Relationships, polyamorous or monogamous, are complicated enough. Imagine if all your friends had to reach consensus on whether you and your sweetie(s) could move in together. Well, actually, your friends might relish that power. Anyway, welcome to the alien terrain in which my partner and I find ourselves. I live at Heathcote Community and in order for my partner to share my home, he has to apply and be accepted as a member of the Community, a process that can take eight months or more to be finalized.
Even though Heathcote is a mixture of couples and singles, this is not an issue we’ve often faced, considering a membership application from an existing member’s lover. It’s a very different dynamic than welcoming a couple together or an individual. What happens if someone doesn’t like this new partner?
In our tried and true process, we invite an applicant to visit for 21 days, either consecutively or over time. We get acquainted and discuss the Community’s values, systems, etc. Either the applicant or a Heathcoter can decide at any time that things don’t seem to be a match. But if all seems cozy, we approve the applicant to move in and begin a seven month provisional membership period.
But what if there is an issue, and it’s a community member’s lover? The stakes get much higher. If the Community rejects this applicant, they stand a good chance of losing an existing member, too. Will people feel pressured, in that case, to ignore problems?
My partner, C.T., has unique worries. He’s a consensus trainer and writer. Will Community members feel self conscious practicing consensus around him, or will they be resistant to his thoughts on our process, assuming that he expects us to do things his way? How to tread lightly and lovingly when you’re something of a big wig in your field…
Mostly things are smooth sailing so far. But I know everyone’s aware of the new dynamic. We did dance here briefly before when a former partner of mine applied. That was quite a minefield, as that partner truly wasn’t a fit for Heathcote, despite being likable on many levels.
Now C.T. and I aren’t the only ones. Nick’s partner Rachel has applied for membership. Previously, I experienced that moving to a small, rural Community as a single person was a decision to remain single. It seemed very hard to make, maintain and grow connections.
Did something shift? Has the internet negated that isolation? I have had good luck with GreenSingles… Whatever the case, along with the singles and couples interested in Heathcote, we also have partners coming to roost!
Please join our Hippie Chick Diaries fan page on Facebook!
Subscribe to this blog's RSS feed
C.T. Butler makes me look good. It’s my turn to cook the Heathcote Community dinner again and the consensus trainer/vegetarian chef and co-founder of Food Not Bombs is my guest and helper! Or more accurately on this day, I’m his helper.
Nearly all of the adult members of Heathcote take turns cooking dinners, which we share six nights a week. It comes out to cooking about twice a month. The rest of the nights, we just show up and get fed. Since we rotate, folks tend to make their specialties. So not only does someone else cook my dinner, but I get their best.
I don’t profess to have a best.
I observe with bewilderment people who savor cooking as a hobby, a joy, a vocation or avocation. I didn’t get that gene or whatever. Me, I like to eat well so I cook. I get no special creative satisfaction out of the process. Even so, since I like to eat well, I do know how to get a sparkle from my spicings.
Cooking with C.T. is like taking a car ride with a war correspondent. We have consensed upon his traditional refried beans, a recipe that originated in El Salvador & Nicaragua. As he casually chops onions and garlic, he tries to remember the recipe from his days of feeding homeless people and protesters with Food Not Bombs. As he slices proportions down to feed the twenty or so we’re expecting, he’s reminded of arrests and police beatings and stories start to flow.
Food Not Bombs just observed the thirtieth anniversary of the occupation of Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (May 24, 1980). The six activists who would eventually rent a house together and establish the first Food Not Bombs collective, were all protesters at that event. When one of them, Brian Feigenbaum, was arrested, the others literally started holding bake sales for his defense! I’m reminded of the t-shirt/bumper sticker slogan, It will be a great day when the schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to have a bake sale to buy a bomber.
Thus started a food/activism connection for the collective. “Most of us worked in restaurants at the time, cooks, waiters, etc., and we knew first hand the mountains of food that’s wasted,” C.T. explains. At first, the group collected the restaurant and grocery store leftovers hoping to feed themselves for free, liberating time and resources for their activism. But immediately they could see that they had discovered a resource far beyond their own needs. “Of course, we were activists, so our values were to see the food get used where it was needed,”
This took several forms. The collective gave food away in Harvard Square, which established the non-violent direct action template that eventually prompted clashes with police in cities around the world and arrests for serving food without a permit (although their home town of Cambridge, Massachusetts was supportive, negotiating with FNB and eventually naming C.T. Peace Commissioner). Food Not Bombs also catered demonstrations and direct actions, feeding participants so they could stay on site long hours, keeping the protests going.
Thirty years later, C.T. stands in the Heathcote Mill kitchen, mashing the pinto and black turtle beans in small batches, because we couldn’t find a masher with a long enough handle to reach the bottom of the pressure cooker. “I always say I’m mashing in the love, it looks violent but it’s made with love,” he smiles without stopping.
So many times, that sentiment has been spoken in this kitchen. I’ve heard many Heathcote members describe the act of feeding their community as one of nurturing and love. How broken and sad it seems to me that the FBI would eventually target Food Not Bombs as a “terrorist” organization. And that feeding the hungry would be viewed as a crime in dozens of cities over the globe, resulting in thousands of arrests of Food Not Bombs chapter volunteers the world over.
But right now, C.T. is feeding me and mine. As from that first Food Not Bombs collective house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, autonomous chapters operate by consensus. C.T. has written two books on consensus decision-making. And he’s had a long friendship with Heathcote through his consensus workshops. This community’s consensus on this meal is: forty thumbs up!
Candy wrappers and unopened bank statements. Handwritten directions to properties for sale, other women’s numbers, receipts that mapped out the months that we traveled, fixed the car, rewired the house, ate out, bought books. He had cleaned out his car one day when he was about to leave on a trip. All the clutter from his floorboards went into a plastic Giant bag, which I discovered again today, under my kitchen table. I was cleaning my house, reclaiming my space, keeping my mind busy now that he’s gone for good.
He had enough money that, when his statements from various banks came in the mail, he just left them in the car, unopened. He wasn’t putting money in, just living off the proceeds of the sale of his house in his last divorce. The real estate bubble was good to him, I guess.
I live off fiscal optimism and low expectations. He hated my relationship to money.
I sorted the contents of the bag as best I could. I was already filling a box with his things to send him, so the mail and the receipts went in there. Wrappers in the trash, receipts too faded to read, I recycled. An old pipe and clamp from a car repair I staged to add to metal recycling by the barn. I got to the bottom of the Giant bag, just grit and leaves. I was done.
I washed the kitchen floor, hands and knees. I sorted shelves and shelves of junk, easily letting go of stuff that hadn’t been visible to me in years, picture frames I’d meant to use, some CD rack…Boxes for giveaway, boxes to take to the classroom, recycling, laundry…And the walls of my rooms seemed to step back, admiring corners forgotten until excavation.
Then another waste bucket was full, ready to go to the cans. as I pulled the plastic awkwardly I could see them spread across the trash–Hershey’s–those immortal candy wrappers. He was going with me all the way to the trash, getting the last word, sweet talking me as I discarded him again.
Please join our Hippie Chick Diaries fan page on Facebook!
We’re heading out this weekend for Loving More’s Poly Living conference in Philadelphia. I had a great time attending the World Polyamory Conference at Harbin Hot Springs in California last September, so I’m looking forward to checking out this east coast event!
For those unfamiliar, polyamory (“many loves”) is having or being open to multiple deep, caring, committed relationships. It is not swinging, cheating or promiscuity. Loving More, the organization putting on this weekend’s conference, has a great FAQ section that covers the questions and concerns I hear the most, including jealousy, STD’s, logistics of seeing multiple people, etc. If you are curious or dubious, you should check it out!
Polyamory is built on transparency and deep communication skills. So I feel the conferences and other gatherings have much to offer people in relationships or seeking relationships, whether poly or monogamous. Many gatherings teach tantra, meditation and other practices that can bring couples closer, whether the relationships are open or closed.
Along these lines, I’ve found Network for a New Culture to be a valuable meeting place for new friends and a convergence point for many ideas I am drawn to, including transparency and polyamory. Not everyone who attends New Culture events is polyamorous, and the organizers are great at making everyone feel welcome and respected. Network for a New Culture produces Summer Camps on the east coast and west coast. After hearing from friends who’ve attended for years, I’m finally going to the East Coast Summer Camp this July! I know it will be a transforming experience, with lots of ZEGG Forum, Heart of Now, community, and for me, polyamory!
My original plan was better. I know myself and I felt that if I ever ventured to New York City, I’d better travel with a friend familiar with the place who could show me the ropes, keep me moving and help me not look like a hippie-chick-from-the-woods-in-the-headlights with a giant target on my coat. So when my partner Iuval, who grew up in New York, asked me to travel there with him, it sounded perfect.
Then my mom was in a car wreck and Iuval and I spent a month on the road dealing with family matters, followed by a week in Berea, Kentucky for Christmas Country Dance School. When we got back to Heathcote and he said, “When should we leave for New York?” I couldn’t do it. I needed to be still and be kissed by dogs. He went on the bus without me and I planned to drive up alone the following weekend. Me. The small town kid who had panic attacks when she first moved to Maryland and drove around downtown Baltimore was going to drive into New York City alone.
This isn’t dramatic enough. Let’s add a snowstorm headed my way. Not enough yet? Let’s add that the windshield wiper jets on my car had failed and helpful poly sweeties Iuval and John had removed them, rigging a rubber hose with a nail in the end, held in position by a clamp. Let’s further add that this contraption only works at highway speeds. In case this seems implausable to you, I include a picture of my new hood ornament.
I decided to leave several hours earlier than planned, to beat the snow to New York City. But I had parked the Heathcote Earthings van on the lawn of Heathcote’s mill for our annual inventory and the battery had died. It wouldn’t take a charge and the first charger we tried appeared dead, too! Delays! I had to abandon that adventure and get on the road. Thanks to Heathcoters John and Bob for getting my van moving!
So I was on the road to the big scary city, alone with weather threatening. But despite the annoyance of high tolls, the trip was fairly easy. I left early enough that I missed the ice that gripped NYC streets that night. And when the flakes appeared and I needed to use my sprayer, I was able to maintain those magic highway speeds. My gps took me a different way than Googlemaps, but I’m a wimp and it’s easier to listen to a computer voice than read maps in traffic. I found the Guggenheim Museum, about which I’ll post later. I even found a parking spot around the corner and nobody honked at me or mugged me. I am a powerful witch. I earned a cookie.
“Hmmm,” He’s not sure I should extend my carbon footprint by coming over tonight. It’s a long drive, but I canceled last night, when I would have been in his area. He sites writers who point out that monogamy, indeed marriage, is more sustainable. Divorced couples haul kids between households. Come to think of it, this polyamory thing could become a significant contributor to greenhouse gases.
Perhaps, but so could the piteous groans I emit when I don’t get laid. So here’s the plan: I’m coming over and I’ll drive the speed limit. I’ll pick up any hitchhikers I see on the way and we’ll stop every fifteen miles to plant native trees and spay stray dogs. In my current state, I may not be thinking clearly, so I’m not sure how stray dogs contribute to global warming, but I’ll spay them for our collective karma. You have your pet issues and I have mine…
When I get to your house, I’ll graze locally on your lawn and shrubbery for dinner. Then I’ll let you slowly peel off the seven layers of Goodwill clothes I’m wearing because you minimally heat your house. Then, after all these mitigations, we’ll commit some serious global warming…Ooh, baby!
Where beach and wave define each other,
Hold each other in some dependency,
Maybe love, maybe war.
I seek my border.
What piece of matter is me, what is you.
At the edge, movement is change and
Results are visible.
The wave and the sand are restless dance partners.
Boxing partners, business partners,
Negotiating territory in an uneasy waltz.
But I grew up on the Ohio.
Misters Mason and Dixon don’t know that
Nothing marks a border like water.
Water like a highway, water like a fence,
Depending on your species.
But a river is a means to an end. The coast…
–excerpt from “Curio Coast” by Wren Tuatha
I’m on a plane to Kentucky to visit my mom, Patti, my ex, and John, a friend and lover I’ve been commuting to see for about a year and a half. From there I fly to Virginia (ironic name) to see Harold, another sweetie. I’ll be visiting him in his home for the first time. In September Harold and I will attend the World Polyamory Conference in California–We’ll share two oceans in in two months!
The sign in this picture is a warning along Louisville, Kentucky’s waterfront. It amuses the hell out of me!
My new pet, gurrlfriend/boifriend, speaker of those bottle rocket fears, operator of those hands, and what else can that mouth do? I am so edgy tickled you have landed here for a while. Welcome to the possibility that you might get what you need even as you protest that you may or may not want it/trust it/taste it.
Welcome to my hut in the woods that smells like pond dogs and sounds like a relaxation birdcall CD. Take scratchy dreadlocks and three hours sleep. Take or leave the chore list and remember to warm the hammock with slow streamside breaths. When my work is done I might squeeze in and hear you tingle and purr and set off fire crackers of doubt and flow chart scenarios.
It’s about this moment.
The next will have its way with us. Specific as a seed, a thistle won’t grow from the acorn you bring. There’s more in the site you pick, the depth of planting, a drink of water, getting dirty, respiration and the waiting.
Give breath to this presence, like a wordless animal noticing the planet as it turns, then taking another bite of bergamot; like a pilgrim arriving, the stony muscles of travel loosening with an inhale at the sight of the temple–more honest, quiet and timeless than the brochure could show. Touch me here. Pray this moment. The next will have its way with us.
I trust life is going great for you!
I don’t know if you made it onto any of the conference calls I did in the last few days. I hope you noticed the invitations. I’ll be updating the http://www.brilliance.org/ site in the next few days with a link to listen to last night’s call either on the web or on the phone at any time via a recording.
For people who’ve listened to one of the calls I’ve set up a survey to get feedback. That’s at http://www.brilliantcontactcommunity.com/
Some people entered Brilliant Contact Community in their Google search rather than going directly to the site and what the pulled up was your Hippie Chick Diaries post from 2008. It’s a beautiful post with the pictures and everything. However, we didn’t acquire the land in the meeting you mentioned there and it’s confusing people. We’re currently on an all-out drive to pull together the funds to buy that land and some additional neighboring acreage for a total of over 8,000 acres.
If you’d delete or better yet update that post so people aren’t confused, I’d really appreciate that.
Looking forward to connecting again soon.
Peace, love, and hugs,
Here is the original 2008 post:
I just got great news on Facebook. Brilliant Contact Community in California is buying land! I won’t be able to make this meeting but I’ll be in the area in September for the 2008 World Polyamory Conference. Maybe I can visit and see things progressing then!
This is Brilliant’s announcement:
July 14th is the biggest day yet for the Brilliant Contact Community™. After almost six years of negotiation with the owner of a gorgeous property in the California wine country just north of San Francisco spanning over 10 square miles, we’re sitting down to sign the deal.
The owner, his lawyer, my lawyer, the project manager, the lead financier, and a supportive local rancher are all meeting with me to pen the deal. The owner has been difficult on the final wording although we’ve agreed on all the basics.
It’s all coming down to this meeting. Your inner support and sending energy to manifest this vision is requested and gratefully appreciated. Please RSVP so we can tell the owner how many people are in the meeting with us from afar and more importantly so I can know you’re there with us, albeit behind the scenes.
Whatever way works for you to support this vision in your heart and being is what I’m requesting. I trust in the perfection of whatever unfolds.
Thanks for being present for the vision. You can see more at our preliminary website at:
In our plans are the following:
• Conference facility and sprung-wood dance floor to accommodate 500 people
• Artisan facilities
• Extensive organic gardens, pools, greenhouses, trails
• Wonderfully embracing social engagement spaces
• About 1000 homes
• High-end fitness facilities and spas
• Much more!
Feel free to pass the word to all who may wish to support the manifestation of this vision by holding space for it within.