisions within their mandate, given by the group.

Open Classroom experiments with this kind of leadership in a horizontal (non-hierarchical) structure by taking turns being the “chooser” for the day. No, not The Decider, shudder to think…The group decides what decisions the chooser may make for the group. Then each member of the group is at choice to follow the chooser’s suggestions or not.

Currently, the group has mandated the chooser to

  • select the talking stick for our opening circle
  • select our lunch, which must follow the food pyramid
  • make up silly challenges for us when it’s time to return to our classroom for quiet time (so we don’t run and act crazy)
  • present a simple workshop during our late afternoon boring time

The chooser learns to consider her/his audience and act creatively but in the interest of the group.

I’m ready for a tropical unit of some kind–parrots of the world, equatorial predators, sewing summer clothes…


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While I’m enduring the snow and expecting more to arrive, I am warming myself by looking at camera pictures from the past year–lots of greens and browns, and people in short sleeves!

I’ve been struck by how productive we’ve remained, as individuals and as Heathcote, during the snow. So I want to belatedly post about an event we had here. I posted an announcement/invitation, but I never showed you how fabulous we all looked during our Community Work Action Week!

Facilitator Teryani Riggs led Heathcote members and friends, such as Erika, above, through an intensive week of work projects, ZEGG-Forums, excercizes to build up trust, fun and connection, and, for our non-members, learning about Heathcote Community, our systems, structures and group process.

Work projects included gardening, restoring Mill siding, renovating our bunkroom, and filling a giant dumpster with debris from Polaris construction and random Heathcote trash. Although I plugged in on the dumpster and the bunkroom, my back limited my hard labor. All the better for snapping a few shots!



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Heathcote vs. Snowmaggedon

Wren on February 14th, 2010

Well, I’ve lived through Snowmaggedon without expiring from despair. It was actually quite easy. Intentional Community is the place to be when natural disaster hits. I kept seeing news clips on my computer of urban dwellers worried about running out of food, living without power or heat, and I kept thinking, “Loaves and fishes, people! I’m pagan and even I know that bible story! What you need is probably right next door! Go introduce yourself to your neighbors…”

The first weekend we were snowed in, Heathcoters Greg and Juji invited everyone for a lovely Sunday brunch at Polaris, our strawbale group house. Even though blazing trails through the waist-high snow took some heroism, once we were there the building was toasty warm from the southern exposure and the masonry stove. The tea, pancakes and conversation kept flowing. Karen, who teaches at Goddard as well as Heathcote, showed us an impressive notebook on how to construct a homemade portable sawmill. One of her students had created it and the Heathcote construction team was very interested. I love watching things spread virally that way! I got out my handmade peg solitaire game and several tried, cooperatively or alone, to end with one piece in the middle. I think we got as close as three.

That same weekend we had our quarterly retreat for members. So being snowed in was little change in a way. Somehow, we managed to run out of propane in the Mill at that moment. So we lost heat to every space except our Conference Center, which is heated by a pellet stove. No biggie; We were planning to spend most of the weekend there anyway! The community dinner, homemade pizza by Nick, was shifted to the Farmhouse. The kids were a little grumpy at the loss of heat but they were included in a session of cooperative games at the end of our retreat. They led the adults in several group machines, an activity we frequently do in Open Classroom.

Since most of us work here at Heathcote, it was business as usual. Hammering, talking and NPR could be heard in the Mill bunkroom, where John, Nick, Betsy and Kwame continued renovations. Somehow they managed to get a load of drywall between blizzards. With Mike pitching in, they carried two sections at a time up the hill, into a second story door, and up to the third floor.

Mike, Larissa, Gloria and Betsy continued to work on Natural Awakenings Magazine. Paul worked on Cooptek software projects uninterrupted. Open Classroom was in session, with Gloria, Kwame and I meeting the kids on Tuesday and Thursday. The chess club met.

Although we did decide to cancel Visitor Weekend and last night’s Dancefree, yesterday was Mike’s birthday. So at the end of dinner cleanup, before we enjoyed several birthday fruit pies, Paul put his ipod into the boom box and Heathcoters busted a move to Love Shack.

Our monthly coop food delivery was several days late, waiting for our one lane road to be plowed by the county. But we had plenty of food to last. The big truck got in and out. And the usual sampling of Heathcoters came out of the snowbanks to inventory and put food away.

All this snow must be a culture shock for Kwame, our intern from Ghana. When he flew here in December, he was laid over in New York City for two days because of snow. And when he arrived at Heathcote, we scrambled to find him enough warm clothes. Now he’s experienced a record setting double blizzard. He shoveled most of my path, uphill! When he heard the Open Classroom students wanting to play in the snow, he said, “I didn’t know this was possible,” Five minutes later, he was performing flips in the snow, to the kids’ delight!

I, of course, took the snow play as an opportunity for a forty-five minute Earl Grey break in the always buzzing Mill kitchen, during which I consulted with several Heathcote carpenters on the bunkroom renovation. They always appreciate my input…

My main inconvenience was delaying a trip to the bank. Truth be told, I often live as if I’m snowed in here. It’s not unusual for me to go two weeks or more without driving or hiking out to “civilization.”

I had the comfort of community and simple living. If we had lost electricity, mine is the only residence that requires that for heat–My pellet stove had electrical components. If we had also run out of propane and heating oil during the blizzards, four out of nine of our buildings can be heated entirely by wood. And with games, hot tea, and friends who play guitar, I was never going to be cold.

Now that I’ve replaced my whining with bragging, I see we’re due for more snow tomorrow and Wednesday…Wow, karma is swift in snow.


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Graphic_70I recently visited Liberty Village Cohousing Community near Frederick, Maryland. About an hour from my own Heathcote Community, Liberty Village had been on my list of places I’d like to visit for some time. I was invited by my friend C.T. Butler, author of On Conflict and Consensus, A Handbook on Formal Consensus Decisionmaking. C.T. was presenting a workshop and I was excited to get to see him in action.

After the workshop, I stayed for a community dinner. C.T. and I discussed similarities and differences between Cohousing and Intentional Community. That could and should be a post in itself, as well as a report on C.T.’s workshop, and meeting his friend and colleague, John Buck, author of We the People, Consenting to a Deeper Democracy, A Guide to Sociocratic Principles and Methods. C.T. and John Buck are teaming up to present a comparison of formal consensus and sociocracy in a two hour workshop at the Mid Atlantic Cohousing Conference, March 20, 2010.

I could write for the next year on the discussions we’ve had! But right now, let me enthusiastically invite you to this year’s Cohousing Conference. Besides C.T. Butler and John Buck, my facilitation trainer Laird Schaub will be presenting, as well as Heathcote’s Permaculture educators Karen Stupski and Patty Ceglia. Maybe I’ll see you there!


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Beep-Beep! Our Cleaning Traffic Jam

Wren on February 3rd, 2010

dinner cleanup 4Heathcote Community is a pretty special place to live, with many unusual blessings. Friends and visitors often gush about our community dinners. Six nights a week, most of the community comes to the Mill for a shared meal.  Each community member signs up to lovingly cook about thrice a month. That way, the work is light and people usually cook their particular vegetarian specialties, making the Heathcote cuisine legendary!

A few years ago, we gutted the first floor of the Mill to open up the space as we add members. We renovated and expanded our dining room and kitchen areas.

dinner cleanup 8We wanted more members. So we brainstormed about recruitment and we meditated on our intention, picturing the people arriving. They did!

Since that time, we’ve gone from eight adults and four kids to sixteen adults and six children living on the land. I imagine the economic downturn helps our population explosion, with people who’ve considered Intentional Community for years, finally pursuing that adventure.

dinner cleanup 9Now, long ago when we were fewer, dinner cleanup was a drag. We always had the agreement that whoever cooked for the night didn’t have to clean. But some cooks have simple ways and some cooks, well, they use every pot in the place, open twenty-seven cans and fling food on every conceivable surface. We would rotate a couple of members to clean, who were sometimes at it for hours.

Then it was proposed that we try having all eaters except the cook clean up. This seemed like overkill to some, awkward to others, but we consensed to try it.

At first, I found it way overstimulating, having eight or more adult bodies in our tiny, pre-renovation kitchen. Whenever I could snag the dishwashing job and face the wall, I would. I want to be a good girl and do what’s expected, but I’m not one of those personality types who thrives on chaos.

dinner cleanup 7Folks soon found that, like our communal dinners themselves, the cleanup had become a group bonding experience. People would continue dinner conversation, sing songs, gather consensus around where things belonged in the kitchen and what do do with plastic bags–”I still can’t believe we actually wash these!!!”

And our renovation certainly created some elbow room, smoothing out the chaos. That is, until the people we imagined showed up, picked up dish towels and asked, “Where does this thingy go?”

manipulativesOur dining room tables used to host cooperative jigsaw puzzles, slow chess games, kid art projects, and so forth. Suddenly it’s, “Where can I sit? Who’s stuff is this? Can we make an agreement about kids’ stuff in common areas? I have some feelings about this…”

And I’m back to wishing for a cleanup job that faces the wall. But I stand there, on a team of four waiting to dry and/or put away dishes. I look around to see two dishwashers at two different sinks, one rinser, two or three dryers, three or four put-awayers, two sweepers (only two brooms), a cloud of bodies spooning leftovers into containers, labeling and dating them, and a few newbies standing on the edges, trying to figure out how to cut in and steal the ball.

communiteaThe chaos is made more delicious with the addition of the Heathcote kids to dinner cleanup. They have spent years building their own community in our Open Classroom program. After several years of using consensus to create kid systems to cook and clean up their own lunch, they understood the take and give of community. When some adults expressed concern/resentment/pissiness that kids just ran off to play after dinner, the kids problem solved and offered an agreement that kids would do twenty minutes of cleanup each night. Their presence has been heartwarming, distracting, loud, hilarious, usually effective and generally a wonderful gift.

Lately, I’ve been counting twenty-three and more bodies at dinners. I’m curious to see what will bubble up as we co-create the systems that work for our growing community. Open Classroom went from three to five students this year. We needed to create new structures for everything, waiting for our new students to buy-in to our problem-solving consensus. What will the adults say? Should we go back to shifts of cleaner-upers? I already hear folks saying that we have too many eaters for one cook to feed. Cooking teams?

The delicious problems of success. In the meantime, outta my way! Hippie Chick with a wet dish!

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Tuesday, 23 degrees, feels like 9

Wren on January 5th, 2010

I imagine that the people around me tire of hearing me mention my dislike of winter on a daily (hourly) basis, so I’ll just sigh and get busy.

I’ve printed diagrams for about twenty beginning origami figures, planning to get my Open Classroom students busy on something other than paper airplanes, which are quickly approaching winter on my dislike list. (See how I’m not mentioning it?)

The internet has some crazy impressive origami. We’ll see how long the kids’ interest lasts.


I’ve been nursing my ten year-old Whitfield Quest pellet stove, which seems to be slowly expiring. It was barely adequate to heat my space to begin with and pellet stove technology has improved efficiency in recent years. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to replace it, but I love the idea of building things to last and then keeping them going. I’ve been repairing my car long past the time when others might have traded up.  Still, fuel efficiency and a warmer hut are whistling a tune in my ear…and around my raised shoulders…and my numb fingers and toes…


Heathcote Community has so many new members, and applicants in the pipeline! I need to whip out my social calendar and spend some time getting to know folks! I remember when we numbered around seven or eight. Now at dinner, I step back from the crowd and count twenty-three or so, including members new and old, kids, interns, significant others, etc. What abundance! Thank you all for what you bring. I should invite you all up to huddle around me and keep the frigid draft off me until say, May…Could we just hibernate in a puppy pile?


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New Rule: No Saying, “No Touching”

Wren on August 10th, 2009

instrument section, World of PetsThe first weekend of the Howard County, Maryland Fair (“How Cow“) 2009 is through the chute. I am wiped out and hoarse, but also exhilarated to be camped out in the forest my beloved necklace branches and Karuna Arts batiks again. The sounds of customers tinking on the bamboo xylophone and rubbing the frog mating calls, shaking the juju bean rattles, tossing the cicada stones, etc.; These never get old for me.

Parents endlessly hissing, “Don’t touch anything,” that got old the first time.

I wouldn’t have packed fourteen tables to the gills with colorful shinies if I didn’t want little ones to touch them. When are parents going to read a book and get it that children are tactile and learn about their world through touch? “Don’t touch, just look,” they say. Duh. Children’s eyes are on their fingertips. They have to touch to look. Then there’s the enlightened, well meaning parent who says, “Look with your eyes…”

This is why I long ago decided my booth’s rule would be, “No leaving until you’ve touch everything. Now get busy!” Then I made the policy, “We don’t charge for breaking.”

I save broken things from Heathcote Earthings and my friends at Crystal Cottage in Roanoke, Virginia and I sell them on special scratch & dent tables at certain shows. How Cow is one of our clearance shows.

Nine times out of ten, however, when something gets broken, yours truly has done it, not someone’s grabby kid.

Besides developmental appropriateness, I also get frustrated with parents following their children around, pulling their paws back and barking, “don’t touch,” because if the parent is policing his or her kid, the parent isn’t shopping. I imagine that grumpy shopkeepers who are not also child development specialists have trained generations of parents to curb their kids. How does this not grind the economy to a halt?

My friend Herb, lovable curmudgeon that he is, follows greasy fingered tykes around his store, abandoning his pursuit of sales to do it. Granted, he sells more breakables than I do. And he pays young people to Windex fingerprints off his inventory. I skip this step mostly, and feel I have a measure of peace in life.

My observation about this drama is that, the shopkeeper isn’t focused on selling, the kid and the parent aren’t focused on buying. The store gets to keep its inventory, fingerprint free, and the parent and the customer who gets ignored get to keep their money. That’s one nice outcome but…

I have signs around my booth that read, “shoplifters will be hexed.” I often get asked if I’m worried about shoplifting at my booth, where so many tiny items are packed so tightly in a big space. My philosophy is the same for theft as for children. I don’t like it, but if I become paranoid and focus my attention on who in the crowd might be stealing, then I’m not focused on who in the crowd is ready to buy. I might catch a few sticky fingers if I try, but probably not. Their job is to steal and they’re good at it. I’m not a detective. I’m not good at that. I have some talent for sales. Let’s all stick with what we’re good at.


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