Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Update 6: Life at Twin Oaks

I'm sorry it's been so long since I last posted.  I'm back in the Boston area now and trying to evaluate it all.  Here's a piece that I mostly wrote when I was leaving Twin Oaks and that I've edited and added to.

I've written about Twin Oaks before (see Real Models 1:Twin Oaks, 9/30/10), but mostly from what I've read about it.  Here I want to write about what I learned from visiting it.

Unlike Acorn where I stayed in September (see Update 2: The Acorn Community, 9/14/12, and Update 3: Life on the Farm, 9/23/12) and I thought of as a farm, Twin Oaks (affectionately abbreviated TO) is a village.  There are over a hundred people living there including members, visitors and guests (two different categories of life here), and children.  Ages range from toddlers to eighty-somethings, one of whom is approaching ninety.  (I hope to write posts in the future about children in community and aging in community.) Twin Oakers live in a bunch of houses, each of which contain a 'Small Living Group' (aka an SLG) or two. 

TO has its own water supply, its own sewage system, a communal kitchen and dining hall, a communal laundry system, and communal clothes.  (They affectionately call their communal clothes system 'Commie Clothes'.)  They even have communal bicycles to get around with.  (People can also have their own clothes and/or bikes. On some things here sharing is optional.)  There is a fleet of 15 community cars (there's no private car ownership) and a repair shop (in a building called Modern Times) that services the cars, trucks, and bicycles.  There's also a woodshop, lots of gardens, a small herd of cows, and a bunch of chickens.  TO has a number of business that bring income to the community, the two biggest of which are making hammocks and making tofu.  The newest business is managing the wholesale part of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Acorn's main business. They also have an industrial area away from the main part of the community (where they manufacture some parts for the hammocks and prepare boxes of tofu for shipping) that they call Emerald City. (The name is from The Wizard of Oz.  Most buildings at TO are named after historic communities and the rooms at Aurora, the visitor's building, are named after fictional utopian communities.)

Life at Twin Oaks is highly structured.  Like Acorn, they have a forty-two hour a week work quota system.  Work includes everything from making hammocks and gardening to cleaning, cooking, and attending meetings.  But unlike Acorn, everyone fills out labor sheets and all work is tracked.  Their visitor program (which I was part of) is filled with tours and orientations.  I learned an enormous amount from being there--both about how a community this big operates and a lot about TO's forty-five year history.  The whole program was very informative.

Some things I did while there included learning some pieces about making hammocks, helping cut up the tofu in preparation for packing, working with the composting toilets (which I requested), getting to know the other visitors there (we stayed together in Aurora which TO has set up like an SLG--and we had to make decisions about how we'd live for our three weeks together), and I requested and got a tour of their sewage and water system. (I wanted to really see how this village worked.)

It's with some sadness that I decided not to apply for membership there.  It was wonderful and I want to go back again and again, but I couldn't see myself living there.  Twin Oaks and Acorn are both great in their own ways and I want to see a lot more communities like them.  They both have waiting lists at this point, so the interest is there.

I realize that what I want to do now is to find communities that are starting up and add my energy to them to help them survive and grow.  I think the world needs more communities like Twin Oaks.

Quote of the Day: "As you would probably guess, almost everyone who is living at Twin Oaks prefers our lifestyle to that of the 'mainstream' world.  But, we are still actively working on making this place better.  We don't pretend that this is paradise, or utopia, and if that is what you really want you will have to look elsewhere..."  - from Not Utopia Yet, the Twin Oaks Visitor Guide


vera said...

Neat stuff. Would love to hear more details, esp. how it was when you visitors made decisions together.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks, Vera.

I got the luck of the draw--our visitor's group were all pretty agreeable. (Although we only had to live together for three weeks.) There were also only seven of us.

It's interesting. The biggest difference between TO and Acorn, as I've said, was more structure vs less structure. Now I'm wondering how that plays out in terms of introverts and extroverts. Maybe I enjoyed TO more b/c as an introvert it was easier to fit in with more structure. At Acorn the biggest complaint I got was that I was too quiet and people didn't get to know me.

Also, with its size and diversity, maybe TO is better able to accommodate both intros and extros. At TO, no one thinks twice if someone keeps to themselves.

vera said...

Interesting... and nice you did not have to camp out at TO. Any lessons for carry-home?

MoonRaven said...

Not that I can think of at the moment, other than after a community's been around for 45 years things tend to be worked out and stable.

Austan said...

I love these adventures you're having and reading about them is fascinating to me. Thanks, Moony. Keep it up, you'll find It.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks so much for your support. I appreciate it enormously.